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Novitiate, alt. noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a novice (or prospective) monastic or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to the religious life.
A novice is free to quit the novitiate at any time, and the Superior is free to dismiss them with or without cause. During the novitiate, the novice is often clothed in special clothing which, while distinct from secular dress 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 special classes designed to instruct the novices on the religious life they are preparing to embrace. Spiritual exercises and tests of humility are a common feature of the novitiate. Many 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 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 go through a postulancy before 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 dispensed.
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