Postulancy & the Novitiate Experience
From Invitations & Commitments : A Rule of Life for The Order of Sustainable Faith
3.5.0 Entering into Membership
3.5.1 A Request for membership in The Order will consist of a discernment process between the applicant and the applicant's spiritual director and/or pastor.
3.5.2 Every member will begin with a 6-month postulancy as a Non-Residential Member.
3.5.3 During postulancy, members will review the Rule of Life, meet with a Spiritual Director, and continue to discern one's desire for membership within The Order of Sustainable Faith. Additionally, a postulant will form a Discerning Community (see § 5.6.5).
- A Postulant is one who takes on the role of asking (from the latin postulare, to ask). Each member will begin his/her journey asking what God's invitation for him/her might be. The main question is:
Do I want to orient my life, alongside others, around a particular set of shared commitments, in service and submission to the mission of God?
- Postulancy is meant to be a first step toward discernment of one's desire to join The Order of Sustainable Faith. Postulancy is meant to be very open-ended and in some cases is an entry-point to Spiritual Direction.
- For 6 months, a Postulant will meet monthly with a Spiritual Director who will help him/her listen and respond to God's leading toward specific practices and commitments found in The Rule of Life for The Order of Sustainable Faith.
- Most of the initiative for postulancy resides in the postulant, with guidance from a spiritual director, and input from those journeying through the Novitiate Experience and one's discerning community.
The Novitiate Experience
3.5.8 During the Novitiate Experience, members enter more deeply into a rhythm of life. Novice members, in collaboration with other members and a spiritual director, will be in conversation and discernment toward developing a more specified and individualized Rule of Life.
3.5.9 The focus for the novitiate experience is to pay attention to the invitation that comes to you during postulancy, and to build upon that invitation.
3.5.10 Upon completion of the 1-year novitiate experience, members may, through a discernment process with other members and/or a spiritual director, make a longer commitment to membership within The Order of Sustainable Faith.
3.5.11 Longer commitments are initially an additional 12-42 months beyond the novitiate experience. The duration of a longer commitment is at the member's discretion.
The Novitiate Movements
1. Deeper Discernment
Many in postulancy begin to feel a slight “tug” toward one or more of the commitments contained in the Rule of Life. As I have observed those heading through postulancy, I have noticed that one or more themes begin to emerge, often along the lines of commitments the individual has been wanting and trying to make prior to postulancy. The process of working through the commitments and noticing where God continues to “tug” can often ignite some focus (and passion) to explore these themes more deeply in prayer. This movement of Deeper Discernment is simply a continuation of what God is already doing. It is recommended that this path last 3-6 months.
As themes emerge in postulancy, in addition to prayer and spiritual direction, the novitiate may want to begin a deeper study of the spiritual themes, disciplines, or commitments that he/she has noticed during postulancy. This moment of study is in line with the Benedictine tradition and gives the novitiate a deeper understanding of specific commitments that God continues to highlight. In collaboration with one’s spiritual director, and in consultation with pastors and scholars who are part of the Society of Vineyard Scholars, a course of study and a syllabus will be formed to help direct the novitiate toward gaining a deeper understanding of one or more particular commitments to which the novitiate is drawn. For example, one may find that she is drawn toward the commitments of hospitality & restorative peacemaking. A course of study will be marked out to dig deeper into literature, films, and practices of these emerging commitments. The suggested timeframe for this movement will be 3-6 months and may be pursued in conjunction the Deeper Discernment movement. When 1 & 2 are done together, the total timeframe is 6-9 months.
3. The Exercises of St. Ignatius
As one enters the novitiate experience, one of the challenges we must confront is to allow mission, and our particular invitation to participate in God’s mission, to flow out of our unique identities, to be able to initiate action with clarity, and be faithfully present to those with whom we share life. The Ignatian Exercises are a tool to mature us along in these challenges through the experience of God in prayer. In this movement, the novitiate will learn to be grateful for the way God has uniquely shaped him/her in both giftedness and limitation, grow in one's abilities to discern well, and respond to the voice of The Lord in greater freedom to the life that one has been given. The recommended timeframe for this movement is 9 months and is in line with Ignatius’ 19th annotation which allows for a longer season to move through each of the 4 weeks of The Exercises.