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 of a Nun of the Order of Preachers
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 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 3 days. (For example, arrival on Friday afternoon and departure on Sunday afternoon after dinner.) If you live near the monastery you may come for an initial visit one day visit and if you continue to express a desire to discern your vocation with our community you may come back for a retreat. If you come from a long distance you may be invited to come directly for an aspirancy. This exception is made on an individual basis for those who are seriously discerning a vocation with our monastery and believe strongly that they are being called to contemplative life.
Please note: due to the nature of the contemplative life of the monastery and the observance of enclosure, this retreat is only for the woman who is seriously discerning if God is calling her to a contemplative, monastic way of life. The structure of the retreat is such for you to grow in intimate communion with God through silence, solitude, prayer and reading. A discernment retreat is not the same as retreats hosted by active congregations of sisters. This retreat is not appropriate for women who are only curious about contemplative life or who think it would be fun to have the experience of a weekend at a monastery.
While not part of the formation process it is required by our monastery because this experience is of tremendous value for both the aspirant and the community. The aspirancy is a period of approximately 2-4 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 motives which draw you to live our way of life.
If it seems that God is calling you to our monastery you are allowed to ask for admittance and gathers together the necessary papers (medical, dental, letters of recommendation, etc.). If the vote of the community is positive the decision is communicated you enter on a day mutually agreeable, usually a feast day.
During the postulancy you gradually comes 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 observance. You participates in classes with other members of the novitiate become acquainted with the basics of the Dominican charism, prayer, Sacred Scripture and community life.
After approximately 9 months to a year the community votes to receive the postulant into the Novitiate. 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.
During these 2 years she continues to receive formation 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.
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 nuns 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 mysterious 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.