If you want to become a brother, you will first enter a time of formation: we use the terms postulate and noviciate. The postulate is a time for exploring your vocation. The noviciate is a time for personal deepening of faith: to learn to pray, to study the scriptures and to get to know the institute of the Church better. It’s also a time to get to know our work and our communities and to get used to community life. Of course it is also time for deepening one’s personal beliefs and choices in life, under the guidance of a novice-master.
After the formation period, which lasts at least two years and often longer, you can choose to commit yourself to the congregation: during the initial period each time for one year, and if this way of life makes you happy, for ever. To pronounce this commitment, we use the term ‘profession’ or ‘vows’: you can make your temporary profession for a year and renew it a few times; after that you can make profession for life.
Formation remains an important point of attention, also when you have become a professed brother. We have realized that religious life needs to be nourished, through reading and prayer, liturgy and study, work and reflection, encounters and community life. This applies to all brothers, young and old.
What does it mean to be a brother and to be part of a religious community? The most visible is perhaps that we live in communities with other brothers. The way we organize our days is also characteristic for our way of life. We strive for a certain balance: there is time for work and prayer, for moments of silence and study, for meetings and common recreation. One of the secrets of religious life is that you keep a careful balance between what we call action and contemplation, times when you are working and times for reflection and spiritual nourishment. That’s why we have a common prayer celebration each morning and evening, which frames our day and give it structure. We also celebrate the Eucharist regularly and take personal time for silence and prayer. In addition, we occasionally go on retreat for a few days. But most of the time we are working; alone or with others.
Following Jesus in life
Something less visible is that we as brothers live according to a Rule of Life. This is a text of our congregation which is rooted in the gospel: because as brothers we try to live the way Jesus lived. It is a simple but at the same time radical way of life, which requires a deep personal dedication. We choose to be totally available to God and open our lives for a personal relationship with him. This implies a number of other choices we have to make. We choose to live in community with others, without personal belongings, and we try to share as much as possible together. We forfeit the option of marriage and family life and choose to live in a community with other brothers. In addition, we promise faithfulness and obedience to the congregation we belong to. These choices together are also called the three vows, namely those of religious obedience, poverty and chastity. They are the basic concepts of religious life in the Roman Catholic tradition and they also form the basic structure of our community life as brothers.