The Brothers of the Congregation of Saint John live their time of formation as an integral element of their consecration. Our formation has a contemplative spirit, meaning that we want to receive the Virgin Mary from Jesus crucified as did Saint John. This helps us to understand that the proper grace of the Community is to live a personal call from Jesus ‘to bear witness in the midst of the world to the love of Jesus victorious over evil.’ (From the Brothers’ prayer of Consecration to the Virgin Mary).
In her prudence, the Church asks that religious formation be made in stages. This journey begins when a young man comes ‘knocking at the door’ of a priory. After this first encounter, a person may ask to continue his discernment with a visit of a few days to a week. This gives him the time to observe the life of the Community from the exterior. Then, if he feels the call to continue, the novice master can invite him to cross the threshold and to participate in the Brothers’ life: “Come and see” (Jn. 1:39).
Stages of Discernment and Formation
- Visit/Observation The Community of Saint John invites you to “come and see”! Visit one of our priories and learn about the Community to get a first- hand experience of the Brothers’ life.
- Postulancy (3-12 months), usually done in an Apostolic Priory of the Community. Prior to admission to the Postulancy, discernment is made with one spiritual director, together with the Prior of the house where the candidate will enter.
- Novitiate (18-24 months), made in one of the five Novitiates of the Community according to the brother’s culture and native language (in the USA, France, Cameroon, the Philippines and Mexico). The habit is received during the Novitiate. The novice master, helped by his assistants, is responsible for discerning the novice’s vocation.
- Temporary Profession (for at least 4 years). Temporary Profession is the first profession of religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. During these years the brother lives in a priory of formation, typically in France, and he also spends two years in one of the Community’s apostolic priories.
- Perpetual Vows: If a brother desires to continue to perpetual vows, he must first make this desire known to the Community. Then, after careful deliberation by the Chapter of Formation, the brother may be admitted to pronounce his perpetual vows as follows: “I, Brother N., into the hands of Father N., Prior General, and in the presence of my Brothers, with the grace of Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, promise to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, poverty, chastity and obedience, according to the rule of life and Constitutions of the Brothers of Saint John, for the service of God and of his Church, unto death.” (Constitutions of the Brothers of Saint John, N° 38).
- Priesthood/Permanent Deaconate: Among the final professed Brothers, many but not all are called to receive the Holy Orders of diaconate and/or priesthood. They are called to ordination by the Bishop of Autun (France), upon the Prior General’s recommendation, and the consent of his councils. The Brothers’ studies for preparation to the diaconate and/or priesthood include the course requirements (Ratio studiorum) as adopted by the Holy See.