Becoming a Monk
Val Notre-Dame Cistercian Abbey is rooted in the evangelical tradition expressed in the Rule of St. Benedict and in the particular form given to it by the founders of Cîteaux in the 11th century. Monastic life here is wholly ordered to contemplation. This is why the monks, between the walls of the monastery, devote themselves to divine worship, ensuring humble and noble service to the Divine Majesty in solitude and silence, constant prayer and joyful penance. Governed by the Rule of St. Benedict and led by an Abbot, the monks walk behind Christ as a community, celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours each day, devoting time to manual work and the Lectio Divina.
The community always welcomes those who hear the call of our Lord to follow Him in the monastic life. The desire to seek God, the ability to live in a community, a human maturity and good health represent the basic requirements for living this particular vocation fruitfully within the Church.
Those who feel drawn to this way of life and are between the ages of 20 and 45 are invited, first of all, to stay at the monastery’s guesthouse to make contact with the community, experience the atmosphere and enter into the rhythm of prayer. It is then possible to meet the novice director (the person in charge of vocations) who will talk with him about the monastic Cistercian life and help him in his discernment.
The monastic experience
Following this conversation with the novice director, candidates wishing to deepen their quest will be invited to live a monastic experience, i.e., a novitiate of one month or more in the community. Integrated into the novitiate, they share the various activities. Directly experiencing this communal way of life, with its daily demands (schedule, prayer, communal work, silence, and so on), helps candidates to compare the idea or ideal they have about monastic living with the reality of such a life and make the necessary adjustments.
If the candidate’s desire to join the community grows stronger as he experiences the monastic life, he is invited to step back for a while by returning home to further reflect on this. If, after this period, his desire remains unchanged, he is welcomed into the community at a date set by the novice director to begin his postulancy.
This progressive integration period into the life of the community usually lasts about six months, but can be extended based on how well the postulant has adapted to the monastic life. The main challenge a candidate faces at this stage is learning to accept the changes in his way of life and the emotional separations that these changes bring about.
Once the postulancy is completed, following discernment with the novice director, the candidate who has so requested will be admitted as a member of the community.
The purpose of this two-year training period is to help the postulant make the monastic values his own, through study and meditation on the Word of God, the Rule of St. Benedict and Cistercian spirituality, in a spirit of total sharing of the communal life. More immediately, the novitiate is a period that prepares the novice to make the commitment through the temporary profession of monastic vows of obedience, conversion of manners and stability.
Being admitted to the temporary profession requires a majority vote from the community. The brother says his vows either for a period of three years or for a period of one year, which he renews twice.
During this period called the monasticate, the newly professed monk begins monastic studies and, if he has the abilities and interest, theological studies at the monastery (with or without university recognition, as the monastery’s Studium is affiliated with Université Laval in Quebec City). Supported during this period by the person in charge of newly professed monks, he is also entrusted with more responsibilities in communal life. Once he has completed these three years of training and if he feels ready, he can then be admitted to the solemn profession, that is, to consecrate his entire life to the Lord. He may also extend his temporary monastic vows for one or two three-year periods or even leave the monastery if he believes he has been called to serve the Lord in another manner.
Being admitted to solemn profession requires a new vote from the community. When making solemn vows, the monk permanently links his existence to that of the community, which is “school for the service of the Lord” (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict, v. 45). There, he learns each day to follow Christ in the love of his brothers, in communion with all of humankind, which he welcomes and offers in his prayer. Once he has made solemn vows, the brother may be called by the Abbot to be ordained priest, based on the community’s needs. He may receive professional training for the specific community service he has been called upon to offer.
Solemn vows of Brother Martin
For more information or details, please contact the Abbey’s novice director, either in writing or by phone, at:
Val Notre-Dame Abbey
250, chemin de la Montagne-Coupée