The journey to becoming a monk transpires over the course of various stages. It is a process of prayerful discernment between the candidate and the monastic community and, above all, the Holy Spirit.
There are five stages of formation:
1. Pre-Candidacy (Exploration): During the first stage, young men are encouraged to learn more about the monastery, its monks, and the basic structure of life in the community. A visit to the abbey is highly recommended. Candidates often make several visits to the abbey in addition to participating in a “live in” weekend. The weekend experience gives pre-candidates an opportunity to experience two days of being a monk (prayer, work, meals, and recreation). Upon completing the weekend experience, one can apply to become a candidate at the monastery.
2. Candidacy: This stage lasts six months. During this stage, the candidate gets to experience the monastic life for a longer duration than he experienced previously over a weekend stay. This allows the candidate more time to explore the life of a monk in depth, and it also allows the community to get to know the candidate better.
3. Novitiate: Toward the completion of the Candidacy, a candidate may request admittance to the novitiate (the third stage). Upon his acceptance for the novitiate by the Monastic Chapter, he will receive a monastic habit (robe) and begin his year of intensive formation which includes Benedictine and general spirituality, a detailed study of the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict, monastic history, and liturgy. A daily work schedule is an integral part of the novitiate program.
4. Simple Vows: At the end of the novitiate the novice requests to profess simple (or temporary) vows. The Monastic Chapter, after hearing an evaluation of the novice’s progress during the novitiate, votes on his acceptance into the monastic community for, normally, a three-year period. The monastic vows he promises are: Stability, Conversatio Morum (a promise to work each day at living the monastic life) and Obedience. The promises of poverty and celibacy are included in the vow of Conversatio Morum.
5. Solemn Vows: At the end of the three-year period of simple vows, the monk may request to profess solemn vows, thus becoming a life-time member of this monastic community. After this final profession the monk’s formation continues through worship, liturgical and private prayer, daily spiritual reading, spiritual conferences and work. He may go on for further training through workshops and other studies including preparation for the priesthood.