Reflections - Friars in Novitiate
Their Vocation Journey Continues...
To see photos of the investiture ceremony in which our new novices received the habit, please click here. https://www.flickr.com/photos/smpcapuchins/sets/72157656357469276/
Joseph Anderson, O.F.M., Cap.
As I reflect on my novitiate year, I am grateful for the gift of being able to have a full year to go into deep prayer to reflect on my past and on the present, and to discern even more intentionally God's invitation to me.
Each time we had a recollection day or retreat, at one point or another, I asked myself "How many people have authorities in their lives who provide this much time and space for prayer and reflection so we can grow in our relationship with God and to discern our path in life?" When I struggle with the extra times of silence and structure, the gift in it is a reminder to me that it is a unique opportunity and gift.
I thank God for this opportunity, the brothers in the fraternity and the many benefactors who makes this formation and way of life possible.
Victor Russak, O.F.M., Cap.
As I come to the last stage of my novitiate journey, I am starting to realize just how tremendous a journey it has been. I have experienced a lot in these past 13 months, and it’s amazing to think that it is all almost over. From IPP (Interprovincial Postulancy) in St. Louis, to our first day here at the novitiate in Santa Ynez, to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and on to Boston next month, I have gained countless precious memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
That said, it certainly hasn’t been an easy year. I arrived to the novitiate with massive enthusiasm and was overjoyed and ecstatic to be finally arriving to the place where I would be invested with the Capuchin habit, grow in my Capuchin identity, and encounter God in deeper ways than I could ever imagine. At the start of the year I was a total dreamer, wrapped up in my own glorious vision of the novitiate year to come. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I never thought that it would be as challenging for me as it was.
Many of the challenges I faced during the year had to do with identity. Being in a new environment, in a massively diverse group of brother novices, and disconnected from the friars back home, it was difficult for me to enter into this new community. I struggled with my Capuchin identity, challenged by my formators to really examine and understand what it means to be a Capuchin friar in the year 2016, and what that means for my own vocation. It was also during this time that the Holy Spirit decided it was time to challenge my own sense of self. As I drew closer to God, I realized that in order to understand Him, I first needed to understand myself. That’s what I really think this year has been about: figuring out who I am in my relationship to others and in my relationship to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The greatest blessing this year came in the form of my brothers. There is no way to describe in human words the kind of bonds that formed within our community this past year. Amidst all the difficulties that presented themselves throughout the year, we stuck together and supported each other. And although several of the men I have lived with this year have discerned that God is not calling them to Capuchin life, and have left our community, the bonds that we formed in brotherhood and the memories we shared together will not pass away. It is the same for all my brothers that have remained, and who will be taking vows come July. These too, no matter where they go in their various provinces around the world, will always be my brothers. Even with the difficulties that come naturally in community life, I am grateful for getting the chance to live with these admirable men. They were there for me in my struggles, supporting me each time I felt like falling, and in that I know Christ was at work within us the whole way through.
As I reflect on the many challenges I face this year, and being at the end of the road with a massive yearning to just be back home already, it was at first a little difficult to conclude that this year has been good. But I had to look deeper than that. Surely I can’t deny that I experienced a lot of trials along the way, but I also have to recognize that it was because of those trials that this year has been so good. It is by staying firm in the face of trials that we learn and grow, and without them, the year would have been meaningless. When I first began this year I imagined it to be a year of wonderful contemplation in the lovely, golden hills of Santa Ynez. Instead, God sent me straight into the fray of answering all those difficult questions of discernment, Capuchin life, and who I really am. I look back now and see how much a blessing it has truly been.
Now it is only a matter of weeks before I profess my first vows with the Capuchin order. I am tremendously excited, and just as nervous. I am definitely looking forward to being back in my province after a year away. I know that our loving and merciful God will be with me to strengthen and guide me along the road ahead, and that my fellow Capuchin brothers will be there to do the same.