Stages of Carmelite Formation
"Formation consists principally in instructing the novices gradually toward the perfection proper to the Discalced life, in which they will have Jesus Christ as a model in that virginal and poor life which He chose for Himself and for His Virgin Mother, particularly during the years of His hidden life in Nazareth." (cf Discalced Carmelite Constitutions, 1990)
"Formation must influence the individual at the deepest level, aiming at involving the whole person in a progressive journey of conformity to Jesus Christ and to His total self-giving to the Father. Because it is aimed at the transformation of the whole person, it is clear that this formation never ends." (Verbi Sponsa, 22)
Aspirancy (the initial stage of formation)
“The aspirancy, considered as a first knowledge of the community by the candidate and the candidate by the community, involves a series of contacts and times of community acquaintance.” - Cor Orans, 262
After becoming acquainted through letters and phone calls, a young woman who is interested may ask to make visits to the monastery and begin a process of interviews and consultations.
If she feels that the Lord may indeed be calling her to Carmel, and the Community recognizes in her the possibility of a genuine vocation, then she is accepted as an Aspirant to the Community.
Postulancy (second stage of formation)
“The formation of cloistered nuns is aimed at preparing them for total consecration of self to God in the following of Christ, according to the form of life ordered solely to contemplation, which is proper to their particular mission in the Church.” - Verbi Sponsa, 22
If, after the aspirancy, it is discerned that the candidate may indeed have a Carmelite vocation, she is received as a Postulant. The postulancy allows the candidate to become more familiar with our way of life on both the spiritual and practical levels, allowing her and the Community to discern more deeply whether the signs of a genuine vocation are present and if she is generously and sincerely seeking God.
Novitiate (two years)
"The purpose of the Novitiate is to give the novices a more intimate knowledge of their divine vocation and that which is proper to the Order; to enable them to experience the way of life in the monastery, to be imbued in mind and heart with its spirit, and to have their intention and suitability tested." - Discalced Carmelite Constitutions, 1990
After the period of postulancy, the postulant becomes formally incorporated into the community as a Novice. The novitiate lasts two years and begins with the reception of the holy Habit of our Order with a white veil. During this period, the Novice will be formed in Carmelite spirituality, especially through the writings of the great saints of our Order, and will also be instructed in the customs, ceremonies, and practical formation proper to our way of life.
“It is altogether proper that this temporary bond should have reference to the practice of the three evangelical counsels, in order to constitute a genuine preparation for perpetual profession.” - Renovationis Causam, 35
After the novitiate comes the profession of temporary vows, by which the Sister publicly pledges to observe the three evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity, and poverty. This period lasts for several years, during which time she comes to a deeper knowledge of our Carmelite charism and the requirements of consecrated life, and is more fully integrated into the life of the Community.
The time of temporary vows being completed, the Religious who freely requests it and is judged suitable by the Community is admitted to the Profession of Solemn Vows. From that moment on, she will strive to persevere in living hidden with Christ in God, cooperating in the work of Redemption. Similarly, she will strive to advance in the way of prayer and contemplation in order to reach evangelical perfection and union with God through love.
The stability of contemplative life in Carmel is characterized by the fact that the formation received in the Novitiate is valid for life. On this initial foundation, the Carmelite will strive throughout her entire life to respond to her vocation with ever greater generosity and love, deepening her spiritual and doctrinal formation by the means provided for her by holy Mother Church.