On Friday, August 15th, the holy Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, my postulant brothers and I were received as novices into the Order of Friars Minor. While the past year of postulancy has been a journey of discernment and of observing a life of following Christ in the example of our holy father, St. Francis of Assisi, yesterday marked the official beginning of living this lifelong journey as friars. We were received into the Order by the Vicar-Provincial of our Province, Fr. Larry Hayes, OFM and we will be spending the next year in the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wisconsin with novices from all over the United States, Canada, and Ireland.
Naturally, this transition from postulancy to the novitiate has been fraught with anxiety: after acclimating to postulancy and the friary in Silver Spring, I now have to re-acclimate myself to new surroundings, new brothers, and a new way of life. The novitiate year will be markedly different from this past year. We will be even further removed from our families and friends, and contact with them (and by extension our old lives) will be much limited, since we will not have use of cell-phones, social media (including this blog), the internet, and other means of easy communication. Our connection with loved ones will be limited to letter writing and phone calls at specified hours.
This, for me, will be one of the greatest challenges of the novitiate year. In my family and in my loved ones, I see God’s presence in my life, and so this intentional retreat from them will be a great sacrifice. This is especially true for my mother and for Keith, who have served as great pillars of support, encouragement, and kindness for me and my vocation through out all of postulancy. Despite these restrictions and the anxieties that accompany this withdrawal from our old lives, I am hopeful, and assured, that this upcoming year will be truly grace-filled and blessed for my brothers and me, no matter what the outcome. This year will serve to test, strengthen, and clarify our vocation to religious life with the Franciscan Friars. What a blessing it will be to step aside from the hectic pace of everyday life and to embrace for a full year a life of prayer, contemplation, and reflection in order to better assess and discern the correctness and appropriateness of our vocations. This is a luxury very few will have, and I am grateful to the Lord, to the Order of Friars Minor, and to our Formation Directors, most especially Fr. Ron Pecci, OFM, for believing in us and for allowing us this blessed opportunity.
How auspicious then that we were received into this life on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, that most perfect of all Christians! The reading, taken from the Gospel of Luke, reminded us of Mary’s joyous and quiet trust in the Lord: how despite the precarious and dangerous situation this young woman has found herself in – pregnant and unwed – she glorifies the Lord and sings a song of hope, of faith, and of humble trust in God’s goodness and Divine Providence. What better words of encouragement for those of us seeking a life of minority!
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For He has looked with favor on me, His lowly servant.
From this day, all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And He has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children forever.
And so as I suspend this blog for the next year, I humbly ask for everyone’s prayers that my novice brothers and I may have hearts as open, as joyful, and as trusting in the Lord as our Blessed Mother. That we may have the grace to persevere in following St. Francis’s example of following Christ through minority, fraternity, and love, for it is only through God’s goodness and infinity mercy that we may be emboldened and strengthened in doing His Will.
I look forward to writing again of my novitiate year and the rest of my formation, starting next August 2015. In the meantime, if you are interested in following up the progress of the Franciscan novices in the United States, please check out the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/FranciscanNovitiateBurlington.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
(St. Francis of Assisi)