Novice, a candidate for admission into a religious order who has not yet taken the vows, but is passing through a period of probation. Novices must have attained the age of puberty, else the vows taken by them afterward are invalid. No married person can be admitted except by the consent of both parties. Children whose labor is necessary for the support of their parents are inadmissible, as well as widows and widowers whose children are dependent on them. They usually wear the dress of the order, with perhaps some distinguishing mark, as in certain of the sisterhoods, in which their veils are white instead of black, and are subject to the rules and the authority of the superiors. They are placed under the direction of an officer of the convent called the master or mistress of novices, whose duty it is to examine their characters and fitness for the religious state, and to try their strength by exposing them to the most serious obstacles to perseverance which they are likely to encounter in the order. The period of probation, called the novitiate or noviceship, must be, according to the council of Trent, at least a year. The reformatory regulations published by Pins IX. make a novitiate of two years obligatory in almost all religious orders.
The council of Trent, session 25, canon 17, prescribed that female novices after the expiration of their novitiate should return to their home in the world, and be carefully examined by the bishop of the diocese, to ascertain whether they are under constraint or deception, that they are fully aware of the duties and privations of monastic life, and that they enter it with freedom.