Become a Norbertine
If you feel God is calling you to the religious life, or you are simply curious about how such a life would be, the first step is to contact your nearest Norbertine house, most of which invite the public to join them at prayer.
Because our order is not centralized, our houses vary in the way they communicate with potential novices. Check the website of your nearest house, if they have one, or contact the vocations director or master/mistress of novices.
Some abbeys offer “come and see” visits for a day or up to a couple of weeks, when you can share in the life of the novices. You might be attending classes with seminary students, praying with the canons in the liturgy, joining in practical tasks, or sharing meals and recreation with the community. In other houses, you might be invited to visit several times to discuss and pray about your vocation.
When you are ready to explore a serious commitment to Norbertine life and make a formal application to the house you want to join, the path that you follow is fairly standard. At each stage you will be encouraged to test your vocation through prayer and your daily experience, and you will choose whether you want to commit to this particular community for life. At the same time, the community can choose whether to accept you. Many communities offer the option to become a Norbertine as a brother or priest. The initial vocation path is the same. The process is called formation and has the following stages.
1. Postulancy/affiliation (usually one or two years)
You might live at the abbey, sharing in communal prayer and meals, possibly while carrying on with work or study elsewhere. You will follow an education program to give you a clearer understanding of Norbertine life, values, and history, as well as how it applies to you.
2. Novitiate (two years)
You will wear the Nobertines’ white habit and deepen your commitment to religious life and the community during this period. The first year is usually focused on prayer and contemplation, with some part-time ministry work introduced in the second year.
3. Simple vows/temporary profession/juniorate (three years)
You take vows of poverty (a simple life with no private possessions), celibacy (to allow you to grow with others in the Holy Spirit), and obedience (to God’s will).
4. Solemn vows
This is when you confirm your vows for life, also pledging yourself to the entire community. At this stage, you can remain as a brother or continue your theological studies to become a priest. In either case, you will continue to share in the same communal life and prayer.
5. Ordination as a deacon (one year)
You are likely to serve in a parish while carrying on studies. Most deacons have a master’s degree in divinity by the time they are ordained priests. Because of this, you are likely to be encouraged to complete a first degree before entering the novitiate.
6. Ordination to the priesthood
You are likely to have a mentor help you transition into your role and to take on more responsibility gradually.
Our life as Norbertine canons is based around singing the Divine Office at set times and celebrating Mass daily. We might start our day with Matins at midnight followed by Lauds at around 5:30 a.m. Our liturgical schedule ends with evening prayer (Vespers or Compline).
The administrative and practical tasks of running the community are fitted around this. Some houses have schools and seminaries in the same building complex or close by, and they might also run guest houses, retreat centers and bookshops, or sell products made by brothers or sisters. The cloistered Norbertine Sisters in Tehachapi, California, in the U.S. breed Labrador dogs.
Many priests and brothers or sisters also work outside the community (often in education, running parishes, or as chaplains to institutions). The extent to which this happens varies between houses, but wherever we are in the world, we spend some of each day together as a community, praying together, and eating shared meals. We are one another’s family for life.
Associates (also known as tertiaries) are lay men and women who feel drawn to Norbertine values, would like a deeper understanding of our life, and choose to support us in our work as part of their spiritual journey. Associates make temporary vows (promises), which they renew every year and are given a scapular (made from the same fabric as the Norbertine habits) to wear under their clothes. Most houses have an associates’ program, including prayer and study recommendations, discussion groups and retreats. Associates also attend our liturgical hours regularly and might commit to helping with administrative or practical duties in parishes or in the abbey community. Your nearest Norbertine house will be able to tell you more about how they include associates.