Stages of Formation
Having successfully applied to the Order (see Application process), the candidate begins a process known as the Pre-Novitiate. The Pre-Novitiate is designed to give the candidate a gentle introduction to the Carmelite way of life.
The Pre-Novice becomes a member of a Carmelite community and is invited to join the community for prayer and general community life, as well as to begin some study of Carmelite Spirituality. This is the primary task of the Pre-novitiate. At the same time, the candidate is encouraged to continue to do some form of work during this stage.
Finally, the Carmelite Order is an international Order. In order to develop good international relations, it has been agreed that the Novitiate for the Provinces in Europe is currently done in Salamanca, Spain. As such, in preparation for novitiate, Pre-Novices are encouraged to study Spanish.
The Pre-Novitiate lasts between six months and a year. Having completed the Pre-novitiate and applied for entrance to the novitiate, the candidate receives the habit of Carmel.
The word novice is used for one in the initial stages of formation or training. The novitiate is a period of twelve calendar months. During that time the individual learns what it means to follow Jesus Christ according to the Carmelite tradition. Life as a novice is designed so that the individual can grow in prayer, community life and in his desire to serve others. Time and space is made available so that the novice can reflect on his vocation and to test his ability to live the religious life in the Carmelite Order.
The novitiate also prepares the novice to make a decision in faith about the future of his life. The community plays a role in supporting the individual as he discerns his future. At the end of the novitiate the novice will be in a position to take the next step in Carmelite life - Simple Profession.
There are two stages in Profession; Simple also known as First Profession in temporary vows, and Solemn Profession, a commitment to the Carmelite Order for life. Normally, the temporary vows are made for three years, and then renewed each year, until a decision is made regarding solemn vows. Simple Profession is a period of time to prepare the student for solemn vows in the Carmelite Order, and equips him for ministry as a priest or brother.
The simply professed has vowed chastity, poverty and obedience, and so is expected to grow in the communal spirit of Carmelite life. In order to prepare themselves for ministry and solemn vowed life, each student develops his talents by participating in community life, prayer, study (philosophy and theology) and in the life and work of the Province. After this period of preparation is completed the simply professed will make solemn vows through which he commits himself to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ as a Carmelite for the rest of his life.