The novitiate year was a time specifically set aside to live the intimacy of Jesus and the apostles, during which the future Missionaries were allowing themselves to be formed in perfection: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ…we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 -15
I am annoyed that the whole time of the novitiate or at least an entire year is not exclusively devoted to the study of perfection. It is a drawback that during this time we are obliged to tolerate profane studies and even theology… If they do not acquire religious virtues while in novitiate, it is all up for the future.
The study of theology was meant to take place the following year in the seminary, but familiarity with the Scriptures and the catechism were essential:
One must also teach them the elements of Christian doctrine, give them what they call a reasoned catechism, continue to have them learn by heart several verses of the New Testament every day, oblige them to give answers at the lesson of catechism which should be done twice a week, or at least once, but twice is not too much.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 18 June 1821, EO VI n. 68
Today in our Rule of Life we find:
The novice, led by the Spirit living within him, develops his personal relationship with Jesus and gradually enters into the mystery of Salvation through liturgy and prayer. He becomes accustomed to listen to the Lord in Scripture, to meet him in the Eucharist and to recognize him in other persons and in events. He comes also to contemplate God at work in the life and mission of the Founder, as well as in the Congregation’s history and traditions.
CC&RR, Constitution 56
“The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.” M. Scott Peck