With these words from the Prologue of the Rule, Saint Benedict addresses the aspirants to monastic life with the words of the Lord. Even today, our communities receive candidates eager to embark on the path of monastic conversion. When a man is moved by the heart’s desire to correspond to God’s call through the monastic life in the company of fellow travelers, he commits himself to a transformative journey that implies an ongoing and gradual formation.
During the formation period, under the guidance of a master and through gradual participation in the community life, the candidate grows in a broader and deeper vision of the Christian life and of the essential qualities of the monastic vocation, such as prayer, listening to the word of God, the celebration of the mystery of Christ, obedience, detachment, fraternal communion, as these qualities are expressed concretely by the community.
Incarnation Monastery is woven into the urban context of Berkeley, which means that the monastic journey takes on a peculiar lifestyle connecting solitude and contemplation to community life, and welcoming the people of goodwill that join us in our liturgy. Embodiment in the city implies living out our spiritual calling in the world with those who promote the flourishing of human consciousness and creation like interspirituality and ecological justice, attention to the excluded, and non-violence, in the desire to build a better world.
The initiation of candidates to monastic life embraces a period of preparation for the novitiate, called postulancy (1 to 2 years); the novitiate itself (1 to 2 years); and the years of profession of temporary vows (at least 3 years). The formation period aims to lead the candidate into the quest for an ever-deeper union with God by making the elements that constitute the monastic spiritual experience available to him. This formation period takes place mainly at the Incarnation Monastery but also in the other houses in California (the Hermitage of New Camaldoli and the Monastery of the Risen Christ) so as to experience the different facets of Camaldolese monastic life.
A desire for God and the way that leads to God is the first sign of a vocation. The testing of vocation is an interplay of human and divine freedoms and, of necessity, it takes some time. The first step is to come and stay at the monastery to see the way of life firsthand. Some visits are usually recommended, but at some time, one should contact the novice master and discuss one’s feeling of vocation.
However, some objective criteria are essential for a genuine vocation to our life: the candidate must be male, Roman Catholic, and have received the Sacrament of Confirmation. He must be free from all binding obligations to his family, and, typically, have shown that he can earn his own living. Our life is joyful and rewarding but also demanding: a candidate needs robust mental and physical health and an ability to live with others in the community.