In August of 2008, I started my postulancy with six other men. Five of those guys represented the mid-west province while sixth comes from Canada in an agreement for a collaborative postulancy program. Before leaving for New York, one of the five from our province was asked to leave the program. The feeling that was hardest to understand was why I felt good about it.
Community is still a new way of living for me, and there are things that make me adjust my thinking every day. There are times when I feel annoyed with everyone; sometimes it's because of the way they chew their food or talk on their phone. Living with 6 (now 5) other men requires a special kind of personality: one that is willing to change and adapt to a new environment.
The person who was asked to leave had a problem with change...at least that's how I viewed it. As we grow older, we become used to a certain way of life. This guy was 46, and pretty set in his ways. Unfortunately, a community requires a person to be flexible, understanding, and have the ability to "let things slide" every now and then. If you lack these abilities, living in community not only becomes hard, it becomes destructive to others around you.
While a person leaving a tight community can cause serious feelings, I felt very little when he left. In a way, I'd already seen him as separate from the other Postulants living at St. Conrad. In some way, I saw him simply as a guest who'd overstayed his welcome...a nuisance that had not realized he didn't belong. Along with this disconnection, much of my anger in community became directed at him. Any little thing he did wrong was a glaring example of how he did not belong with the rest of us.
At the end I was up until 4AM, writing an email to my formator about how far apart he had grown from the rest of the group. The next day, it was clear that he was going to be asked to leave.
I look back and see that I may sound like a heartless bastard. A man gave up his career and put his life on hold in order to follow a call he felt to the Capuchins. Shouldn't I be more respectful of his input? Shouldn't I feel a greater sense of loss?
In reality, the lack of feelings for this move scared me for some time. Perhaps my selfishness was shining through, and his leaving to leave didn't affect my life. Maybe I could have feelings for the people I worked with, but history shows that my empathy rarely ever makes it back to where I'm living. If I am brother to all creatures on the earth, how could I turn a blind eye to someones pain?
While I've only lived in community for 5 months, I've developed a keen understanding of how this life can bring a person up or weigh them down. A community can be fulfilling and detrimental; the difference lies in how it's members treat each other. Each of the other Postulants saw problems with him, articulating similar experiences and sharing thoughts. So while I feel bad that he was unable to complete the program, the community has gotten better because of it.
We were told it is a very different experience when someone is asked to leave as opposed to someone who chooses to do so. We've had the former. Tomorrow, we lose another postulant who chose to leave.
His decision has been less easy to digest.