Chapter 58: The Procedure for Receiving Members (August 11)
Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but, as the apostle says, “Test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Therefore, if someone comes and keeps knocking at the door, and if at the end of four or five days has shown patience in bearing harsh treatment and difficulty of entry, and has persisted in the request, then that one should be allowed to enter and stay in the guest quarters for a few days. After that, the person should live in the novitiate, where the novices study, eat, and sleep.
A senior chosen for skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after the newcomer with careful attention. The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and shows eagerness for the Divine Office, for obedience, and for trials. The novices should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead to God.
If they promise perseverance in stability, then after two months have elapsed let this rule be read straight through to them, and let them be told: “This is the law under which you are choosing to serve. If you can keep it, come in. If not, feel free to leave.” If they still stand firm, they are to be taken back to the novitiate, and again thoroughly tested in all patience. After six months have passed, the rule is to be read to them, so that they may know what they are entering. If once more they stand firm, let four months go by, and then read this rule to them again. If after due reflection they promise to observe everything and to obey every command given them, let them then be received into the community. But they must be well aware that, as the law of the rule establishes, from this day they are no longer free to leave the monastery, nor to shake from their neck the yoke of the rule which, in the course of so prolonged a period of reflection, they were free either to reject or accept.RB 58
There is an interesting contrast in the Rule between the relatively easy and laid-back reception of guests and the reception accorded those aspiring to embrace monastic life. The rigorous and painstaking process as outlined resembles an obstacle course. Various stages of testing are deemed necessary to eliminate those who are not genuinely called to this demanding lifestyle.
The holy persistence required gives the seeker the opportunity for deep introspection and brutal self-honesty. Am I truly called to make this commitment? Am I willing to pay the price? Am I ready for such a level of sacrifice?
Many of these same questions could just as well apply to one’s quest for clean and sober living. Am I a casual participant in my recovery program, or am I prepared to engage fully and work it for a radical change of life?
Lord, grant me the depth of commitment to stay the course and respond to your healing. Let me carefully observe the rules for recovery, and let me do so, one day at a time. Amen.