A young woman’s discernment with the community begins with a week-long aspirancy. She spends this time living the horarium of the nuns, spending time with Our Lord in adoration and meeting with the Sisters who work in formation. During her stay, the aspirant stays outside the enclosure, but within the monastery and is able to take part in the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours in the main chapel. The extended experience of silence and formal spiritual direction are integral to this time of discernment. If the time of aspirancy leads the young woman and the formation directors to believe that she has a potential call to this community, she is then admitted to candidacy.
A new candidate to the monastery joins in the life of the community, praying, working, taking meals and recreating with the nuns. She takes part in the Novitiate Lessons and Study Period during the week. The immersion into the rhythm of the Divine Office, adoration hour, monastic work, the experience of enclosure and times of fun give the candidate the opportunity to assess both her call to contemplative life and to this particular community. The candidacy also gives the community the chance to get to become acquainted with this budding vocation and to help her along her first steps to religious life.
A young woman entering the cloister, begins her journey by kneeling and knocking at the enclosure door. The superior then opens this door, which can only be opened from within, and asks the aspiring postulant what she desires. She states that she desires to begin the time of discernment, of listening to the voice of God as he speaks in and through the community, that she may prepare her soul for the great day of union between bride and Bridegroom. To this the superior replies in the words of scripture, “enter into the joy of the Lord.” The community then leads the young woman to the chapel in procession while chanting the Order’s song: Adoremus in Aeternum. There she receives the brownpostulant veil and the medallion worn by PCPA novitiate Sisters and is greeted as the newest “Sister!” From this point on, she shares in the life of the Nuns, becoming acquainted with the ways and customs of our monastic life. She studies scripture, delves into Church documents and the basics of the spiritual life. If she completes this first year and believes that she has a vocation to this way of life, she may ask to be admitted to the novitiate.
After a year of postulancy, the entrance into the novitiate marks the radical beginning of the Nun’s religious life, and her desire to exchange the “things of time for those of eternity” (St. Clare). The clothing ceremony, which takes place after Mass, presents a thrilling transformation as the postulant garb is exchanged for the religious habit, symbolic for her being clothed with Christ. First however, her hair is shorn, as was our Holy Mother Clare’s, to show her renouncement of the things of the world. She kisses each article of the habit as she receives them. Each piece has significance. After being clothed, she is given the white veil, symbol of her call to be a pure spouse of Christ. She is then given her new religious name and title! The novitiate lasts for two years, the first being a canonical year which is a more rigorous time of enclosure (less contacts with family and friends) where she is able to test her vocation. During this time she has the guidance of the Novice Mistress and is given instruction in preparation for the commitment of vows.
After the nun’s novitiate, she may be accepted to make her first profession of vows. She professes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as the observance of the enclosure for one year, committing herself to the praise of God through Perpetual Adoration and the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. This initial consecration is also integration into the community as she receives the constitutions of the Order and is exhorted to live what she has learned during her novitiate. At the profession ceremony she exchanges the white veil for the black, symbol of having died with Christ through her profession and living in Him. She also receives a profession crucifix to be worn on her cord. The joy of belonging to Christ more fully through the vows is then allowed to deepen and mature as she comes to experience more fully the challenges of living a radical life according to the Gospel. Simple vows are renewed each year for five years as the nun approaches solemn profession.
After renewing simple vows for five years, the nun may request to be admitted to solemn profession. During this rite of the Church, the Sister petitions to be received by the Church and to be allowed to dedicate her entire life to prayer and the service of God’s people through the living of the Gospel’s evangelical counsels. She prostrates beneath a pall during the litany of the Saints – dying to the world and to herself so as to live for the rest of her life in and for Christ. She then vows to live her entire life in obedience, without property, and in chastity. Following her definitive promise, the Church in the person of the Bishop or celebrant, receives her and consecrates her to God through a solemn blessing. She is then given a wedding ring, the sign of her marriage with Christ the Bridegroom. From then on, she is commissioned to pray the Liturgy of the Hours on behalf of God’s People and to devote herself to Perpetual Adoration, sacrifice and prayer for the world. So begins the life of a PCPA, which continues to grow through conversion until the last day of her earthly life where she meets her Spouse face to Face!