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The End As We Know It

May 8, 2012

By Casey Cole

It only feels like it is!

After nearly nine months of attending workshops, meeting friars, ministering, praying, reflecting, and so on and so forth, the postulancy year is just about over… Well, with the exception of the final three months we have yet to complete.

With all the goodbyes we’ve said over the past few days, and the fact that our bodies are naturally attuned to the academic calendar, we’ve all allowed ourselves to believe that we were approaching the end by completely forgetting about the final three months. This minor lapse in memory aside, the fact of the matter is that the postulant year will come to an “end as we know it” next Saturday.

The reason I say this is because on that day (which is the day before Mothers’ Day) we will all board flights for our respective homes for “Spring Break.” For five weeks, we’ll break ourselves from the typical routine of a religious house and be thrown back into the secular world, free to run our lives how we please and adopt any old habits we so desire.  Like our Christmas vacation, it will be both a test and an affirmation of the life we’ve chosen as friars.

Upon returning from vacation (on the day after Fathers’ Day), we’ll have one day to do laundry and repack before it’s off to St. Bonaventure University for a retreat with the other postulants and five weeks of classes at the Franciscan Institute.  Living in a community of more than twenty brothers divided into eight townhouses, we’ll forces ourselves back into the ”normal” routine of the year, i.e. communal prayer, but the experience will be an entirely different one than we’re used to. It will be, in a sense, a different postulant year with different expectations and challenges before us.

Assuming that we all survive such an experience, we’ll spend the final two weeks of the summer in Wilmington, at which point our entire focus (I imagine) will be on preparing for the Novitiate.

In this way, I think it’s acceptable, even necessary, to say that the postulancy ends in less than a week. From a psychological standpoint, it brings closure to the feelings each of our subconsciouses are already recognizing, that the end is near, by allowing ourselves to feel accomplished with what has already passed. The clear end of one part, and the clear beginning of another, though completely artificial in nature, allows each of us to return rejuvenated and excited for the final three months because it is, in a sense, a new year. The temptation to coast through the final three months is almost eliminated, then, because the mindset is very different: instead of “trying to get through the last little bit of the big year,” we are “starting a new chapter in our lives.” The latter is something for which we all need to strive.

Ultimately, no matter how I explain it to my subconscious, the point I’m making to myself through this reflection is that the year is not over, and that there is still room for growth and discernment. To allow myself to believe that we’re approaching the end is to close myself to new experiences that may shape my life in unknown ways. It may be the end of the postulancy as we know it, but if we begin to see each day as a new day to be formed by God, a chance to break in the habit, what’s it matter what “year” it is?

Casey is a postulant (first year) in Holy Name Province’s initial formation program. He lives at St. Paul Friary in Wilmington, Del., with four fellow classmates. His reflection, dated May 5, is taken from his blog, Breaking in the Habit.
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