Abbot: What is it that you seek?
Novices: The mercy of God and fellowship in this community.
These words, “the mercy of God,” had a special resonance at the clothing of novices at Saint John’s Abbey yesterday, what with Pope Francis’s emphasis on mercy. The heart of the Christian life, and of monastic life, is experiencing God’s mercy within a community. As two men began their monastic formation, we were reminded of that.
When entering novices receive the habit, the first question the abbot asks of them is this. It puts mercy front and center of the novices’ coming year of intense discernment. Then the abbot addresses them:
My dear brother in Christ, we recognize your desire to undertake our way of life, but as the Apostle says: “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” For this reason we cannot grant you an easy admittance. We must first determine whether you truly seek God, and are zealous for the work of God, for obedience and the practice of humility. We must also tell you all the trials and hardships through which we travel to God.
Joe Eichorn (now Br. Elias) and David Franco (now Br. Mariano) were clothed in the monastic habit yesterday. They join Novice Jacob in the formation area for a time of prayer, work, study, and discernment. May God prosper their vocational journey!