MEN WHO FEEL they may be called to become monks of Valyermo are encouraged to make a retreat at the Abbey in order to experience firsthand something of the life of the community. They may then apply for acceptance as observers, the first stage in the process of monastic formation. Observers live in the monastery and share fully the community's life of prayer and work. After about six months of observership the observer petitions the senior council of the monastery for acceptance as a novice.
IF THE PETITION is accepted, a date is set for his entry into the novitiate, usually about six months from the time of the petition, and the observer is then referred to as a candidate. In addition to sharing in the work and prayer of the monastic community, observers, candidates, and novices participate in daily classes on subjects pertaining to their formation, which include the following: monastic history and spirituality; the Rule of St. Benedict; the sacred Scriptures; liturgy; and canon law.
ENTRANCE into the novitiate is marked by the ceremony of investiture, at which the candidate receives the black Benedictine habit and a new name. All the members of formation are expected to have a confessor and spiritual director to aid them in the process of discerning and working through the important stages of monastic growth. At the end of the novitiate the conventual Chapter, composed of those monks who have professed solemn vows, determines whether the novice should make vows. If he is accepted, the novice professes triennial (also called "simple") vows, binding for three years.
DURING the juniorate, the period of simple vows, the monk continues his studies and formation, often at a Benedictine university or seminary. At the end of the juniorate the Chapter determines whether the junior should profess solemn vows: if he is accepted for solemn profession, he becomes a full member of the monastic community and of the Chapter.
DURING the course of their formation some monks discern a call to the priesthood, while others discover that they are called to ministries which do not require ordination. The daily cycle of prayer and work, lectio divina and study, remains the same for all members of the monastic community, whether ordained or not. All are called to that life of mutual service and growth, nourished by the Eucharist and the Divine Office which St. Benedict describes in his Rule:
SO THAT, never departing from his guidance, but persevering in his teaching (Acts 2:42) in the monastery until death, (Phil. 2:8) we may by patience participate in the passion of Christ; that we may deserve also to be partakers of his kingdom. (cf. 1Pet 4:13; Rom. 8:17)
MEN between the ages of 21-45 who are interested in learning more about monastic life at Valyermo should contact the Director of Vocations at Saint Andrew's Abbey, P.O. Box 40, Valyermo, CA 93563; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; tel - (661) 944-2178, ext. 116; FAX - (661) 944-1076.