Novitiate, alt. noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a novice (or prospective) monastic or member of a religious institute undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether he is called to the religious life.
A novice is free to quit the novitiate at any time, and the Superior is free to dismiss him or her with or without cause. During the novitiate, the novice often wears clothing that is distinct from secular dress but is not the full habit worn by professed members of the community. The novice's day normally encompasses participation in the full canonical hours, manual labor, and classes designed to instruct novices in the religious life he is preparing to embrace. Spiritual exercises and tests of humility are common features of a novitiate. Many Roman Catholic communities encourage frequent confession and reception of Holy Communion by their novices.
A Superior will often appoint an experienced member of the community to oversee the training of novices. This may be a single novice master or mistress who is responsible for the training of all novices; or an individual elder may be appointed for each novice.
Different religious communities will have varying requirements for the duration of the novitiate. Often one must complete a postulancy before officially entering the novitiate. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the novitiate is officially set at three years before one may be tonsured a monk or nun, though this requirement may be waived.
The term "novitiate" also refers to the building or complex within a monastery or convent that is devoted exclusively to the needs of novices (sleeping, training, etc.).
See also