Stages of Formation
Belonging to the Lord means to be on fire with His incandescent Love, to be transformed into the splendor of his beauty: Our littleness is offered to Him as a sacrifice of sweet fragrance so that it becomes a witness of the greatness of His presence for our epoch, which has great need to be inebriated by the richness of His grace. – Pope Benedict XVI
Entering the novitiate of a Dominican monastery is the beginning of a great adventure which leads, if we are faithful, into the heart of God Himself. The formation program forms the whole person: body, mind and soul, in the way of life St. Dominic established for the nuns who live at the heart of the “holy preaching”.
Through the community, which forms a school of charity whose master is Christ our Lord, through silence and solitude, through eagerly studying the truth and searching the Scriptures with an ardent heart, and in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus, the young nun slowly grasps the beauty and depth of the contemplative life. She learns to “think with the Church”, to be attentive to the presence of God and to be fast-knit to Christ. From the abundance of her loving union with God comes the desire that “all men be saved and come to the knowledge of Truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
Following are the stages of Formation for a Nun of the Order of Preachers here at the Monastery.
Sometimes just making first contact with a community can be daunting! What do I say? How do I share the desires of my heart? My love for God and the need to respond to that love? The easiest thing to do is to fill out the VOCATIONS CONTACT FORM or a simple email just telling us who you are and that you are interested in getting to know more about our Dominican monastic way of life.
Usually the novice mistress responds to this initial contact with an email or a phone call so that we can get to know each other better. There are more questions and answers. It’s really not any different when strangers meet and find they have something in common and are becoming friends.
Of course you are a little scared and nervous. Everyone is! But you don’t need to be! The novice mistress is happy to help you to learn what God’s will is for you and to answer questions and concerns. Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit is guiding. Entrust your vocation to our Lady’s maternal love, too!
After initial contact with the novice mistress you may be invited to the monastery to make a discernment retreat. Periods of silence, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, lectio divina and talks with the novice mistress and other sisters all provide the atmosphere to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your soul.
A discernment retreat is usually 2-3 days. If you live near the monastery you may come for a day visit and if you continue to express a desire to discern your vocation with our community you may come back for a retreat.
According to the Instruction Cor Orans aspirancy is the time of initial contact and a time of further mutual knowledge between the candidate and monastery including times of experience within the monastery. In our monastery the live-in experience is period of 3-4 weeks when you live within the enclosure and get a first-hand experience of our way of life. The community in turn is able to more authentically evaluate if you are truly seeking God, your maturity and the motives which draw you to live our way of life. If both the candidate and the monastery believe there is a vocation to our way of life the candidate deepens her knowledge of Dominican monastic life through further visits, especially during the time when the application for postulancy is being completed. According to Cor Orans aspirancy must be a minimum of one year.
If it seems that God is calling you to our monastery you are allowed to ask for admittance and to gather together the necessary papers (medical, dental, letters of recommendation, etc.). If the vote of the community is positive, you enter on a day mutually agreeable, usually a feast day.
During the postulancy you gradually come to experience the goal and means of the contemplative life, through suitable catechesis and personal dialogue concerning both the life of union with God and monastic observances. You participate in classes with other sisters in the novitiate to become acquainted with the basics of the Dominican charism, prayer, Sacred Scriptures and community life. Postulancy lasts for one year.
In many ways this is the real beginning of becoming rooted in Dominican life and our monastic family. At the beginning of the novitiate the postulant receives the Dominican habit with a white veil and a new name. Novitiate lasts for two years, the second year being the canonical year.
During these 2 years she continues to receive formation in areas such as the Theology of the Spiritual Life, Monasticism, Liturgy and the Sacraments, Consecration and Vows. She helps in the various areas of work in the monastery, often gaining ability in skills she never knew she had!
After 2 years the novice requests to make profession as a Nun of the Order of Preachers. This profession, in which only obedience is professed but which encompasses our whole way of life according to our Constitutions, is made for 3 years, then renewed for 3 more years.
The newly professed sister receives the black veil signifying her death to the world. The scapular, the sign of the protection of the Mother of Mercy, is blessed at this time.
During the time of temporary profession the young professed continues her theological studies under the direction of the novice mistress and begins to take a more active role in the work of the monastery. In her 3rd year she leaves the Novitiate and lives with the Professed Nuns in order to become more fully integrated into the life of the monastery.
By Solemn Profession the Dominican nun is totally consecrated to God in the Order until death. By this profession she is dedicated to God, following Christ and leading an evangelical life in the Order so that her baptismal consecration may achieve its effect more completely. Through growth in Charity she becomes more configured to Christ who is her Spouse. Filled with love, she participates in His deepest desires. St. Dominic’s cry, “O Lord, what will become of sinners!” becomes her cry and the intensity of this longing mysteriously wins souls to God. Every moment of her life, no matter what she is doing, is offered as a holocaust, a continual sacrifice of praise to God.