“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions,
and give the money to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.”
“…since the brotherhood must constantly grow in virtue, in the perfection of love, and in the spirit of the Gospel rather than in number, those who wish to embrace our life must be thoroughly examined and accompanied with care in the discernment of their vocation.”
Why the Formation ?
Formation is not just specific a period of time in your religious life but a lifelong endeavor. It is an opportunity that allows us to constantly examine ourselves and our vocation so that we can respond to the call of God. Each stage demands different things from us but its ultimate goal is to bring us closer to Him as we live fully in the charism of the Order.
Practically, Capuchin formation is separated into two distinct period: Initial formation and on-going formation. Both are the committed journeys each friar must embark on. The first part is for those brothers who are just starting their Capuchin life. The latter are for those brothers who have made the commitment to live the evangelical counsel of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity for the rest of their lives. Since our vocation is the gift of the Holy Spirit, all brothers in initial and on-going formation must strive to grow this gift through academic, human, mental, emotional and spiritual formation while living and serving in fraternal love of his brothers.
” Here I am Lord…”
The journey to your Capuchin life begins with Aspirancy. This is the moment where you have made a distinct commitment to say yes to your discernment and have sought out the help of the Order in helping your discern this vocation.
Aspirants are candidates that have formally asked to be considered and are interested in applying into the Order. This can be the time where you have narrowed down your discernment and taking the time to grow in that calling by continuing to be in contact and involve with the Capuchin community. Aspirants attends retreats, come and see events, Mass or community prayers given by the friars. Serious candidates who has a need to work on certain obligations or impediments are encouraged to enter into the aspirancy program so they can continue their discernment along with the brothers.
“Lord tell me what to do…”
Postulancy is beginning of a friar’s formal formation. They have completed the application process and have been accepted into the program by the Order. It is a period of one year, in which the aspirant becomes part of the community so that he can experience the life of a Capuchin. The term comes from the word ‘postulate’ meaning one who asks. This stage allows the candidate to live, observe, ask of, and learn the life of a friar.
During this time, he will be assigned to the formation house and will be under a friar who will be in charge of his formation. The postulant participates in all of the prayer schedule of the house, especially the Divine Office, liturgical celebrations, house work projects, chores and fraternal activities. He will be assigned to ministries, throughout the year, that directly affect the poor and marginalized of our society.
Postulants, if determined by his discernment, can formally leave the formation at any time by informing his director. At the end of 10 months and multiple evaluations, he is given the opportunity to petition the Order to enter the next stage of formation. Upon recommendation to and approval of the Provincial Minister, he will then finish the last 2 months of postulancy along with other postulants from the North American Capuchin provinces in a common formation as preparation for the Novitiate.
St. Francis , following the examples of Jesus (Lk 6:12), would often leave his ministry with the people and come to a secluded place to pray and spend time with the Lord. It was in the summer of 1224, in a cave within the mountain of La Verna (Alverna) that he asked the Lord to join in His Passion and received the sacred stigmata.
” Your own cave experience…”
Many brothers look back at their novitiate year as the best and most challenging part of their formation. Think of it as a year-long retreat to fully discern your call into the Capuchin way of life and the promises of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity to the Church. It is designed to emulate St. Francis’ cave experience both physically and spiritually. Novices spend this year away from the distractions of the world, in relative seclusion, to have the opportunity to pray about the life ahead of them. It is an intense discernment time centered in prayer and fraternity. Ministries are minimized to give the novice a chance to fully contemplate on the question “Am I called to be a Capuchin?”
“I’ve come to do Your will…”
Novitiate formally begins with the investiture of the brother. This reception of the habit officially marks his life as a friar, and thus becomes subject to the Canon laws of the Church. Part of his habit and cord is a piece of clothing called the “caperone” – a short brown scapular – which signifies that he is in the state of probation. Canon law dictates that the Novice spend a calendar year in this probationary period as to be evaluated to the suitability of life as a Capuchin and to prepare him for the profession of vows.
Our Lady of Angels province participates in the North American Pacific Capuchin Conference’s national novitiate located in Santa Ynez, CA. In this common novitiate, friars are thought various subject like discernment, liturgies, Franciscan and Capuchin histories, the Capuchin constitutions, the evangelical counsels (vows), and reinforcement of the Church’s Catechism. His schedule is centered around prayer, specifically the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. The novitiate also emphasizes the fraternal aspect of our Capuchin life. Work projects are done fraternally, prayers and meditation are done communally. Regular fraternal gatherings outside of liturgies are also common so to reinforce this aspect of our Capuchin life. At the end of the year, with multiple evaluations and recommendation from their formators, the novice is invited to petition his Provincial Minister to profess the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity. This begins his life as a friar in simple vows.
Post novitiate formation is a time in which the friar grows in virtue by living the vows. Led by the Director of Students, each friar is continually formed as to grow not only in academics but in human, psychological, and spiritual aspects of his life. His life is a balance of prayer, academics and ministry while living in fraternity.
Brothers in post-novitiate formation that are in simple vows are considered part of the initial formation program while perpetually professed friars are in their post-formation program. Simply professed brothers renew their vows every year until they reach eligibility for perpetual vows. They must live the vows and renew for a minimum of 3 years, not exceeding 9 years, to be eligible for consideration to perpetual profession. This period of temporary profession gives the brother and the Order the time to fully discern his vocation as a Capuchin before fully committing to this life. Brothers who are in the Holy Orders formation program must be perpetually professed prior to their Diaconate ordination.
Life of a Student Friar
Brothers without post-secondary degrees are enrolled for continuing education (Bachelors, trade, professional, etc.) while brothers who already possess Under-graduate or Graduate degrees can continue with courses that will help in their ministries
Opportunities for more varied ministries are available to post-novitiate student friars. The aim is to give the friar more exposure to working with people which can include prison ministry, hospital chaplaincy, catechist, outreach to the poor, young-adult ministry, Evangelization in colleges and universities, parish ministries, etc.
Brothers who are discerning and felt called to be Ordained are placed in a seminary academic formation program following the USCCB guidance on Program for Priestly Formation. Brothers who are working on an Undergraduate degree can opt to major in Philosophy to prepare him for the Masters in Divinity Program. Brothers who already have an undergrad degree can proceed to the M.Div program with additional courses in Philosophy to satisfy the PPF. Our brothers attend the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, which is part of the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, CA for this program.
All brothers, especially those who are not in the seminary academic program, are required to take fundamental Philosophy and Theology classes to ground and reinforce their knowledge of our faith. They also continue in their study of Franciscan history, life and spirituality with special focus on the Capuchin reform to further enrich their own calling.
Continuing on from their novitiate experience, brothers participate in the daily celebration of the liturgies. Masses are offered daily with special attention given on feast days and solemnities. Students participate in the preparation and celebration of the Mass by serving as altar servers, lectors and acolytes. The Divine Office of Matins, Lauds, Vesper and Compline are prayed communally each day. The friars are given 1 – 2 hours of meditation time each day as part of its communal prayer activity.
Holy Hour with adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is done every Friday. Brothers participate in the group faith sharing and gospel reflections. The community observes days of recollections especially during lent and encourages individual penitential practices like fasting to promote spiritual growth
All brothers, in the spirit of Capuchin simplicity and austerity, participate in the general upkeep of the community, which includes cooking for the brothers, doing chores, work projects, cleaning and maintenance of the friary. To foster this fraternal life, brothers also come together in other activities such as community outings, a good game of cribbage, a basketball game or frisbee football, or just simply hanging out with his brother.
Student Friars in Action