The Benedictines are not a centralized order. Rather, each community enjoys a considerable degree of autonomy, since it is the Abbot who interprets the Rule for that particular community. For this reason there can be a great deal of difference from one community to another.
In his chapter on the procedure for receiving new members, the only qualification that Benedict stipulates in his Rule is that the person is a seeker, genuinely searching for God. It is this radical centeredness on Christ that is the starting point. Whatever is done must flow from this.
As Anglican Communion Benedictines we welcome men and women 21 years of age and older who desire to seek God in this ancient way of discipleship. We are open to the possibility of non-Anglican Christian members who adhere to the faith passed down by the Apostles and uphold the authority of Holy Scripture. Each case is evaluated on its own merits. We believe in the sanctity of human life and that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. Candidates may be ordained (male) or lay (male or female) at the time of their entry. The whole of the Benedictine life is a process of conversion, being transformed more fully into the image of Christ.
Newcomers to our community are welcomed, and their vocation tested, through a process known as formation or spiritual direction. The formation process occurs in stages known as Aspirancy, Postulancy, Novitiate and Temporary Profession. These steps allow for the gradual incorporation into life as a Benedictine without rushing and respecting the candidate’s freedom along with the community’s discernment. Below are some starter ideas about our formation process.
The first step is to make contact with us via email, phone or letter. If our life appeals to you, we would enjoy discussing further. We will likely recommend some books for you to read and help you establish an initial pattern of daily prayer, along with providing you the opportunity to meet — or at least be in contact with — some of us personally. Should you wish to begin the formation process, you may ask to become an Aspirant. If accepted, our Vocation Director will be the primary point of contact during this time of getting to know one another which is open-ended.
After an appropriate amount of time as an Aspirant, perhaps six months to a year, you may ask to take the next step in the formation process, further trying-on our way of Benedictine life. With the Vocation Director’s endorsement and the Abbot’s approval, you will become a Postulant in our community. This stage, which normally lasts six months to a year but can be extended as appropriate, entails living our life of our prayer, work and study. There will be further opportunities to engage with our members and you will take on a ministry assignment approved by the Abbot and Vocation Director. You will also begin instruction in St. Benedict’s Rule along with the goals and purposes of the Benedictine way of life. At the end of the Postulancy period, the candidate may petition the Abbott and Leadership Council to become a Novice, the next step in the journey. It is important to understand that a negative response does not necessarily mean a person isn’t called to Religious life. It may simply mean the Chapter members (those in Solemn Vows) do not discern that the candidate has a vocation to this specific community.
With the Chapter’s approval, the Novice is clothed in a black tunic and short black scapular, indicating their place in the community, and is placed under the direct authority of the Novice Master. This period lasts six months to two years and includes in-depth study of the Rule of St. Benedict; the vows that connect us to the Benedictine way of life; Lectio Divina, the reading of Sacred Scripture which is the basis of prayer for the Benedictine; and the regular practice of silence. You will make a commitment to saying the Major Hours of the Divine Office, which is the sine-qua-non of the Benedictine life. During this period of formation both you and the community seek to discern if you are called to live as an Anglican Communion Benedictine. All through the formation process the community will help you evaluate your calling to live as a Benedictine as well as your fitness for the Benedictine life. St. Benedict wrote that when accepting a Novice the concern must be whether he/she truly seeks God and whether he/she shows eagerness for the Opus Dei-the “Work of God,” and for obedience and trials (RB 58.7).
At the end of this stage, the Novice may petition the Chapter to enter the Juniorate,
making his/her first monastic profession of obedience, stability and conversion of life, (our evangelical counsels). This last vow encompasses the other traditional vows of poverty and chastity which we interpret as “simplicity of lifestyle” and “fidelity in marriage or chastity if single.” With a positive vote, the candidate becomes a temporarily professed “junior” member of the community.
The Juniorate: Temporary Profession
During this three-year period, which can be extended to six years if advisable, you live as a member of the community participating fully in our life and mission. You may be involved in some type of work or study suitable to your interests, abilities and the needs of the community as will be discussed with you by the Abbot. You will also be expected to make a regular financial commitment to the community. This time of formation continues your discernment that ultimately leads toward solemn, perpetual profession of vows as an Anglican Communion Benedictine. At temporary or simple profession the novice scapular is replaced by the full-length black scapular.
Solemn Profession of Vows
After your time of temporary vows, in consultation with the Leadership Council, you may request profession of Solemn Vows. Your request must receive a positive vote of the full Chapter. Solemn profession celebrates what you have already been living-seeking God everyday of your life within the Benedictine tradition. This is your lifelong commitment to give yourself to Christ and His Gospel in this local community under the guidance of the Rule and the Abbot. The senior Benedictine embraces not just a period of conversion, but a life of conversion. At Solemn Profession you receive the black cloak that is a sign and symbol of a senior member of the community.
For more information, please contact . . . . AbbotPatrick at gmail dot com