Holy Cross Novitiate
Form the foundations for missionary discipleship and apostolic religious life in Holy Cross.
“The purpose of the novitiate, by which life in an institute begins, is to give the novices a greater understanding of their divine vocation, and of their vocation to that institute. During the novitiate the novices are to experience the manner of life of the institute and form their minds and hearts in its spirit. At the same time their resolution and suitability are to be tested.” – Canon 646
Entering the Holy Cross Novitiate in Cascade, Colorado, marks official admission into the Congregation of Holy Cross, even while several years of formation remain before profession of perpetual vows. The novitiate is a period of deepening relationship to God, of strengthening the bond of unity with brothers in community, of initiation in the vowed life, and of maturation and formation for apostolic ministry and mission.
In the summer following their postulant year, men in formation with Holy Cross journey to the mountains of Cascade, Colorado, just outside Colorado Springs, for a year of prayer, silence, reflection, and discernment at the Holy Cross Novitiate. This is a decisive period of formation during which the men embrace the discipline of the vows, foster a greater openness to the movement of the Spirit in their lives, and experience the blessedness and challenge of brothers living together in unity. Men are officially members of Holy Cross from the time they enter the Novitiate, and the year’s rigorous program is intended to assist them in discerning their profession of First Vows in the spring.
Novices are urged to embrace their discernment process more fully. They explore different forms of prayer and learn to assume individual responsibility in their relationship with the Lord. They are encouraged to ask deeper, more personal questions and to grow in the habit of listening to God in silence. They also cultivate the adaptability necessary for life in Holy Cross: a life in which they will be asked to move through different ministries, work with diverse groups of people, and navigate the challenges of culture while seeking to remain faithful to the Gospel. Men emerge from the novitiate with a heightened self-knowledge, a more profound understanding of their beloved-ness in the eyes of God, and better equipped to live the vowed life, the fraternal life, and the apostolic life as men of Holy Cross.
Novices’ education emphasizes personal reflection and ministry outreach. Discussion-based conferences are conducted 3-4 days per week, with topics including methods and modes of prayer, the vows, the Holy Cross Constitutions, the Psalms, and integration of the active and contemplative life. Novices spend one day per week in ministry in the community. On Sunday mornings, they assist at Sacred Heart Parish (Colorado Springs) and its associated mission chapels (Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Holy Rosary), serving at Masses and providing catechetical formation for children and adults alike.
Life at the novitiate is fundamentally one of prayer. Starting at 6:30 am with the Office of Readings, novices gather six times per day for common prayer, accompanied by one hour of common meditation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, during which men are encouraged to practice their personal devotions silently together. During the first half of the year, novices are trained in different forms of prayer: Lectio Divina, contemplative prayer, devotional prayer, etc. As they explore new ways of deepening their relationship with the Lord, long periods of silence — especially “Grand Silence” — assist the men in developing their interior lives and listening more attentively to God’s call.
“How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” (Psalm 133:1) In living together and in spending time together at prayer, at table, and in the performance of manual labor on the property, novices learn the value of common life and brotherhood. The novitiate, like all stages in formation in Holy Cross, is a school of learning to love: “If we do not love the brothers whom we see, then we cannot love the God whom we have not seen” (Constitution 4:34). The brotherhood expressed in a lifetime of mutual support and challenge is an inestimable aid to the pursuit of holiness, to faithful living of the vowed life, and to stoking the fire of apostolic zeal. While this communal bond begins with the postulancy, it is at the novitiate where men in formation begin to learn what it really means to call each other a brother in Holy Cross.
“The novitiate is the beginning of life in the congregation. Novices are helped to form themselves in meditation and prayer, in the mutual services of a common life, in apostolic service, and in knowledge of the history and spirituality, character and mission of Holy Cross. In short they are challenged and helped to open their hearts to the gospel, to live under the same roof with one another, and to create a brotherhood of disciples. The novitiate is their apprenticeship in celibacy, poverty, and obedience.”
Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, 6:62
The schedule at the Holy Cross Novitiate is focused on developing a prayerful rhythm of life aimed at supporting the novices in their Christian discipleship, while also helping them discern God’s will for their lives with greater clarity and trust. It is a year apart from the bustle of ministerial life, but one that is intended to prepare them for the living out of an apostolic vocation.
A typical day at the novitiate begins at 6:30 am with the Office of Readings, followed by common meditation, morning prayer, and breakfast in silence. Novices then attend a conference consisting of a lecture and discussion, followed by a period of silent recollection and Mass. During the midday meal, one of the men is tasked with reading from a spiritual work, while his fellow novices eat in silence. Following lunch is midday prayer, then two hours of manual labor — a time devoted to stewardship of the novitiate property. The men then engage in two hours of avocation time, during which they are encouraged to pursue an interest of their choosing: learning a language, playing music, woodworking, etc. Another period of common meditation begins at 5:00 pm, followed by evening prayer at 5:45 pm, dinner, clean-up, an hour of recreation, and night prayer at 8:00 pm. The end of night prayer marks the beginning of Grand Silence.
While the primary purpose of the novitiate is to foster a deepened relationship with God and with one’s brothers in community, this stage of formation is also clearly oriented toward discernment of the profession of vows. Novices study the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross to learn the Rule they are invited to follow and live by, and they explore in detail the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Novices admitted to profession of vows do so in a Mass presided over by the Provincial Superior or his delegate. Each man, kneeling before the altar and with hands placed on the Book of Gospels, makes his profession of vows according to the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross for a period of one year. This first vows profession marks the beginning of at least three to four years of temporary vows, renewed on an annual basis. The newly-professed then make their way back to Moreau Seminary where they will pursue theology studies and advance to final profession in this band of brothers committed to making God known, loved, and served.