Before the candidates to Oblate life made their commitment, they had to do an intense year of prayer and reflection, called the novitiate. The behavior of Nicolas Riccardi and some others had led Eugene to question how well the novitiate was being run. Writing to the Oblate responsible for the novices, Eugene reflected on the novitiate.
[Our novices] still do not have the spirit of our Society, they must be formed in obedience, self-abnegation, love of poverty and in quite a number of other virtues unknown in the seminaries where they have lived until now. The hope of the Society depends on the good use of time in the novitiate, and I will not back down from that. I will not hesitate to sacrifice everything for this prime need of the Society;
In the Aix house there were also some school-going young men who were probationers
so much the worse for these scholars on probation; I am sorry that their progress will be slowed down but let them go elsewhere for instruction if they want to advance more quickly. We will take them back when they have learned what they need to enter novitiate. I conclude by recommending that you refrain from doing what you say tires you out even if the scholars have to suffer; and you must not count for a long time either on Riccardi or on Reynier whom I will not allow to leave novitiate until they are really trained in the religious spirit.
Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 2 February 1826, EO VII n 222
Today our Rule of Life continues to stress the importance of the novitiate:
“The novitiate is the candidate’s time of initiation into Oblate religious life and leads to his public commitment in the Congregation… Under the guidance of the Novice Master, the novice comes to grasp the meaning of religious consecration. He can thus discern the Lord’s call and, in prayer, make himself ready to respond.” CC&RR, Constitution 55
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats