THE STAGES OF MONASTIC LIFE
In the Family of Bethlehem, the first stage of monastic life is “THE SCHOOL OF LIFE”. It is a time when one encounters more deeply the Person and the life of Jesus, in studying the Gospel verse by verse. By Him, with Him and in Him, the Person of the Father and the Person of the Holy Spirit reveal themselves little by little. One begins to see more clearly that the Virgin Mary was the perfect disciple of Jesus: for 30 years her Son formed her, and she lived under his gaze while remaining unceasingly in the presence of the Father. THE SCHOOL OF LIFE is also the first experience of sharing the life of the monastic community.
The celebration of the clothing of the monastic habit marks the entrance into monastic life. This stage of POSTULANCY is a time of discernement and of spiritual and doctrinal formation. The young monk or monastic sister becomes a living stone of the community, responsible for the incessant and secret liturgy of his/her heart. The spiritual aid necessary for his/her growth is provided.
The NOVITIATE follows, which is a preparation for the FIRST PROFESSION. The novice learns how to let himself/herself be transformed by the triple splendor of the grace of Christ obedient, chaste and poor. The totality of the formation that is offered through catecheses, reading, studies and spiritual accompaniement opens the novice’s heart to the secret work of the Holy Spirit.
The FIRST PROFESSION is celebrated during the course of a eucharistic liturgy in order to manifest the fact that the Church responds to this act in which the monk or monastic sister commits himself/herself to God and to the community for a period of five years by the vows of chastity, poverty, conversion, obedience, stability and continual growth in love. Family and friends are invited to participate in the joy of this consecration.
Several years later, the PERPETUAL PROFESSION is celebrated in solitude. The monk or monastic sister commits himself/herself definitively, in an irrevocable manner “until death” to live the vows already pronounced. A cycle of biblical, philosophical, patristic and theological studies completes the monastic formation received during the first years in the monastery.
After the perpetual profession, the monks who receive the calling, discerned in the name of the Church by the Prior of Bethlehem, are ordained priests in order to exercise their priesthood in solitude.