Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.
Rule of Saint Benedict Prol. 1
After several visits and periodic stays at the Abbey as a guest, a prospective candidate may spend a month in the monastery in the "observership" program in order to familiarize himself with the daily life of the monastery. Though this one-month program is not necessarily a candidate program, anyone who is seriously considering a monastic vocation is sure to find this practical experience of living monastic life valuable in arriving at a decision. All participants have found it to be a valuable experience of spiritual growth and guidance.
The observer phase is followed by the "postulancy," during which time the candidate spends several months participating in the monastic rhythm of prayer, lectio, and work. The phase of postulancy is followed by a one-year "novitiate" wherein the novice receives spiritual formation from the Novice Master. During that year, the novice is introduced to the foundation of monastic spirituality according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the monastic tradition.
Upon completion of the novitiate year and acceptance by the monastic community, the monk begins the three-year "juniorate" phase of formation. By his temporary profession of the three monastic vows—obedience, stability, and conversatio morum (the pursuit of perfect charity according to a monastic manner of life)—the candidate formally embraces the life envisioned by Saint Benedict. In addition to receiving personal guidance and conferences from the Junior Master, junior monks pursue a formal course in theology for a minimum of two years.
It is during this prolonged period of juniorate formation that the monk strives to reach a degree of human and spiritual maturity which allows him, after prayerful deliberation with the Abbot and Community, to respond freely and responsibly to God by pronouncing "solemn vows," wherein the Church receives his total gift of himself and, in turn, consecrates himself to God forever. Those who feel called and are qualified may undertake, with the approval of the Abbot, further theological studies for the priesthood in order to serve the monastic, collegiate, and at times, diocesan communities by their priestly ministry.