The Purpose

Here men are put to the test like “gold tried in a crucible.” Here no man can last unless he is prepared whole heartedly to humble himself before God (1,17).A man’s true worth is revealed when things are difficult. Events do not make a man weak -they only show what stuff he is made of (1,16).

–Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ 27.

The novitiate provides for a deeper introduction into and practice of the Religious life. During this time the novice gets to know the spirituality and work of our community.

— The Constitution of the Austrian Congregation


The Abbot-Primate, the Novice Master and the Dean with the new Novices and newly Professed

The novitiate at Stift Klosterneuburg normally begins with the reception of the candidate by the provost and the community just prior to the first solemn Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Augustine on August 28th in the Chapel of St. Leopold. The candidate is expected to attend a pre-clothing retreat which is held the preceding week. This gives the candidates an opportunity to meet their fellow candidates as well as prepare spiritually for their first steps in the community. At the clothing or investiture, the candidate receives the habit and his name in the community. Receiving a new name upon entrance in the community is customary for many or even most religious orders. The new name serves to remind the novice that he has embarked upon a new step in his relationship with God. Moreover, it also points to the fact that he is receiving a new start in life. What has gone before his entrance in the community is left behind. What matters henceforth is the present and the future, not the past. One may petition the provost to be allowed to continue to use his baptismal name.

Dom Tassilo following the Chapter's vote to admit him to Simple Vows.

The Means

Learning or the simple knowledge of facts cabe good and instituted by God,
and then there is no fault to be found with it,
but a good conscience and a holy life must always be preferred. (Imitation of Christ 1,3)

Thomas a Kempis

The habit laid out for the new novices


As Thomas a Kempis, who was a Novice Master for the Windesheim Canons, argues above, formation in the novitiate consists in activities and studies, with a preference, always for a growth in charity and a holiness of life.Since the purpose of the novitiate is to acquaint the novice with the life and work of the Canon Regular, the means used are diverse and numerous. Most important is the daily rhythm of the life in community, including prayer and meals. These two are the Augustinian pillars upon which the common life founded.

Novitiate Activities

Divine Office

The Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours is celebrated three times daily in common, with a total of five offices prayed (Click here for the Horarium). Each day the canons offer together this Sacrificium Laudis according to the Roman Rite. It is recited in German, except for Sunday Vespers, when it is offered in Latin.

The novices and other juniors (those who are in simple vows) are responsible for organizing the liturgy and supporting the community’s celebration of it. The position of klein Hebdomadar or “Little Hebdomadarian,” as well as the lectors for the Office of Readings, are undertaken by either the novices or juniors for a week at a time.

Novices and Juniors moreover serve at Solemn Vespers (Sundays and Holy Days) as either lector and thurifer.

Stir your affections and collect your thoughts, that you may recite the Divine Office with greater care and devotion than any other prayers, in the sure knowledge that since it is the prayer of the Holy Church, there is no vocal prayer so profitable to your regular use as the Divine Office. Therefore put away all heaviness, and by God’s grace you will transform a duty into a delight, and an obligation into greater freedom… There is no possibility of a mistake in this form of prayer for anyone who will patiently and humbly persevere in it.Walter Hilton Can.Reg.Liturgical prayer is the prayer of the Church. It is the voice of the Bride speaking to the Bridegroom and is is of such a mysterious nature that it becomes on earth the beginning of the sole occupation of the elect in Heaven.
Adrian Grea C.R.I.C.
Daily MassDaily a Chapter Mass is celebrated in the Stift. This is the Mass of the Canons, offered in the name of the Chapter. This Mass normally follows Matins and Lauds at 6:30 a.m. The novices and juniors take turns serving and cantoring, if the Mass has hymns. On Sundays and special occasions the Mass is held later and the novices and juniors assist through the various ministries open to them. Every day in the Mass you should of your own free will offer yourself to God as a pure and holy offering with all your powers and affections, from the very depths of your heart.
— Thomas a Kempis
81.The liturgy, the mystery of the Eucharist in particular, is the center of our religious life. The Eucharist is the effective and visible sign of our communion with God, with each other and with the Christian community.The Constitution of the Austrian Congregation
Master of CeremoniesSince the provosts of Stift Klosterneuburg enjoy the privileges of a Lateran Abbot, solemn liturgies at the Stift are often pontifical character. This means that the provost, though not a bishop, is permitted to use pontificals (i.e., miter and crozier) during the liturgy, and impart an apostolic blessing.Y Therefore, novices are taught how to serve as a Master of Ceremonies. Through participation in these solemn liturgies as well as through instruction from the official Master of Ceremonies of the community, Fr. Pius, the novice is taught how to guide the liturgy reverently and smoothly.While familiarity with the rites of Church and knowledge of the rubrics is indispensable, it is not everything. One must as well have a sense of the liturgy, its purpose and the roles to be played within it. Therefore, it is a matter of managing all the participants in the liturgy in such as way as to make it possible for participants to celebrate the divine Mysteries attentively and prayerfully.
Common Meals
As St. Augustine taught in his rule, the common table of the community is the other center of the life of the canons. It makes evident the reality of the striving for one heart and one mind as brothers on the way to God.Novices normally join the rest of the community for lunch following Sext at 12:30 and for dinner following Vespers and Compline at 7:00.The meals begins with a blessing. Thereupon the soup course is served in silence during which a novice or junior reads something that is to nourish the intellect together with the body.Once the first course is finished, then the Canons are free to converse, feeding their hearts through conversation and humor. The novices and juniors are responsible for clearing and setting plates as well as generally assisting as it becomes necessary.Following the closing blessing at evening meal, the community spends additional time together in recreation. This is less formal than the meal and gives the novice a chance to meet other members of the community with whom he might not otherwise have contact. Since seating is assigned at the table by seniority, these opportunities can be invaluable to integrating into the community.
Personal PrayerWhile the canons pray, worship and eat together, no genuine relationship with God can exist without a personal relationship that applies the Gospel to the specific circumstances of the life and vocation of the novice.The novice will find he is given abundant time to pursue his relationship with God. Assigned a stall in the Sacellum (choir chapel), he can leave his Bible, Missal, spiritual reading, rosary and so forth in the chapel to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.Novices are encouraged to make good use of this special time in the novitiate to grow in their self-knowledge and knowledge of God. In this respect, frequent and faithful confession is expected of the novice. Possible confessors are numerous.In addition to personal prayer, days of reflection as well as a retreat are part of the canons’ annual calendar, events in which the novices always participate. True prayer is the ardent desire of the soul, the burning love of a soul for God, and no care or occupation can interrupt it.
Serafino da Ferma (C.R.L.)

Personal prayer in the house chapel

HospitalityOne of the marks of the Canons is the long tradition of hospitality. Guests are treated with honor. The Stift welcomes many visitors, some of whom stay with the community to participate in the worship and common life of the Canons.To ensure that guests receive worthy hospitality, there are many details to which the community members must attend. For this reason, the novices often partake in this good work. Novices assist in a variety of ways, the most important of which is the time and effort offered to guests to ensure their stay is comfortable.

Dom Daniel leading a tour through the Stift.

Personal StudyThe novitiate also affords the novice the precious time to pursue personal study of topics that interest him and that might be helpful to the community. There is a junoriate library at his disposal as well as the Stift’s main library. Also the novice may use one of the computers available in the juniorate library to find helpful sources on the internet.
Leisure and SportsNovices are encouraged to keep up any talents, musical, artistic, etc., they bring with them to the Stift. Time and support for these are available.There is an outdoor pool for use in the summer as well as many possibilities for hiking and walking. Also Vienna and the surrounding areas are extremely good for biking. There are numerous bike trails along the Danube and in the city itself. The Stift sits just minutes away from these trails.
ExcursionsThe novices participate in various day trips during the year, depending on the calendar of the Stift. Moreover the novices may, with the permission of the Novice Master and on a limited basis, visit Vienna or other nearby places as well as the numerous abbeys and religious houses of Austria.Finally, the novices annually take a week long holiday together in the winter time.

Vorau Bildungstage 2005

Novitiate Courses

In addition to living in the community and experiencing the rhythm of the canonical life, novices attend in-house courses taught by members of the community or by outside professionals.

Liturgical Courses
Gregorian Chant: The novices receive lessons in Gregorian Chant. These consist in a weekly private lesson and a juniorate practice. The purpose of this course is to introduce the novices to chants found in the Vesperale and Graduale Triplex, which are used for Vespers and Mass on Monday mornings respectively.Liturgy: The course gives the novices an overview of the Divine Office and provides practical guidance on how it is celebrated by the canons of Klosterneuburg.
Community Courses
Rule of St. Augustine: The Novice Master teaches this foundational course weekly to offer the novices a vision of the vocation of the canon as expressed by St. Augustine, the Father of the Order and Law-giver. In addition to reading the Rule, the Novice Master gives an extensive commentary that places the Rule in the context of the Church today as well as the community at Klosterneuburg.Canon Law of the Novitiate: This brief course informs the novices of the way in which Canon Law conceives of the novitiate and the way in which this is realized at Stift Klosterneuburg. He is told his rights and obligations as a novice as envisioned and set down in the Church’s law.Constitution of the Austrian Congregation:This extensive course reviews the entire constitution of the Austrian Congregation with commentary and applications proper to the life of the canons of Stift Klosterneuburg.Art and history of Klosterneuburg: Through weekly meetings and frequent excursions throughout the Stift, the novices are introduced to the rich cultural patrimony of this august religious community. This provides the novices with a living artistic and cultural link with their spiritual forebears.

A visit to Stift Herzogenburg

Intellectual Courses
History of the Canons Regular: This course takes the novices on a journey through the growth, development and varied experiences of the Canons Regular throughout their long history. The purpose of this course is to introduce the novice to the entire canonical family of congregations and houses that have spanned the centuries.Life of St. Augustine: This course offers the novice a chance to become acquainted with one of the great personalities of Christian history. In addition to reading selections from the Confessions, the novice also reads St. Augustine’s homilies on the common life.
Language Courses
German: Learning German is of paramount importance. A program best suited for the particular needs of the novice is therefore arranged.
German language studies should be started as soon as possible. It is possible to arrange to arrive early at the Stift and begin language studies prior to the clothing.Public Speakng in German: In order to communicate effectively in German, both in the liturgy and in personal conversation, this course is given for all novices, whether they are native speakers or not.Latin: The purpose of this course is to fulfill university requirements for the study of theology.Greek: The purpose of this course is to fulfill university requirements for the study of theology.

The Goal

The purpose of the novitiate and means through which this purpose is reached are ordered to the goal of the novitiate: the discernment of God’s will and the novice’s vocation.

At the end of the novitiate, the novice decides whether or not he wishes to make the profession of simple vows, which last three years and prepare for solemn profession. For its part, the community votes at this time on whether or not to admit the man to simple profession.