A very special part of becoming a Franciscan is the novitiate year, which is a year of preparation prior to making initial vows. For Canadian friars, this also means a time away from the Canadian community that they got to know during their postulancy. Since we are not many friars here in Canada, we cooperate with other Franciscans. This year for the first time, our novices did not go to the USA but joined the European Franciscan novitiate in the Franciscan Friary of Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland.
Here, in their own words, are their descriptions of what novitiate is like for them. They were both in Canada for our Chapter of Union, when the Canadian provinces merged to form the new Holy Spirit Province. But now there are back where they are supposed to be, preparing for the years to come.
It is great to be back in Killarney. For the last two weeks I have been settling in and getting my bearings, returning to the routines of Novitiate. There have been some differences since I have returned though. One is the amount of daylight, upon coming back it was significantly less. So I did a check on the latitude of Killarney which is 52.05 degrees, then a check on the latitude of Edmonton which is 53.54. This means Killarney has the roughly same amount of daylight that we get in Edmonton. I never would have thought that considering how much warmer it is here. This gives me a sense of solidarity with everyone back in Canada in terms of daylight.
Another difference is that the house was significantly more calm and tranquil upon my return. Everyone appeared to be fully content and relaxed moving about the house. What is more is that they appeared to be radiating much more joy. I was very impressed, and this gave me a lot of motivation to try and get back in the swing of things as soon as possible.
Yet another change is that I had to start driving out here, which means operating a vehicle on the wrong side of the road. We novices have different tasks out here and one of them is doing grocery runs, which requires using a car. I thought it would be pretty hard to learn how drive on the left, but in fact it was a lot easier than I imagined. I don’t find it that scary actually, but the passengers riding with me seem to pray a lot when I am driving.
It is hard to believe that this Sunday we will be beginning Advent. It seems like the novitiate just started yesterday even though as of right now it is over one quarter completed. It has been a wonderful experience so far, and it seems like it keeps on getting better and brighter. I also find myself letting go more and more to the novitiate experience which brings further peace. This is pretty much my only goal this year.
As Christmas approaches I pray that I can continue to let go and embrace the novitiate a little more each day, so that the Word can enter into my being more fully. Then just as each day after Christmas gets a little brighter, I pray that the Word grows brighter in me as well.
Peace in Christ,
Novitiate was a difficult transition for someone with an ego was big as mine. My world was big. I felt like I could do anything, and I saw so many opportunities. I saw so many needs, things I could do, things I could help with. In novitiate my world suddenly became much smaller. My world became our friary and our schedule, the other novices, my duties, and my reflection time. But as my world got smaller, God became clearer, more present, more immediate. I became more often aware of Him in the “here and now”. Of course, I have been pursuing a closer relationship with God for a long time. None of this is new, but in novitiate it has become my full-time job, and the results have been profound. I am incredibly grateful! But it has also been difficult at times. When God is present, there is no room for many of my old thoughts and feelings. Some things had to go. But it is a very good thing. I am now quicker to recognize selfish, petty, ambitious, proud, or worldly trains of thought, and try my best to turn my mind to God, and to just be with Him, contented. But it is not all done consciously. I am beginning to spontaneously manifest thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are more loving and peaceful. I am being changed, for the better. Thank God.
Going into Advent I would like to give myself and my time more freely to God. Coming to novitiate has been a blessing. But this has come from God. He put me here, and all of this is His doing. I see this Advent as a chance to rediscover the childlike simplicity of those I remember from my childhood. I hope to sink again into feelings of awe and wonder toward God. I hope to be content in my small little world, and focus all my attention on He who alone can satisfy the deepest longings of my heart.
In our classes we have discussed what it means to have a spousal relationship with God. I am not there yet. But I think that God is affirming for me the possibility of such a relationship in the future. I sometimes feel like God wants to be with me, and I want to be with Him, and there is nothing stopping us from going off and just being together.
Try to shrink your world this Advent. Don’t worry about what is on the news. Try not to get caught up thinking of possibilities of any kind. Just focus on your world and the people in it. Advent is a time of happiness, warmth, and gratitude. Maybe during this Christmas season when the sun goes down early, and the nights take on the pristine stillness of winter you can take some time to just sit and be with God. This is the time when we celebrate His coming to us. Let’s also celebrate our ability to go to Him.
Glory to God!