After completing the period of postulancy, if a person believes God may be calling him to a Capuchin vocation, he then applies to the next step of formation: the novitiate. The novitiate is a very structured, one year period of seclusion and intense prayer in which the novice enters more deeply into the process of discernment.
Because the year is geared toward prayer, there is a very limited amount of ministry and the novice has few obligations outside of the daily novitiate schedule. This freedom from responsibilities allows the novice to give himself completely to the practice of prayer and to seek to hear the call of the Lord in the deepest recesses of his heart.
The novitiate begins with the Investiture, a ceremony in which the postulant receives the “clothes of probation” and officially begins the novitiate year. This ceremony is followed by a silent eight day retreat during which the novice will have regular meetings with his spiritual director who will assist him in entering deeper into the process of discernment. Other retreats are scheduled periodically throughout the course of the year.
The novitiate schedule consists of Morning Prayer and Mass followed by breakfast. Four days a week the novice will have in-house classes in the morning. The classes cover a variety of topics including Spirituality, Prayer and Discernment, The Rule of St. Francis, The History of the Capuchin Order as well as various workshops throughout the year. The class period ends with Mid-Day Prayer followed by lunch. The novice then has a few hours of personal time to pray, read or complete his assigned house jobs. The fraternity gathers again in the evening for a period of silent meditation followed by evening prayer and dinner. Following dinner and clean-up, there is a two hour period of silent, personal time which the novice may use for prayer, spiritual reading or exercise. The day ends with Night Prayer followed by a period of fraternal recreation.
In addition to regular meetings with his spiritual director, the novice will also meet regularly with his formation advisor, one of the novice directors to which he is directly assigned. The formation advisor will help guide the novice through any difficulties he may encounter in the course of the novitiate as well as point out any “rough edges” which may need more personal attention.
Friars will often refer to the novitiate as a time of special grace, a year full of blessings and intimate encounters with the God of love. The novitiate has one main goal: to allow the novice to become completely attentive to the voice of God in his heart. In this way, the individual is able to discern, with the aid of his spiritual director and formation advisor, if he is indeed called to profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Capuchin Friar Minor.