Sunday, September 17, 2006

Novitiate & New Beginnings

With a number of my blogging and non-blogging friends having recently been received into their communities' novitiates, I thought it would be nice to share a reflection on novitiate I recently found online. It was delivered by Mary Persico, IHM, on the occasion of the Marywood IHMs ceremony celebrating reception of their two novices. More information on the ceremony is available here . Here's an excerpt:

Reflection by Sr. Mary Persico, IHM

It didn’t help to discover that the first sentence of the first reading is “You duped me, O God, and I allowed myself to be duped”! It doesn’t help that all the Sisters you know have told you they did not have the time of their lives in the novitiate. And it won’t help that what you are doing today, Carrie and Rachel, simply doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to your peers who are climbing the corporate ladder in search of wealth and a comfortable existence, or to young people of a postmodern world who think it’s possible, and more practical, to serve others while practicing a personal spirituality that includes creature comforts. In fact, it doesn’t even make sense to some family members who want what’s best for you. Then why, the world asks, does what you are doing today make sense to you?The answer is surprisingly simple. You have searched deep within yourselves and there you discovered God’s desires for the world resonating with your spirit. That very resonance, that oneness with God, gives meaning to what comes later in today's readings: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny herself, take up her cross, and follow me”. Now I’m not suggesting that entering the novitiate is synonymous with “taking up one’s cross”. You see, to follow Jesus of the Gospels, discipleship, requires unceasing discovery. There are some who would have you believe that what you need to discover are answers to old questions. But then you would have just that…answers to old questions.

Your lifelong task, and the novitiate affords you an opportunity to attack this task with vigor, is to learn the new questions posed to us by the lives and lot of people thirsting for God, hungering for food, dying because others insist on living with ninety percent of the world resources. In that fidelity to listening to the new questions you will find the cross of discipleship. It is not the novitiate that causes the pain but rather the burden of the questions, because once you have discovered the questions, you will want to live into the answers until it is time for new questions. So these are my wishes for each of you:May you encounter empty spaces in your soul so that you will learn the wisdom of forgotten or overlooked people; May you feel enough suffering in your spirit so that you will yearn to heal the pain of others. May you find yourself in the shadows of darkness just long enough to desire the joy of God’s peace in your heart. May there be days when you lose a little control so that God’s power will be your strength; May you learn the Gospel lesson that loss is gain; and may your absence give us all the glimmer of hope that upon your return you will share the new questions with us and even lead us into the answers for the sake of God’s people. These sound like hard sentiments but they are the cost of fidelity to discipleship, the price that Jeremiah paid to be a prophet; the meaning behind Paul’s plea to the Romans to be transformed, and Jesus’ conditions for those who follow him. That is why what you are doing today, Rachel and Carrie, makes sense to you and to us. The sacred blessings underlying all of what I have just said are in the words to the promise you have heard us sing: “We stand with you, we pray with you, o holy one[s] of God”. If loss is the cost of discipleship, then community is its blessing. As we gather here today, ... we represent the entire congregation, the church, and the hurting world in thanking you for responding to God’s desires within you, for taking the risk to do something that doesn’t make sense by the world’s standards, and for having the courage to pay the cost of discipleship.Carrie and Rachel, do not mark off the days, count the moments of grace. And remember, we stand with you, we pray with you, and we wait with you...

Having read this prayerfully, I found that it really gives insight into the space and place of novitate along the journey to consecrated life and provides lots of encouragement for those on that phase of the journey.


At 10:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Lisa! I will definitely be reading it over a few more times; there's so much good stuff there!

At 8:03 AM , Anonymous Julie said...

What a wonderful find, Lisa. Mary Persico's reflection is a beautiful "welcome" into novitiate. I remember sisters telling me how challenging novitiate was -- scores of stories that make me feel like they are my memories too. I found that if you really do the work of novitiate, it is challenging in the sense that you must come face to face with yourself and with God. Not always a pretty picture looking in the mirror. I am grateful for my novitiate and found it to be full of "moments of grace."


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