The days when most candidates reported for monastic life at the front gates around their 18th birthday are gone. Those interested often have quite some life experience already, such as education, jobs, and sometimes relationships. What’s more, the world has changed dramatically. Faith is no longer taken for granted and many people are used to making new choices constantly, from holiday destinations to the partners in their lives. As such, the commitment to monastic life has changed too.

Every story of a calling is unique. Some people have felt a pull for monastic life of priesthood from a young age. For others, it takes a turn or even a crisis in their existing lives to discover this new perspective. It is also not obvious that someone who likes to spend time in monasteries, for example for an annual stay of a few days, would consider taking the step to full-time monastic life. A calling for monastic life starts with a growing desire and the perception that this way of life appeals to you. It often feels like coming home to an unexpected destination.


One important theme when it comes to calling is discernment. A calling is about what the Holy Ghost is trying to tell us, tell you. What is your unique path of life, that will bring you happiness and let you experience God’s presence? So this could also mean discovering that your calling is not within the monastery after all. As such, this period of discernment does not mean you’ve ‘failed’ if the conclusion is that your path leads you somewhere else. On the contrary. We are actually convinced that (some) time spent in the monastery can be very valuable for anyone, and of lasting importance to the rest of your life.


In the past, reflection on a calling often started with a special encounter or an exemplary figure, such as the parish priest or a family member in a monastery. Nowadays, it could also be a film, an interview or a book that triggers reflection. In most cases, this search immediately continues on Google. And that is one of the reasons for this website.


Those who wish to have a conversation about joining the Carmel can visit one of our monasteries. If you are Belgian, we often suggest you visit us for an initial conversation or come to stay for a few days. If this is not possible right away, for instance because you live in a faraway foreign country, we can arrange for some introductory conversations through an online channel, such as Facetime or Teams.


Becoming a monk or nun is not an overnight process. There is plenty of room to grow, step by step, towards the final choice for monastic life and the discernment necessary to make this decision. Even on the part of the Carmel Order, there is always the possibility of putting a stop to the process or even sending a candidate away, although this is almost always done by mutual agreement.

1. ‘Come and see’

Those who are interested can be invited for the ‘Come and see’ programme. This means you will spend three months in a guest room at our monastery in Bruges. It offers an opportunity to experience genuine monastic life. Part of your day will also involve your own programme of introductions on monastic life, the Carmel, and the ecclesiastical landscape of Flanders. After these three months, you will return home for a period of reflection. During this time, you can also talk to experts who can help you with your discernment.

2. Pre-postulate

If this first phase leads to a permanent longing to become a Carmelite, we will ask you to express yourself via a letter. We will then discuss your motivation with several experienced Carmelites and offer you our feedback. After this, you will receive an invitation to the pre-postulate. For six months, you will truly live in the monastery, no longer as a guest but as part of our community. For foreign candidates, this will mainly involve intensive work to learn the Dutch language.

3. Postulate

After the pre-postulate, there is a new period of six months. During this time, there is an emphasis on formation relating to all kinds of aspects of monastic life, from Carmel spirituality to aspects of the order of the day.

4. Novitiate

The novitiate follows the postulate - it means you now actually receive the monastic robe/habit. You are now officially an ‘apprentice Carmelite’. Every day, you will receive education and formation on monastic life in the Carmel. This could also involve foreign programme elements. All this helps you to be more and more immersed in the Carmel. The novitiate lasts one year.

5. Study

Candidates who wish to become friars, instead of opting for priesthood, will be educated in theological and other subjects at an educational establishment in Flanders. What’s more, they will also undergo (additional) professional training that suits their own background and talents.

6. Second novitiate

Shortly before taking your perpetual vows, you will spend a year in a Carmel monastery in Spain, allowing you a better understanding of the international community of the Carmelites - and the primal soil of our order.

7. Vows

During your study period, you will take so-called temporary vows (at least) three times (celibacy, austerity, and obedience). Then comes the time for the solemn or perpetual vows. By taking these vows, you are fully committed to the Order of the Carmelites. In a way, you could compare this to marriage.

Solemn or perpetual vows may be followed by deacon or priest ordination.

Foreign candidates

For candidates who live outside of the European Union there is quite some administrative work involved in a temporary or permanent move to Belgium. The Carmelites provide support in this matter. It is also possible to submit a request for partial or full compensation of travel costs.


Although monks or nuns only share all rights and obligations reserved for members of the Order of the Carmelites after they take their solemn or perpetual vows, as soon as you enter the monastery (so when you start your pre-novitiate) the following conditions apply:

  • You have received or are ready to receive Baptism and Confirmation from the Catholic Church;
  • You can provide references and/or a letter of recommendation from a priest, bishop or other cleric in the Catholic Church.
  • You are not bound by marriage or any other form of relationship;
  • You bear no responsibility as a parent of minors;
  • You have (temporarily) quit your job, if you have one. You must do this as soon as you enter the novitiate;
  • You have no debts or other financial obligations.

A psychological test may be part of the procedure for acceptance to the pre-novitiate.


Exploration of Carmel monastic life is ‘free’. From the moment you start the pre-novitiate, we will take care of your living expenses. Participation in the ‘Come and see’ introductory programme is free of charge too. When you make your final commitment to Carmel, all your income, if any, goes to the community, including inheritance or savings, for example. You do receive a form of allowance, and you can always appeal to the community for special expenses, such as a trip to your country of origin. This will always be done by mutual agreement.