There was a time when Catholics began formation into religious life with little to no preparation for the phenomenal transformation in lifestyle. Discernment, or a methodical examination of a person's sense of calling to the vocation of consecrated life, did not occur prior to formation into that life, but concurrently, and usually then often or only in a manner that compelled one to ratify the decision already taken. Nowadays, men and women who enter religious life do not do so without first getting a glimpse of what the life is like.
With the Capuchin Franciscans and also among many other religious orders, we call this period of discernment candidacy. Through attendance of come-and-see events like discernment weekends, prospective candidates meet friars and friars in formation, worship together, share meals and stories, and experience the community in general, especially as marked by its fraternity and ministry. In addition, candidates are encouraged to be in touch often with the vocation director and visit any of the friaries as they are able.
When a candidate feels ready to take the next step, an application is made to the postulancy program. If accepted, the candidate will take residence in a friary, where formation commences at the level of catechesis, liturgical practice, and pastoral ministry. In addition, postulants receive instruction in the traditions of the Capuchin Franciscan order, while adopting the habits of the friars by following the common routine of prayer, meals, and work. Postulants receive spiritual direction and work on their human development.
Some candidates move quickly into the postulancy program, while for others the transition from candidacy to postulancy is the culmination of a long process of discernment. The Spirit moves when she will at her own chosen speed. In my case, it is the latter, as I have known the Capuchins for over ten years. Long have I been in the orbit of the friars' world, and the gravitational pull of religious life has been sometimes strong, sometimes weak. Clearly at this time it is irresistible! We are flying closer to the Franciscan planet.
The postulancy program is nine months at St. Michael Friary in East New York, Brooklyn. What happens next? Here is an overview of the stages of formation into Capuchin Franciscan life.