The Novitiate and the First Profession


C.Maccise, Cento Temi di vita consacrata. Storia e Teologia, Spiritualità e Diritto, EDB, Bologna, 2007, p.253

The novitiate, through which life in an institute is begun, is arranged so that the novices better understand their divine vocation, and indeed one which is proper to the institute, experience the manner of living of the institute, and form their mind and heart in its spirit, and so that their intention and suitability are tested’ (CCL, can. 646).

In the light of the canon that has been quoted, the purpose of the novitiate emerges: to offer a true experience of what it means to be consecrated in a particular institute. For this reason, during this period of formation the necessary help will be provided so that the novices can understand the meaning and the importance of evangelical counsels, which they will embrace with their vows, and the other theological values inherent in consecrated life. As this is a period that is intense in experiences and reflection, it should take place in an appropriate environment which proposes and makes visible the values of consecrated life in general and those specific to the religious institute in particular. Ordinarily, in the house of the novitiate matters are arranged so that there is an atmosphere of bringing together that invites the novices to prayer and to deepen their experience of God, the wellspring and apex of every Christian life and consecrated life…

During the novitiate the bases are laid for the future: one learns how to live according to the spirit of the beatitudes following Jesus and one’s own identity as a consecrated person is constructed which includes a sense of belonging to a religious family. The novitiate is an initiation to evangelical fraternal life because faith deepens in a community and is transformed into communion.

The novitiate must also deepen an ecclesial experience and an experience of communion within the particular Church and within the wider circle of the universal Church. One has to create awareness of the complementariness of vocations inside the people of God and lead people to work together in initiatives involving formation that are of an inter-congregational character.

‘Conscious of their own responsibility, the novices are to collaborate actively with their director in such a way that they faithfully respond to the grace of a divine vocation’ and ‘Members of the institute are to take care that they cooperate for their part in the work of formation of the novices through example of life and prayer’ (CCL, cans. 652, 3-4).