Dear Aspiring Novice,
October is approaching … With a touch of sympathy I look at you in the grip of a thousand doubts: to leave or not to leave? Who makes me do it? Will I be up to the challenge? Isn’t it too big a risk? How to tell relatives and friends?
To tell the truth the reasons for not leaving are many… A comfortable life, the freedom to do what you want, free weekends, economic autonomy are all dimensions that in the novitiate you can forget about.
It isn’t the case now to talk about St. Ignatius’ rules of discernment; God willing, you’ll be able to experience this later on, stumbling shakily in the art of making a right choice. Moreover, if at this moment you allow yourself to be guided with confidence and honesty by your vocational counselor, you are already at a good point.
I would just advise you not to let yourself be held back by obstacles and fears which, although legitimate, can obscure the beauty of a journey of authenticity and fullness. What’s more beautiful than embarking on a journey of joy to grow more freely every day in the art of loving? This is the novitiate according to me; not just a house full of lunatics, but a human comedy in which you can learn to look at reality with new eyes and to live the relationship with the Lord as the center of an authentic life; it also helps you to free yourself from the suffocating slavery to your ego. And the test of this human and spiritual maturation is community life, a fascinating element, complex and difficult. Of course, there can be tensions between one novice and another, but no one has died in the novitiate. The novices after all are normal guys, like you, not holy men who receive regular apparitions by one or more members of the Holy Family.
Starting to see diversity not as a threat but as an opportunity, and the other as a treasure to welcome and love even at the cost of small personal sacrifices, is a game worth playing, a game which helps to build one’s inner freedom. And all this through daily prayer and the personal encounter with God.
And knowing yourself and your limits in the daily routine of housework is another great journey. I remember with some embarassment when hoeing in the garden, the happy illusion of having found oil was soon replaced by the bitter realisation of having just struck a water pipe. Another time I noticed a novice questioning himself about why the lawn mower had suddenly stopped working. It took some time to realize that he had just cut off an electric cable resulting in a blackout throughout the house … Even for those coming from other countries there is a constant challenge between linguistic and cultural differences. A Slovenian novice answered a gracious guest who had asked him “are you a vegetarian?” with an improper “no I’m Slovenian“.
At the same time it’s fascinating to discover talents whose existence you hadn’t even suspected. And then the beauty of growing in authentic relationships, the fruit of true encounter and welcome. Besides this, the moments of leisure and joy are numerous: community excursions, summer experiences, unexpected meetings, laughter, volleyball and table tennis matches, interesting literature and articles to read …
So if you feel confirmed in your choice but think that the novitiate is too great a hurdle for you do not fear, just take a leap and play the game without reserve … And if you still have to tell your girlfriend, well maybe it’s the time to start talking to her about it =) …
Goodbye and good luck!
God willing, in September I should pronounce my first vows, the final stage of the novitiate! Meanwhile, I entrust myself to your prayers, together with the other 5 novices of the second year on their way to this destination!