Tonight marks the one week anniversary of entrance into the novitiate. That means I have officially been a Sister of St. Joseph for 7 days or 168 hours or 10,080 minutes, however you want to put it.
I can't really believe it has been a week. In some ways, the time has flown by and in others, it feels like it has been months since my Initiation into the congregation just a few short days ago. My days have been full of orientation and workshops, but not too full. There is time for prayer and I am finding that there is a rhythm to this period of time that I have not quite synced into yet. On top of all of this, I am coping with the normal chaos of transition; you know, the jumble of thoughts, emotions, and actions that occur (and can only be explained) in the midst of the abnormality and disarray of transition. Like, why would you put milk in a hotshot rapid water heater, thinking it might be able to produce warm milk for chai tea? Because it makes sense in the moment but despite the logic behind it reflects the irrational much more than the rational of the life you're living currently (and results in scrubbing burnt milk off a hotshot rapid water heater for an hour).
This time though, despite the challenges of transition and the like, is a very special time. That is what I have heard more than anything else in this past week. Each sister, it seems, takes the time to say that. This time is special, appreciate it and savor it. And truly I do believe that it is and hope that I can.
Our SSJ Constitutions say "The Novitiate is a time of initiation into the essential and primary requirements of the life of a Sister of Saint Joseph. It is also a time of mutual discernment of the novice's call in the context of the life and works of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The primary goal of the novitiate is to provide the novice an extended period of time to deepen her heartfelt knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ. At the same time, she studies the heritage and spirituality of the Congregation while developing her capacity to enter into simple, sincere, and generous communion with others as an expression of our mission of unity."
It is a time like no other. A time afforded to a person so that they may study, grow, deepen, and discern. All of this is done through prayer. It is intensive prayer. It is a prayer that is part taught and part grasped through living. Ultimately it is a form of prayer that is surrendered to. It pervades every moment of your day. You must surrender to the whims of this prayer, it goes at its own pace and works in all different ways. It also requires you to stand open and powerless before God, in the midst of all else, to deepen a relationship that is, and becomes evermore, second to none.
To that end, novitiate is a time not to do, but to be. That takes a lot of adjusting. It means cutting down communication, sacrificing your plans, and immersing yourself in the process. Each moment holds opportunity to be in union with God, whether you're a novice or not; God is constantly working in each and every one of our lives. Novitiate simply creates the opportunity to develop the ability to recognize the moment you are in right now, to find God and listen... to consecrate not only yourself and your relationship with God but the very time in which you exist.
Consecrating time is no easy task, but it is made easier when I realize the task is not mine alone. It is an action that I am a part of through intention and purposeful living. A lot of what I've been reading speaks to this idea of consecrating time. As the 2002 Vatican document Starting Afresh from Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium states all consecrated people "must learn to be formed by everyday life, by their own community, by their brothers and sisters, by everyday things, ordinary and extraordinary, by prayer and by apostolic fatigue, in joy and in suffering...Openness to the other and to otherness, particularly in relation with time become most important. People in ongoing formation [i.e. me] take advantage of time, they don't submit to it... they allow themselves to be moulded by the liturgical year in which the mysteries of the life of Christ are relived in order to start afresh from Christ... everyday of our theirs lives."
Ultimately though, consecration is God's doing.
I surrender, God blesses.
I admit that letting go is hard, God blesses.
I take longer than I want to ease into it or let go or realize that the moment is here, God still blesses.
And as God consecrates this time, it becomes something that I can't explain, something that I need to live and love- a blessing and a mystery that I cannot control but can simply ease into... recognizing the moment, no matter the time or place, praising God and letting it all be blessed.