St Benedict calls the monastery a ‘workshop’. The work that goes on here is the work of the Spirit, forming us into the image of Christ in this particular monastic community and place. Monks and nuns seek union with God through developing purity of heart, a lifelong, graced journey. A candidate who enters the monastery engages in a preliminary period of Initial Formation consisting of three stages; Postulancy, Novitiate, and Monasticate. These three stages span a six year period, ending in final vows. At each stage of Initial Formation in the Cistercian tradition there is a change of clothing, signifying a growing immersion into the Cistercian way of life. When our journey culminates in Solemn Monastic Profession however, our formation is not yet over! Our ongoing formation will continue throughout our whole monastic life.
A Postulant participates fully in the life of the community and is introduced to our monastic practices and values. She is helped to develop a life of continual prayer through ongoing spiritual accompaniment. The period of Postulancy at Glencairn is at least eight months in duration.
The novitiate is a two year period of personal integration into the Cistercian way of life. The novice is clothed in the white habit of the Cistercian novice consisting of a white robe, scapular, belt and veil. A programme of monastic studies is begun in the novitiate. This is a period of growing self-knowledge and deepening relationship with Christ through prayer, spiritual accompaniment and participation in the life of the community. The novice is gradually prepared during this time to make a commitment to Christ in this community in temporary monastic profession of vows at the end of her two year Novitiate.
When a novice makes temporary profession, she receives the black Cistercian scapular and leather belt and moves from the Novitiate to the Monasticate. The Monasticate spans a three year period during which the temporary professed sister renews her vows annually. In addition to a continued programme of studies, the Monasticate builds on the human and spiritual development of the novitiate years. The junior professed sister is also accompanied by an experienced senior in her preparation for solemn monastic profession of vows.
Solemn Monastic Profession
On this day when a junior professed sister makes solemn monastic vows for life, she receives the black veil and monastic cowl, symbol of her consecration to God in the Cistercian way of life. This is a day of great celebration, when the sister’s family and friends join with the community in praying for her as she takes this final step in commitment to God in this community and place for the rest of her life. This is an act of total surrender and trust which is made after much experience, discernment and prayer throughout her years of initial formation. Her ‘yes’ to the Lord is publicly witnessed by all, a day of great rejoicing.