From the day that a young man receives the habit, he begins to build his life upon the four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, study, community and preaching. The novitiate is a trial period during which the novice comes to understand more clearly the nature of a divine and Dominican vocation. He experiences the Order’s way of life and is formed in the Dominican spirit so that his intention and suitability may be ascertained.
The novice actually lives the religious life while he studies it, lives it as he will always live it – in its essentials – until his last breath. He is introduced from the start to all the essential practices and exercises of the community. Taught these by the Novice Master, he performs them in union with the rest of the community under the Prior. His studies as a novice examine the history, spirituality and laws of the Order. He learns to love and embrace the example of St. Dominic and the many saints of the Order.
The novice is introduced to the fullness of Dominican life in a house of regular observance. The novice’s surroundings, far from being artificial, are the normal and natural conditions existing in a fully established Dominican foundation. Whatever he needs to know in order to be thoroughly informed about Dominican life is learned by him from personal experience of that life.
In this way the novice will become fully and truly acquainted with Dominican life, and will be moved to consecrate himself willingly and totally to the mission of the Order. The novitiate, therefore, presents to the novice all the successive stages of progress in Dominican life so that from them the living and vigorous seed of his Dominican vocation may be properly nourished.
A novice’s time is well occupied. Apart from attendance at most of the community exercises, he gives a great deal of time to specifically novitiate activities. As the novitiate is above all a time of contemplation, support and perseverance, prayer is given a particular emphasis in novitiate life. Under the direction of the Novice Master, he is directed in the ways of the spiritual life. This commitment to spiritual things, and of accustoming himself to a new and regular way of life, is relieved by recreation in which his mind is refreshed and renewed.
As the year comes to a close, he can request to be admitted to temporary vows. The Order on its part, if convinced of his suitability, his sincerity and his upright motives, will then gladly receive him to profession for a period of three years. Temporary profession leads in the normal course to perpetual profession, which is made by taking solemn vows. Once professed, the brother passes from the novitiate to the studentate where he begins formal theological studies.