Each and every one of us is a vocation: called into being by God and precious in his sight. The monastic vocation is thus one among many, but it makes special demands which only grace can help us fulfil. St Benedict says that newcomers to monastic life should not be granted an easy entrance but instead tested, to see whether the call is really from God. Moreover, the novice mistress is to speak frankly about all the difficulties and hardships through which we make our way to God.
If you believe that God may be calling you to monastic life here at Howton Grove, we suggest you first get to know the community and learn how we live. A small community does not have all the human and material resources available to a larger one, but against that, we do have opportunities not so readily available to larger or longer established groups. It is an important part of the Benedictine Tradition to be called to a particular community because, although there is a family likeness among communities, there is also a strong sense of individuality, and here at Howton Groved we lay special emphasis on aspects of monastic life which another community might not.
Some Important Considerations
It is important to keep praying, and to embrace the demands and opportunities of the life you are currently living. God cannot speak easily to a closed mind, still less to a closed heart.after the preliminary getting-to-know-you through emails and letters, we usually ask people to take part in some video conferences. That allows you to ask questions more directly, and it allows us to fit a face to the correspondence! After that, we usually invite people to stay for two or three weeks inside the monastery, to experience at first hand something of the joys and difficulties of community life. Only then can a mature decision be made about whether to seek admission.
In general, we urge candidates to take a sabbatical from work if they can, so that they are able to take up their career again if they find that monastic life is not for them. Our FAQ tells you more about the basic requirements. Reasonable health is one of them as monastic life is physically and psychologically demanding. Candidates from overseas need to be aware that there can be extra complications about visas, healthcare and the like. Sadly, life isn't quite as simple as it was in St Benedict's day.
Becoming a Nun
It takes a minimum of five and a half years' training or 'formation' before one can make final or lifelong vows as a nun. Throughout the whole period both candidate and community will work together to try to discern what God is asking. There are three distinct stages, all of which are meant to help people to a deeper appreciation of what monastic life is, the demands it makes, and whether an individual is called to it or not.
First comes postulancy, which lasts at least six months, during which the postulant lives with the community and follows the monastic timetable but without all the obligations of the Rule. Next comes novitiate which usually lasts two years. The novice receives the monastic habit at her Clothing and follows a more intense course of formation. This is an important period and can be extended if the novice or community think it advisable. Then comes the juniorate, when vows are made for three years and more duties are taken on; again, the juniorate can be extended. Finally comes solemn profession of vows for life. The vows we make are
stability, binding ourselves to the community, with all its flaws and imperfections;
conversion of life, committing us to live as nuns should live and daily renewing our following of Christ;
obedience, uniting us with the obedience of Christ.
In addition to monastic profession, those who are eligible can undertake the ecclesial Consecratio Virginitatis; but it is profession which makes one a full member of the community, united in the search for God.