My friend Phillip emailed me to ask how one "gets to be a card carrying Benedictine?" The process, while uncomplicated, takes a period of at least four years. First, men express an interest in learning more about the Benedictine way of life. As Father Charles said today, they have several men "nibbling around the edges" right now. As part of the learning experience, the man might come and spend a week here with the monks. If he remains interested, he might then spend more time here, say another six months. Sometimes potential monks will keep a job in the community, but live here for a while as they learn more about the monks and the monks learn more about them. If, at that point, the man is willing to commit to the life and the monks are interested in having him, he becomes a novice. The novitiate lasts for one year and if at the end of the year the man wants to join, he takes temporary vows, which last for three years. Only after that time period can he take the final vows. It's a long engagement and there is no kissing on the first date.
During the four year test period, the candidate works with the abbey's director of spiritual formation. At the same time, the monks are also trying to decide how well he fits in and whether he'll be a success or not. Father Charles said that they had one man who was interested, but he was so angry all the time that they decided he probably would not be happy here and they probably wouldn't be happy if he was there. So some times it just doesn't work out.
So that's how one gets to be a monk.