The Cistercian Abbey of Notre-Dame-du-Lac draws from the sources of traditional evangelical life, as expressed in the Rule of St. Benedict, and as concretized by the founders of Cîteaux in the 11th century. As the monastic life observed in the monastery is wholly ordered to contemplation, monks devote themselves within the enclosure of the monastery to divine worship and also ensure, through solitude and silence, diligent prayer and joyful penitence, a humble and noble service to the divine majesty. They follow the footsteps of Christ, in community, under a Rule and an Abbot, celebrating liturgical prayer daily and devoting themselves to manual labor and lectio divina.
Oka monastery community always welcomes those who hear the call to follow the Lord in monastic life. The desire to seek God, the ability to live in community, personal maturity and good health are basic requirements for fully living this particular vocation within the heart of the Church.
Those who are called in this way, and whose age lies between twenty and forty-five years, are first invited to stay in the monastery guesthouse where they can come in contact with the community, experience its atmosphere and enter into its rhythm of prayer. It is also possible at that time to meet with the Master of Novices (responsible for vocations), to discuss Cistercian monastic life and vocational discernment with him.
The monastic experience
Following these conversations with the Master of Novices, candidates who wish to take steps to deepen their discernment and invited to live, for a period of a month or more, a monastic experience in our community. The candidates are included in the novitiate and share in its various activities. The concrete experience of community life, with its daily requirements (schedule, prayer, common work, silence, etc.) allows the candidate to confront and adjust their idea or ideal of monastic life with its reality.
The candidate who, in the course of this monastic experience, sees growing in him the desire to join the community, is invited to deeply reflect on this desire by returning to his own life and environment for a period of time. After which, if he still wishes to do so, he is welcomed to the community as a postulant at a date selected with the Master of Novices.
This is a six month period of progressive integration into community life. At the end of the postulate, following discernment with the master of novices, the brother who requests it is admitted to the novitiate.
This is a two year period of formation and it aims to deepen the internalization of monastic values, through study and meditation on the Word of God, the Rule of St. Benedict, and Cistercian spirituality, while wholly sharing community life. In a more immediate fashion the novitiate prepares the brother to undertake his temporary profession of the monastic vows of obedience, conversion of life and stability.
Admission to temporary profession of monastic vows requires a majority vote of the community and is usually a three year undertaking. In the course of this period, called monasticate, the newly professed brother undertakes monastic studies, and, if he has the aptitudes and interests, theological studies at the monastery (with or without academic standing; the Studium of the monastery is affiliated with Quebec’s Laval University).
Accompanied in his steps by the monk responsible for the newly professed, he is also given progressively greater responsibility in the life of the community. As the three year period comes to an end, if he feels ready, he may undertake solemn profession, by which he consecrates his entire life to God. He may also prolong his temporary vows for one or two additional three year periods, or even leave the monastery, if he believes he is called to serve the Lord in another form of life.
Through solemn profession, which admits him, by a new vote, to the community, the monk bonds in a permanent way his existence to that of the community, which is a “school for the Lord’s service” (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict, v.45). There he learns each day to follow Christ in brotherly love, in communion with all of humanity, which he welcomes and offers in his prayer. Following solemn profession, the monk may be called to ordination to the priesthood by the Abbot, according to community need. He may also receive professional training, depending on the type of community service to which he may be called.