At the time of Eugene, the novitiate was the first step in becoming an Oblate missionary. It was an intense year in which the candidate concentrated fully on allowing God to “fashion him with a master’s hand.” The guiding instrument was the Oblate assigned to accompany him, known as the “novice master.”
A novitiate which is truly a novitiate, where the subjects are fashioned with a master’s hand, where care is taken to coach in them all that goes to form a true missionary, whence they will emerge full of virtue, accustomed to obedience and filled with attachment and respect for the Rules and all they prescribe.
I shall keep on saying it endlessly that we have only an imperfect mixture which gives us scarcely any hope and from which the results cannot be favorable.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 November 1825, EO VI n. 208
Eugene was dissatisfied with the way in which this important process was being handled. Today that concern continues and this is why there is a period of several years being spent in the formation process to prepare candidates for the novitiate year. In a similar spirit, our Oblate lay associates undergo a time of accompanied formation before making their commitment as our partners in mission.
The purpose of initial formation is to develop gradually those whom Jesus calls to total discipleship in the Congregation, until they are mature religious, capable of carrying on the Oblate mission. This requires an assimilation in faith of all the dimensions of our vocation, especially of Gospel poverty, celibate love and availability for missionary service.
CC&RR, Constitution 50
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8