But before going on break, I know there are many people that wanted me to put my Novitiate year in some form of perspective - to give understanding to year that is spent to allow people the time, space, and support to discern their call to religious life. While I can't speak for everyone else here in my Novitiate, nor for the guys who decided to leave during the year, I can do my best to explain what the Novitiate year has meant to me.
The beginning of my Postulancy year was defined by an experience I had before Postulancy even started. I've written and talked about my experience with the homeless person on the side of the freeway yet was unable to face - a self-conceived contradiction in light of my desire to become a Capuchin Franciscan and be present to the needs of the poor and marginalized. My Postulancy year was spent attempting to break down those walls and be able to embrace people that made me uncomfortable.
Having found a desire to work with the poor, homeless, and marginalized, I felt confident in my vocation as well as my resolve to be a Capuchin. I must admit...my first thoughts of Novitiate were simply: This is just a year before I get to the real work. I am and always will be someone who values myself by my work; the idea of Novitiate away from ministry and work seemed counter-productive to my Calling.
But eventually I would develop another experience that would define my Novitiate. I returned to that experience of being in a vehicle and wanting to be separated from the homeless person sitting at the corner, but this time was able to see myself.
Novitiate is a time to work, but internally. I spent lots of time looking at myself, what made me tick, and learning how to handle the good and bad aspects of my persona. Rather than focus all my energy outward, the time at Novitiate was spent looking inward...sometimes facing demons and memories in the silence of prayer.
Each vocation brings a person's gifts, but also their brokenness. My competitive nature, my desire to be right, my eagerness to disagree with people, and my other short-comings come from a place of turmoil, sometimes pain. The hardest part I've had to learn is that while my experiences are very different from the others I live with, theirs are just as valuable as my own.
Being a Novice has allowed me to open up and investigate parts of myself, while learning to be okay with who I am. I could write volumnes on the academic nature of the vows, Franciscan Spirituality, and how the history of my Order has progressed throughout the years. Ultimately, the year is not about absorbing facts, but learning to integrate this life with my own, and seeking the guidance of the Spirit as I discern where my life is to lead.
These next few weeks will be in preparation for me taking my vows. I have packing to do, appointments to make, placement tests for college, music to practice for a Mass, and family and friends to visit. My schedule is already full from now till the end of August. As Capuchin life swings into full-gear back in Chicago, it's the lessons I've learned here that will help me continue to live this life.
Thanks for all your prayers. I may be away from blogging for a few weeks, but I hope to return with more pictures, insights, and an account of this crazy journey that started so long ago.
Perhaps as a capstone to this blog, I'll be pretentious and quote my own words. In my defense, these are the words of a man who I used to be, the person I hope to reconcile with as I continue to understand myself as a Capuchin Friar:
In two years, I may be a novice, I may be a seminarian, or I may still just be me. In the end, that's not what's really important. The important part is opening my heart, and living my life to my beliefs. If I can at least do that, I will be happy the rest of my days.
Peace and blessings