For one year, I will be without social communication such as Facebook, texting, this blog or anything that uses the internet. I will surrender the use of my bank account and credit card, and will live on a modest stipend of $50 a month giving any money I receive towards the needs of the house. I will not have almost no control over the way I spend my time, when I can leave, and where I can go. I will spend much of my time in quiet.
Believe it or not, this will be the most freeing year of my life.
For many, what I described above may seem like a prison, the complete antithesis of freedom. They see the rules and regulations as inhibitions on one’s own will, and therefore it is restrictive and potentially destructive. I see it differently. Rather than understanding freedom as the absence of external forces, i.e. freedom from a particular rule, I understand it as the presence of opportunity and ability to do what is right, i.e. freedom to fulfill a particular task.
What, then, do I have the freedom to do? More than any time in my life, I have the freedom to completely live in and for God. I have removed almost every “distraction” from my life, and have oriented my entire existence towards God. How could I be any more free? Seriously, what could I possibly worry about this entire year? I wake up in the morning, and my entire purpose is to grow closer in relationship with God by learning, devoting time, and listening. Community life ensures that I will be doing it in a Franciscan way.
I have to admit, though, I am a bit nervous about it all. This is entirely new to me in almost every way. No one likes change, especially when that change is as intense as this, and there are so many unknowns. But I guess that’s all a part of letting go; it’s not just about possessions and autonomy, it also has a lot to do with letting go of expectation that may prevent me from being completely open to the current experience. For now, we’re go with what I know.
Unlike last year, which was “Far From Routine,” this year will be very predictable and consistent. Being a “J” on the Myers Briggs test, I welcome this completely. Along with the prescribed activities of the day, I plan to add my own daily rituals. As I understand (and plan) it so far, here’s what a typical day looks like:
7:15 Lectio Divina (I’m going to make a habit of getting to chapel a few minutes before prayer each day to read a Gospel passage and pray about it. There’s a difference between reading the Bible academically and reading it prayerfully. As Franciscans, it’s imperative that we prayerfully read the Gospel.)
7:30 Morning Prayer
Silent Meditation before Mass (For now, I think I’m going to leave this 10-15 minutes as quiet, unstructured prayer time. Too much planning doesn’t leave room for the Spirit to move me.)
9:30 Class (this will usually last two hours and will be on a variety of topics)
11:45 Midday Prayer/ ANGELUS (This only takes about ten minutes and is a wonderful break in the day to commit oneself to prayer. The Angelus is a very Franciscan prayer as well.)
12:00 Lunch (No structure, mostly foraging for food.)
1:00 Work period (We will each be given monthly jobs and expected to work 2 hours a day. Since some are easier than others, those who finish early begin to help those still working. I guess they believe that “Idle hands are the devil’s tools…)
4:00 Silent Time/Private Prayer (This can be spent a number of different ways, such as reading, studying, writing, reflecting, praying or journaling, but it must be done alone and in quiet. I think this will be a very refreshing part of the day.)
5:00 Common silent meditation in chapel (So far I’ve spent this time reading spiritual writings, but depending on what I do during the silent time/private prayer, I may use this time for more unstructured prayer or occasionally a devotional or the Office of Readings.)
5:30 Evening Prayer
7:15 Recreation time (This can be spent however we please, such as working out, watching television, making phone calls, playing games, going for a walk, or listening to music, to name a few ideas. I don’t plan on watching a lot of television, and will instead be spending a lot of time either in our small fitness room with the many fitness-oriented friars in our house or playing games.)
9:15 Night Prayer, followed by Grand Silence (While we have no “bedtime,” the time after prayer is meant to be free from all noise, both personal and communal.)
Spiritual direction is on an appointment basis, but will probably take the place of a work period in the afternoon. On Saturdays we only have a work period in the morning, leaving us free from 1-9 to do as we please. Sundays are very solemn and relaxing, and will involve only prayer and quiet time. We’ve also been told that there will be retreats and workshops throughout the year, but with much less frequency than we did last year.
As of yet, I know little more than this. I wish I had more time to update everyone, but that will just have to wait until next year I guess.
Updates will be available
That being said, just because I can’t use the internet and tell you about my experience doesn’t mean that others won’t be doing it about me (and my classmates, of course). Here are a number of ways that you can continue to follow me in my journey outside of the blog:
Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate Facebook page: Throughout the year, our house will post pictures, news updates, and maybe even a few reflections (we’ll see what I can do!) Unfortunately, you have to have Facebook to view it, but this will be the most updated media. I may or may not have been appointed photographer for this today.
HNP Today: Holy Name Province publishes a bi-weekly periodical about the happenings of the friars and their ministries. While we won’t be in every issue, this will offer the most detail when special occasions occur, such as when we receive our habits. You can subscribe to this by clicking here and entering your email address.
Be A Franciscan blog for vocations: The Vocations Office of our province runs a blog that publishes articles by our friars related to their vocational call and life in the Order. A few of my posts have found their way onto this website, and there’s a chance I’ll write for it once or twice while I’m here. It’s good to read either way.
And Finally, Thank You
This past year has been a wonderful experience writing this blog. I’ve enjoyed doing it, and cherish the comments I’ve received here and elsewhere. I will be praying for all of you, as I hope you will pray for me. I fully plan to relaunch the blog in a year, and will probably write a few reflections throughout the year to be posted when I get out. Until then, here are a few of my favorite posts that you could read again:
What Can’t I Live Without, Falling In Love, Why Do We Suffer? Pt. 1, 2, and 3, A Friendly Reminder, An Alternative Interpretation, Living In the Moment, What If I Fall In Love?, Mine!, This Moment Is Sufficient, A Life To Share, A Call to Sacramental Ministry, and Better to be Right or Together?
I’ve also updated the Shutterfly Photo website with pictures from Bonaventure and now here at Burlington.
And with that, it’s time that I say goodbye, and unplug myself from the internet. Thank you for following me on my journey. I will be back before you know it, but hopefully a very changed person.
Br. Casey Cole, OFM