Today marks the six year anniversary of entering the friars as a postulant.
Wow. Six years ago my parents and I drove up from North Carolina to Wilmington, DE to drop me off at the friary. There are moments of that year, now so long ago, that I can remember as if they were yesterday.
I remember the joy and freedom I felt once it finally began, arriving where I had wanted to be for over a year, starting my new life. The first night I sat in my room—a room left barren with so few possession to fill the big empty space—and smiled with excitement. I was really doing it. No more thoughts. No more discernment. No more “in the future.” I was on my way to becoming a friar.
I remember the awkwardness of meeting my new classmates, working through the social dynamics to figure each other out. For the two weeks, I don’t think anyone talked with each other outside of our meetings and meal times. People did what they were supposed to then shyly retreated to their rooms.
I remember the frustration of dealing with housemates with different values than my own, of having a director place rules on me for the first time since I was probably 12. I felt trapped at times, stuck in a world that was completely foreign to me and bore little resemblance to the life I wanted to join.
I remember the almost daily occurrence of new insights, moments of growth, and challenges that would shape me for the rest of my life. In some ways, it is so difficult to think back six years and remember who I was, what I thought about, what I didn’t know, what I failed to do, and what I still needed to learn. If only postulant me could see almost-solemnly-professed me…
I’ve said multiple times before that I decided to become a friar in July of 2010, a year before I actually entered the Order. I knew at that moment that I was in it for life, and could very well have taken solemn vows right then and there. Even looking back, I believe I could have. My conviction for this life has not changed, and there has never been a moment in these seven years that I have legitimately considered anything else.
And yet, as grueling and frustrating as this preparation has been, knowing the whole time that I didn’t actually need time to make the decision, I can’t even begin to think about what type of friar I would be right now without it. These six years of memories—
- Almost burning down the postulant house when someone put a pizza box in the oven
- Going through three rounds of evaluations in novitiate in which I had to present all of my strengths and weaknesses to a panel of four team members
- Staying up late at night to discuss religion, politics, philosophy, and the need in the world today, “Making plans to change the world, While the world is changing us,” (to quote the great pot-smoking mystic Dave Matthews)
- Mourning as classmates decided to leave the Order for another life
- The amazingly supportive people I have interacted with, at ministry sights, within religious life, and even here online
- Fighting with the brothers over things that can only be fought over when people are under-stimulated and see each other too much
- Nervously stepping into the role of Church leader for the first time, struggling to do things that I can do without a moment of preparation today
—yes, this six years of friar life could fill a book with all I’ve reflected on and learned along the way, how I have maintained the same conviction with the same values, and yet become a person I would have never imagined. What a ride it’s been.
Come Saturday—yes, this Saturday, no longer any needed a qualifier or explanation because it was so far in the future, but the very Saturday that is next on the calendar—I will make my solemn profession before my Provincial Minister, the friars gathered, my friends, my family, and anyone else who wants to join, to live as a Franciscan for as long as I live.
And I find myself at the crossroads I imagined from the beginning.
Five years ago, I wondered about the future of Breaking In The Habit. As a name, it fit perfectly for what I was doing; “Reflections of a friar in training” was the original tagline. Once I was solemnly professed, would I continue with the blog? Would I keep the name? Now, crossing the proverbial bridge we knew we would come to, the answer is obvious to me: of course I will keep going. Besides the practical business side of maintaining a brand, the fact of the matter is that I’m not done breaking in this habit. Despite the fact that I am done with formation and am ready to live the rest of my life as a Franciscan Friar, my life is not over! Come Sunday, friar life will not all of the sudden become magically easy; the challenges to Gospel living I face Friday will not disappear by Sunday; my flaws today will still be my flaws next week! No, “breaking in the habit,” learning to live this life, is not something that one can complete and move on from. It is a life-long process.
And I can’t wait.
I want to thank all of you who have followed me from the beginning, those who have supported me along the way, and those who will support me in the future I continue to break in the habit of a very strange life. My last six years has not been lived in a vacuum, and what I said in the original “why blog” tab that was on the old site: I wanted to blog not just to share my life with others, but so that others could take part in my reflections, forming and challenging me along the way. So many of you have done just that, and so I want to thank you, but also exhort you: just as my work of breaking in this way of life is not done, neither is your effort in doing it with me. If I am going to be anything close to what God wants me to be for the people of God, you all are going to have to keep it up as well. And I’m sure you will.
Peace and good to all.