It's hard to believe I've been here in Milwaukee over months now, and that at May 9, my postulancy will be over. It feels that I got here only weeks ago, learning how to fit into a life of community, service, and prayer.
With the end of the term so close, I'm surprised I haven't thought more about the coming year of being a Novice. It is an entirely different experience from being a postulant; with limited internet access I don't even know if I'll be able to blog from Novitiate! There's a lot of questions I haven't asked yet about the next year.
In the second week of May, we are finished here in Milwaukee. There is a two week vacation where we can go home, go somewhere for vacation (probably not Vegas), or just relax. After that, we are due back here in Milwaukee. We depart from here as a group to Victoria, Kansas to rendezvous with the postulants from all the other English-speaking provinces in the U.S. and Australia. For three months we live in Victoria as we get acclimated and prepare to jointly become novices. This 3-month period is known as Pre-Novitiate.
After Pre-Novitiate, there is a ceremony of Investiture. In almost every order, getting your habit is not like picking up BDU's in the army. You are "dressed" into your habit by your other brothers. It is to signify not only the fraternity of the community, but symbolizes a transformation of taking on the responsibility of a greater role in the Order and in living the Gospel. It also marks the change from being a Postulant to being a Novice.
Along with all the other new novices, we (and all other orders) are bound to live as a novice for at least one year...per Canon Law. During that time we are not held to any vows, nor is our committment any greater to the Order than in the postulancy year. And under the direction of the Novice Master that year is spent learning if we have the spiritual call and desire to truly live a Capuchin life.
While postulancy has been more about me working and being busy, novitiate will be a LOT less work and a LOT more prayer and introspection. We are cut off from the rest of the world during this one year. We are not allowed to leave (except for 5 hours a week for Ministry), we are not allowed to receive guests (except from our respective provinces), and our phone and internet times are strictly regulated. The idea is to remove all distraction from our lives during this one year so we can better listen to what God is telling us to do.
There is schooling much like there is here. In fact, I've been told to keep my notes about certain classes since some of the same teachers go out to Novitiate and teach the guys from all the other provinces. There is the division of tasks, and of course there is the challenge of living in a newer and bigger community. But the overall focus for the year is to take plenty of time in personal prayer and meditation to really try and listen to what God is calling. It is a time of self-discipline, a time of reflection, but also a time to seriously contemplate the desicion to live this life in this way for the rest of one's days.
As the time gets closer to move, I'll talk more and more about pre novitiate and novitiate. This is an exciting time! I just got over the excitement of being a postulant, and now my status will soon change again!