So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart....
I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.
Hosea 2: 16 & 22
The essential is the interior.
Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade
(One of the founders of the Marianist Family)
Under the same divine action, as the novice enters upon this time of initiation, he or she desires above all to acquire that loving familiarity with Christ leading to that knowledge of the heart possessed because of the deep unitive love that is present....Clearly, what is required is that the novice, first and foremost, be given the opportunity to come to know Christ, not in any abstract and throretical way, but by entering into an experience similar to that of the first disciples...
The Novitiate: Initiation into Christ's Way of Life
Paul Molinari, SJ
When St. John of the Cross says that mystical wisdom comes through love he means not our love for God but God's love for us. "We love because God first loved us" writes St. John; and St. Paul says that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. The mystical life begins with a deep experience of this infusion of divine love.
William Johnston, SJ
I guess one could say that now that I've dealt with many of the practical things concerning the novitiate (selling my car, establishing a budget, learning boundaries and guidelines concerning how my time is spent etc.), I'm finally beginning to delve into what I call the "real work" of novitiate. One might ask, "What is the real work of novitiate?" I know I did!
Last week Sr. Gretchen gave me an article about the novitiate process by a Jesuit, Paul Molinari (quoted above). The article discusses the fact that the novitiate is a time to become more intimately aquainted with God through the person of Jesus. This, however, is not an academic pursuit or a time of biblical exegesis... but knowledge gained based on personal encounter. As I was reading the article, (which is quite good, by the way) I found myself making some connections that both surprised me, excited me and also overwhelmed me.
Most of the connections were to the class I'm taking at Oblate School of Theology here in San Antonio. The class is Mysticism. A better title for the course, though, would be Mystical Theology (the title of one of our texts). The working definition of mysticism we're using in class is a direct experience of God through love which leads to a type of knowledge of God that can not be gained through "studying" God in the traditional sense (as opposed to indirect ways of knowing God like theology, Scripture, beauty, God working through other people etc.). This semester we are delving into the theology of this knowledge through love. That seems like a contradiction... we're studying a knowledge that isn't supposed to be gained through study. Yep... it's a paradox... And probably more so because I'm not doing the greatest job at explaining!
Okay... so what's the connection? Novitiate is a time to draw away from distractions to enter a deeper relationship with God through experience of God... to enter the desert with Christ, if you will. In my mind, that's pretty close to the understanding of mysticism we're using in class.
So... am I going to come away from this year a mystic? That question makes me smile (giggle, actually)... we all know I'm no Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross... seriously, only God knows the answer... and I don't think that's really the point. The point, as far as I can understand it, is to come to know God better and to come to know myself better in light of that knowledge.
And so... how am I doing? Good question...
Well, I tell you one thing... I've learned more about myself in the past few weeks (counting the week I was on retreat in Milford, Ohio) than I expected. For example (to choose one of many), I made an interesting "discovery" just a few days ago...
I've always known that when it comes to how I process information, I'm an introvert. I think through things before I speak (and before I write...). And I need a certain amount of alone time to regain energy. I think, though, I must be the most social introvert immaginable! I don't suppose it's any secret to those of you who know me well that I enjoy good conversation... over coffee or a good glass of wine... There are some times that I have talked with people for hours at a time and not run out of things to talk about. Why is that important?... Glad you asked...
I'm not sure exactly how to explain this, but I'll do my best. I think one of the more challenging aspects of the novitiate will not be what I expected it to be. I thought it would be more difficult not to be doing ministry. And who knows, perhaps in a few months I'll feel that way (I'll let you know). However, right now the most challenging thing is remembering that conversation with people is good & spending some time with friends is a good thing ... 5 hours sitting in Starbucks with a few friends might be a little extreme right now.
Perhaps I should put it this way...
Before doing something like that maybe I should consider a few things... (1) how have used my time so far today? (2) are there people in my community with whom I could be spending time? (3) is 5 hours really necessary or can 1 1/2 do? Then... I should be a little more disciplined about watching the time. What I'm trying to communicate, although not very well, is that before now I was never very aware of exactly how I spent my time & why. I don't think I ever thought about it. Now... things are becoming a little more clear. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
Of course, I continue to work on my prayer life. I'm still a work in progress and thankfully, God isn't finished with me yet. But, I can't quite put that into words. I'm still "processing"...
Other than that... I continue to grow in peace & quiet joy (being the introvert that I am)... And, I continue to be aware of the grace that comes when you are "where you're supposed to be."
Thanks for checking in to see how things are going. Know that I am well... and please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't check my e-mail as often as I used to, but I still do.
One more thing, if you'd like to see some of the pictures from my novitiate entrance ceremony, go to http://stmarytx.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2005954&l=db83e&id=173601583. The pictures are on a website called "Facebook."
Hope to hear from you soon!
With Love and Prayers,