Why Novitiate Is Like Grade School

I’ve been here in Allison Park for a week now…still getting into the routine of being a Novice. I tried to think of different ways that I could explain the experience to all the readers. Oddly enough, the best metaphor I can think of is how much this is like being back in elementary school!

I don’t want to imply that we are treated as children, nor do I want to give the impression that this program is either juvenile or unchallenging. However there are aspects to being a Novice that remind me of the days spent in grade school…just without the shyness, being picked on, or that strange awkwardness when talking to girls (OK…maybe I’m still a little awkward!)

1. The Uniform – Since being invested last Sunday, we often wear our habits to prayer, classes, ministry, and to meals. Like kids wearing new clothes for school, we’ve spent the last week playing with the habits, twirling the cords around, making and remaking the knots, accessorizing different side rosaries, and taking pictures en habitus in unconventional poses. We’ve already been admonished by the Novice Master for “inappropriately wearing the habit,” i.e. hiking up the habit to increase air-flow to the legs when it gets hot. (…As if I’m supposed to know that’s not appropriate. It’s not like I’ve spent a lot of time in a dress!)

2. Hot Lunch – Since most of our lives are surrounded by prayer and contemplation this year, we have a cook that comes in to prepare our meals. We each take turns assisting the cook and summarily doing the dishes, however our meals are prepared for us…a change from my experience as a Postulant. On the weekends we are forced to cook for ourselves. I plan on making macaroni & cheese with hotdogs this Saturday for everyone…I’m not ready for another turkey dinner.

3. Sit Down & Be Quiet! – Along with praying the hours of the Divine Office, we as Capuchins strive to spend an hour a day in contemplative prayer. In the morning and evening we spend time in the chapel to meditate as a community. If you are fidgety or have a short attention span…contemplation can be a struggle. If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, 35 minutes of meditation at 6:30 AM can be an exercise in fighting sleep. I often spend that time in contemplation, praying the rosary, or doing spiritual/liturgical reading. (I am reading A Violence of Love by Oscar Ramero and the USCCB document on Music in Liturgy…not exactly grade-school material.)

4. Nap Time – At different times during the day, we are given personal time. One of the things that’s encouraged here is the use of rest during the day. We spend about 3 hours in communal prayer a day, not counting personal/private prayer. A lot of time that is spent out of prayer and classes is used in exercise. Therefore it has become essential, especially for me, to lie down at some point during the day and take a nap. Sometimes I only need 15 minutes of rest, sometimes I’ll take 3 hours of sleep if I have the time available. I’ve found naps to be greatly beneficial to me, so much so that I feel they should be continued past Kindergarten.

5. Schedules – Our lives here are greatly structured. If you want to know where I’ll be next month on the 5th at 7:00 AM, I could tell you with a great deal of certainty. The structure allows us to focus on ourselves…the biggest part of this novitiate year. I thought it might be tough for me, being confined to a rigid schedule of prayer, work, classes, meals, and even scheduled fun we call: “fraternal recreation.” However I’ve found the experience quite liberating, not having to schedule my own projects or tasks.

This is my first-week experience of being here at novitiate. I recognize that I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase, and that by this time in January I could be writing a blog entitled: Why Novitiate is Like a Freakish Nightmare from Which I Cannot Awake!

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1 Response to Why Novitiate Is Like Grade School

August 7, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Brother Vito, great reflection!

Maybe someday you can publish your reflections in a book - letting the world know that religious are humans! Feeling the same feelings as all of us.

I am in P.Deacon formation - although I am married, I share many of the same feelings !

God bless you - we need you!