Anyone who wishes to be a religious in the Order of the Imitation of Christ/Bethany Ashram will have to prepare oneself for the religious profession. This period of preparation is known as Dharmasishyapath (Novitiate) which is fixed for one year. The Novitiate House of the congregation is at Asokapuram, Aluva, Kerala. The details of the programme of Dharmasishyapath are very much clear in the Holy Rule Nos. from 32 to 56.

32.   The period of dharmasishyapath has an irreplaceable and a privileged role in the cycle of formation. According to our founder Mar Ivanios “as is the dharmasishyapath so will be the rest of his religious life” (Sanyasa Jeevitha Sahayi). The hidden life of Our Lord in Nazareth (Lk 2: 51) is the model of a Dharmasishya. In the undistracted and prayerful atmosphere of the Dharmasishya Ashram, the Dharmasishya is initiated into the realities of Bethanian life and slowly and steadily learns and practicses our charism before dedicating himself through his religious consecration.

33.   The aims of the Dharmasishyapath are:

  1. to practise the strict observance of religious discipline
  2. to prepare oneself for the life of perfect dedication by the practice of evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty as professed religious live them.
  3. to prepare oneself for the religious profession understanding properly the charism of our Congregation.

34.   Hence the Dharmasishya should try in all diligence:

  1. to detach himself from everything alien to the Kingdom of heaven, freeing oneself from all bad habits;
  2. to be faithful to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, following fully the will of God, giving up self and controlling the movements of soul;
  3. to always grow in union with God by a deep prayer life and purity of intention, zealously imbibing the love of God and fellowmen;
  4. to acquire holy religious habits and virtues, having made the spiritual vision of the eternal values clear and deep-rooted;
  5. to use temporal goods without being attached to them;
  6. to advance in the way of heroic love and sacrifice, imbibing the charism of our congregation and making it the goal of life;
  7. to inculcate love for manual labour.

35.   The Superior General with the consent of his Council should establish the Dharmasishya Ashram under the circumstances, apt to keep the atmosphere suitable for Dharmasishya formation. Religious discipline in accordance with the Holy Rule of our Congregation should be strictly observed in the Dharmasishyalayam.

36.   The following persons cannot validly be admitted into the Dharmasishyapath (c 517):

  1. those who are menaced with the punishment for a serious crime of which they have been or can be accused;
  2. those who have not completed seventeen years of age;
  3. those who have entered religious life under the influence of violence, grave fear or fraud or any other such reasons;
  4. married persons as long as marriage bond lasts;
  5. those who are bound by the bond of religious profession;
  6. non-Catholics.

37.   The following cannot be licitly admitted to Dharmasishyapath (c 517.2):

  1. members of another Church sui iuris without the permission of the Apostolic See;
  2. those who have received major orders, who come without the permission of their Bishops or those to whom the Bishop does not give consent, because of irreparable loss of souls that may happen on account of their departure;
  3. those who are burdened with debts which they are unable to repay;
  4. those who are involved in secular affairs from which our Congregation may have reason to fear law-suits or annoyances or those who are obliged to furnish accounts;
  5. children who are the sole support of their parents or grand parents for their maintenance and protection;
  6. candidates for priesthood who have canonical impediments for priestly ordination.

38.   In case a candidate requires any dispensation, he should obtain it before his admission to the Dharmasishyapath.

39.   In preparation of the entrance to the Dharmasishyapath, the candidates should make a retreat of five full days. As the candidates are received in to the Dharmasishyapath by the Superior General or his delegate, according to the liturgy of the Malankara Church, they are given the religious habit of our Congregation. The delegate should be a perpetually professed priest of our Congregation.

40.   The canonical Dharmasishyapath should be for one full year (c 523.1)

41.   The Dharmasishya shares in all the spiritual privileges, to which, the professed religious of our Congregation are entitled. In case of death they likewise receive the suffrages of the professed.

42.   When the number of Dharmasishyas is so small as to make the community life impossible, the Superior General with the consent of the Council can give permission to have the Dharmasishyapath conducted in another Ashram of our Congregation where community life is strictly observed.

43.   Under special circumstances, as an exception, the superior General may, with the consent of his Council, allow to have the training of a Dharmasishya conducted in any of our ashrams under the responsibility of a well experienced member of our Congregation in place of the Dharmasishya guru (c 522.1).

44.   During the period of Dharmasishyapath, the Dharmasishya is not permitted to receive Holy Orders: nor are studies for degrees or diplomas, even in Philosophy or Theology, allowed (c 525.1).

45.   Considering the aim and nature of Dharmasishyapath and the special relationship which should be maintained among the Dharmasishyas, they form a community of their own. The Dharmasishya –community should maintain a certain amount of separation from the other members of our Congregation. But the Dharmasishya Guru can, in a manner conformable to the special character and activities of our Congregation, allow the Dharmasishyas to mingle with the other members of the Congregation. He should see that the Dharmasishyas maintain a healthy relationship to the other members of the Dharmasishyapath Ashram. Both the Dharmasishya Guru and the Dharmasishyas are under the authority of the Ashram Superior according to the Holy Rule (c 524.3).

46.   The Dharmasishyapath is interrupted in the following circumstances and should therefore be recommenced and completed:-

  1. When a Dharmasishya who is dismissed by the Provincial Superior and seeks readmission to the Dharmasishyapath.
  2. When a Dharmasishya goes out of the Ashram without permission, with the intension is not returning and seeks readmission.
  3. When a Dharmasishya lives out of the Ashram and away from the community of the Dharmasishyas for more than three months, either continuously or otherwise.

47.   If the absence of the Dharmasishya is for a period less than three months but more than fifteen days those days should be made up. If less than fifteen days, the Superior General should decide the matter, taking into consideration the opinion of the Dharmasishya Guru (c 523.1).

48.   During the period of the Dharmasishyapath, if there is sufficient reason, the Provincial Superior with the consent of his Council, may dismiss a Dharmasishya. The Superior General is informed of it immediately. A Dharmasishya has full freedom to leave our Congregation if he so desires (c525.1, 461.1).

49.   If a Dharmasishya happens to be in danger of death, he may, for the peace of his soul, be permitted to make his temporary profession before the Provincial Superior or before the Ashram Superior if there is no time to approach the Provincial Superior. This profession, however, is of value only with regard to the spiritual advantage attached to this act. The Dharmasishya, if he survives, should complete the Dharmasishyapath and at the end of it make his profession according to the Holy Rule.

50.   The Dharmasishyas should be formed under a Guru, filled with the charism of our Congregation and capable of discernment of spirits and noted for open-heartedness, real piety and religious observance and simplicity of life(c 524.1).

51.   The Superior General appoints the Dharmasishya Guru with the consent of his Council. He must be a priest, who is professed at least ten years from first profession(c 524.1).

52.   The Dharmasishya Guru is under grave obligation to exercise all diligence, in assiduously forming the Dharmasishyas in the discipline of the religious life, the charism and the Holy Rule of our Congregation and the directions of the General Synaxis. He alone has the right and duty of providing for the formation of the Dharmasishyas, so that no one is allowed to interfere in these things under any pretext whatever, except the Superiors to whom this is permitted(c524.3).

53.   The Dharmasishya Guru should, once in five months send his report concerning every Dharmasishya and the Dharmasishyalaya in general, to the Provincial Superior. A copy of it is send to the Superior General.

54.   The Superior General may, if needed, appoint an assistant Dharmasishya Guru with the consent of his Council. He must have every quality required for the Dharmasishya Guru.

55.   The Dharmasishya Guru and the Assistant Dharmasishya Guru should try to act with mutual co-operation. Neither the Dharmasishya Guru nor the Assistant should be burdened with any work that may impede the due discharge of the duties of their office.

56.   The Superior General in consultation with his Council and the Dharmasishya Guru assigns suitable teachers to take classes for the Dharmasishyas.

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