Let me be quite honest: last term was a difficult one. While I think of myself as someone that transitions easily and handles stress well, there have been few experiences in my life that were more challenging and exhausting than trying to transition from novitiate (a highly structured year with few responsibilities and freedoms, set in the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin) to post-novitiate studies (a year with very little structure, many responsibilities, and a lot of freedom to plan our own lives, set in the middle of one of the busiest metropolises in the country.) Much of my life last term was focused on simply staying afloat.
By this point, I have transitioned. I feel comfortable in the new house with new people; I understand how the dynamics of post-novitiate work, e.g. finances, schedules, permissions; I feel familiar enough with the area that I can move about without anxiety; and I am back into the routine of taking courses and effectively managing my time.
At this point, it’s time to start living a little. Having just started the new term on Monday, I’m excited to say that the next few months will be a very different experience from the fall, and as it seems now, a much more enjoyable one.
Because the USCCB requires that each of its candidates for priestly ordination complete 30 credits of philosophy, and because I came into the friars with only eight of those credits, my entire fall was spent taking philosophy. This was less than ideal. Having now completed more than two thirds of that requirement, I am able to begin taking courses for my Master of Divinity degree along side the remaining philosophy credits.
This, I say emphatically, is awesome. Besides the obvious breath of fresh air of taking courses in a subject that actually interests me (have you ever tried to take four philosophy courses at one time…?), the specific theology courses I’m taking are really fascinating. The first is called Christian Social Ethics and consists of reading papal encyclicals and well-known theologians in order to understand the framework of the Church’s social teaching, a topic that I have great interest in studying. The second class is called Foundations of Liturgy and Sacraments and is focused on giving a historical overview of our communal experience of church. This course may not offer any new insights to my previous question, is it better to have bad worship or no worship, but will no doubt equip me with the knowledge to provide the people I serve with good worship.
A New Routine
With a new term comes a new schedule, and this term’s schedule is as good as last term’s was bad. My classes are all bunched together (whereas last term there were two to three hour gaps between classes), and work out in such a way that I have my entire morning off on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and no classes on Friday. I cannot stress how freeing this is. Whereas before I was on campus from 9-5 four days a week (9-12 the other day) always trying to find things to do to fill my time but never being 100% productive, this schedule allows me to do everything I need to do at my leisure.
One thing that will certainly benefit from this is my prayer life. Sure, the few hours in between classes allowed for time to pray last term. But there is something completely different about praying in the middle of a busy day in an environment that is not all that comfortable, to having long expanses of time to ease in and out of prayer in a place that is my own.
One of my primary goals for this term is to step out of my social comfort zone. For someone in this life, as busy as we are, it can be very easy to be so caught up with what we have to do for the world that we find little time to actually engage it and enjoy it. In the fall, I went from prayer in the house to class then back to the house for prayer and dinner so that I could study before retiring for the night. Very little of my day was spent interacting with people in anything more than academic or superficial ways. Now that I feel comfortable with the foundational parts of my life, it’s time to work on the parts that are lacking.
One of the ways that I hope to do this is by joining an intramural basketball team this winter. While I have also found some seminarians at the diocesan seminary that like to play pick-up games, I feel that I need the commitment to the time and team members to keep me from making excuses.
Besides that, there are other opportunities that presented themselves in the fall that I need to start accepting. I mentioned in the last post that I was able to get out of the house last week to spend time with non-friars (roughly) my age. Events like this, chances to get out of the house and spend time with new people, are invaluable experiences. While it may be exhausting sometimes after a long week of classes, going to see museums, monuments, sporting events, and other social activities are much better for me in the long run then relaxing around the house.
All in all, life is looking up for this term. With my added flexibility I’m looking into taking a private retreat and possibly doing some vocational speaking engagements throughout the year, but I’ll tread lightly to start. I’m very excited about the year to come but realize full well that it will be a lot of work to pull off some lofty new goals! Peace and good to you and all of your own transitions this year!