Novices' formation begins in June with selected Lay Associates serving as instructors under the guidance of the Spiritual Director/s. The plan for the five year formation periods includes two years as a novice and 3 years as a junior with the following curriculum:


In September, the monastery retreat house has a weekend retreat, "Cistercian Spirituality," that is recommended for all inquirers but is not required. Novices for the OLHS Lay Associate Community are accepted into the community on a two year cycle. Inquiry classes are held for 2 hours the Sunday afternoon of the Community Gathering Days in October, November and December. These classes give an overview of the Lay Associate life and give inquirers the opportunity to meet and dialogue with community members. A weekend retreat is held in February for inquirers to deepen their understanding of the Cistercian life and to discern the individual's calling to the community Cistercian lifestyle. . The inquirer then submits a letter of intent to the community within two weeks of the completion of their retreat.

This is not a part of the structured formation program, but individuals waiting for the next inquiry session to begin are encouraged in these areas.

Encouraged to:

Formal introduction to:

First-year Novices The Cistercian Way by Dom André Louf

Second-year Novices Centered on Christ by Dom Augustine Roberts

First-year Junior St. Benedict for Beginners by Dom Julian Stead, O.S.B.

Second-year Junior

Third-year Junior Individual study of a Cistercian of choice (For example, St. Bernard, Blessed Cassant, Blessed Michael Tansi, Blessed Gabriella)
Recomended Reading

What Makes a Cistercian Monk?
by Anthony Delisi (Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, 2003).
Available at the Abbey Store, or call 1-800-592-5203 (local 770-483-7228).

Taken from Father Anthony's talks on the Rule which were frequently based on his own experiences in monastic life. They provided the novices and newly professed monks a glimpse of the monastery's history and what some of the founders call the "good old days." The theme of these talks was based on the charisms of the Cistercian order, those special graces from the Holy Spirit that identify the Cistercian Order. They are the framework that structures and defines the daily life of a Cistercian.

The Cistercian Way by André Louf
(trans. Nivard Kinsella, Cistercian Publications, 1989; 1996).
Available on-line, click Abbey Store, or call 1-800-592-5203 (local 770-483-7228).

In The Cistercian Way Dom André Louf and six of his monks who cooperated with him have presented us with a good modern statement of classic Cistercian spirituality. While the text is a joint effort involving collaboration of mind and heart, there is little doubt that it can be described as the work of a spiritual father and his disciples. For the Abbot's thought and approach are very much in evidence throughout. Dom André has a fine knowledge of the whole of monastic tradition. He has thoroughly imbibed this tradition, so that he is eminently suited for the task of producing such a work.

Deep within himself everyone has an unquenchable thirst for God -- a radical need of him so that there is no ultimate rest to be found without God. This thirst for the Absolute, this dissatisfaction with what life offers, though it may appear from the outside to be central to monastic life, is not in fact at the heart of monasticism. In baptism the Christian has had his nature transformed by grace. He enjoys the divine presence within, inviting him to personal communion. To seek to lead a deeper spiritual life, to want to lead a life of prayer, cannot be for the monk merely a greater effort to awaken and intensify that need of God which is everyone's by nature. Much more is it an opening of himself to God's grace and presence -- a consent to God's call. Of its very nature Christian monasticism has to be Christ-centered, and the person who lives the monastic life is but living out his baptismal calling in a specific manner. - Introduction by Dom Celsus Kelly

Centered on Christ: An Introduction to Monastic Profession
by Augustine Roberts (Petersham, MA: St. Bede's Publications, 1979; 1993). Out of print

The premise which underlies this entire volume is that the monk's life can only be understood by seeing it as a union of two different spiritual movements present throughout the history of mankind and particularly significant in the world of today: man's desire for community and his search for personal union with the Eternal. The fusion, rather than the opposition, of these two deep currents of the spirit makes Benedictine life, at one and the same time, strongly cenobitic and clearly contemplative.

…In this sense, the growing interest in mysticism and methods of contemplation may mean that others besides Benedictines or Cistercians will be using this book. If so, it will simply be another sign of the "monk" hidden in every human heart. It should be easy for such readers to adapt the work to their particular needs and circumstances. Thus the chapters on chastity, poverty, and obedience are able to be applied without difficulty to other forms of Christian and religious life. The monastic experience of these evangelical counsels can be of help to all sincere Christians in appreciating more fully the Gospel's contemplative dimension. The chapters on conversion of life, stability, and spiritual methods, though more specifically monastic, may actually be of greater general interest, since they point to the self-transcendence and inner integration which is at the heart of every truly human life. Here also, the concrete details should be adapted to one's personal vocation. The emphasis on a unified approach to the vows, which is contained in the monk's promise of conversion, can be especially helpful to other forms of Christian spirituality which sometimes tend to magnify this or that aspect of the Gospel out of proportion to the whole. - Preface

Saint Benedict: A Rule for Beginners
by Julian Stead, O.S.B. (New City Press, 1994).
Available on-line, click Abbey Store, or call 1-800-592-5203 (local 770-483-7228).

As Julian Stead, O.S.B., makes clear, Benedict was not a speculative thinker, a philosopher-theologian. He was a very practical spiritual father, who worked in a down to earth way to help his fellow Christians find their way back to their heavenly homeland. This beautiful summary of Benedict's teaching is by a man who has faithfully lived the Benedictine life for more than half a century. It is a valuable and clear presentation of the spirit of the one who provided the lamps and kept them burning throughout the Dark Ages, and in many cases since then.

…Father Julian has carefully selected several substantial elements of the Benedictine corpus of writings and has commented on these with wisdom and wit. Each chapter stands by itself and presents another aspect of the saint's thoughts. - Preface by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.