Monday, August 21, 2006

Coming and going . . . and my new blog.

As longtime readers of this blog may have noticed, frequent moves are a hallmark of the Jesuit novitiate experience. After two years in which I've been frequently on the go, in the next stage of Jesuit formation I expect to be relatively stationary. This week I start First Studies in philosophy and theology at Fordham University, which will be my base for the next three years. Though First Studies does include occasional travel - particularly during the summer, which scholastics typically spend brushing up on languages or doing some kind of apostolic work - for the most part I expect to stay put in New York. I've enjoyed the diverse experiences of the novitiate, but I'm also looking forward to being in one place for a while.

Over the past week, I've been completing one final burst of travel before the start of orientation at Fordham. The day after vows, I headed east from Detroit in a rental truck packed with most of my earthly goods as well as those of the other Chicago and Detroit vovendi who'll be studying in the Bronx. I stayed over Monday night at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York, where I was hosted by the Chicago Province's own Father Bernie McAniff. A Rochester native, Bernie provided a fine tour of his hometown. Though I'm rather partial to my own Rochester, I was also very impressed with Bernie's - after all, it's one of the few cities I've visited that has a waterfall downtown. On Tuesday afternoon, I made it to Bronx and dropped off my cargo at Ciszek Hall, the Jesuit scholastic house at Fordham. After a night at Ciszek, I was on the move again on Wednesday as I caught a train to Providence, Rhode Island en route to my family home in Massachusetts. At the end of the week, I spent a couple days at Portsmouth Abbey, where I made a short retreat before entering the Jesuits. Returning to Portsmouth seemed a nice way to bookend my novitiate experience, and I appreciated the opportunity to spend some time in prayerful reflection and to renew my acquaintance with the Benedictine monks who make their home at the abbey. I spent this past weekend at home with the folks. As this home visit winds up, I find myself wishing I had more time here, as always. At the same time, however, I'm grateful for the time I've had.

I'm also grateful for the ways in which this blog has enhanced my experience of the novitiate. Originally intended as a means of keeping my family and friend posted on my current activities and whereabouts, Novitiate Notes has also become something of an apostolate for me. Blogging has been rewarding for me on an apostolic as well as a personal level, and I hope to keep it up. As I transition into life as a vowed Jesuit scholastic and as a student of philosophy, I'm starting a new blog, dubbed The City and the World. (Please note that the blog's name and its URL are different - as much as I like the name I chose for my new blog, I thought something shorter and snappier - something like "Jesuit Joe" - would make the URL easier to remember.) While I intend to keep Novitiate Notes online, I won't be posting any updates after today. If you want to know what I'm up to now, check out The City and the World. Thank you for being (virtual) companions on my journey through the novitiate, and please know of my prayers and good wishes. AMDG.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

First Vows.

Almighty and eternal God, I, Joseph Andrew Maximilian Kolbe Isaac Jogues Koczera, understand how unworthy I am in your divine sight. Yet I am strengthened by your infinite compassion and mercy, and I am moved by the desire to serve you. I vow to your divine Majesty, before the most holy Virgin Mary and the entire heavenly court, perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience in the Society of Jesus. I promise that I will enter this same Society to spend my life in it forever. I understand all these things according to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Therefore, by your boundless goodness and mercy, and through the blood of Jesus Christ, I humbly ask that you judge this total commitment of myself acceptable. And as you have freely given me the desire to make this offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.
At Detroit, Gesu Church, on the 13th day of August, in the year 2006.


Friday, August 11, 2006

My final weekend at Loyola House.

Returning to Berkley today after a couple weeks away in Chicago, Omena and Clarkston, I received an unwelcome surprise: a summons for jury duty. Don't get my wrong - I regard jury duty as a high civic obligation, and under other circumstances I'd be happy to receive the notice. In this case, however, the Oakland County Jury Clerk asked me to report for duty on the last day of August - at which point I'll be a few days into my first semester of philosophy studies at Fordham. A call to the county courthouse revealed that I would be relieved of my obligation so long as I could provide documentary evidence of my imminent move to New York. Though I had little difficulty gathering the necessary documents, the task took up most of an afternoon that I had hoped would be devoted to packing for next week's move. As a result, I anticipate a busy night of packing and an even busier day tomorrow as my Bronx-bound companions and I begin the task of loading the U-Haul truck that will take our meager temporal goods to New York. Your prayers for this endeavor are earnestly appreciated.

Omena was fun. The Traverse City Film Festival is in its second year, and though many of the films I wanted to see were sold out I made it to three showings - I saw A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, both offered as part of a Stanley Kubrick retrospective, as well as the acclaimed and controversial Palestinian drama Paradise Now. This past Sunday I and a couple other Jesuits attended Mass at the Carmelite Monastery of the Infant Jesus of Prague in Traverse City, which seems a bit stricter than the two or three other Discalced Carmelite communities I've encountered in the past. Though I expected the cloistered nuns at the monastery to remain in their private oratory during the Mass, I also presumed they'd be visible through the grille at some point during the liturgy - during communion, for example. This was not to be the case; in Traverse City, the Carmelites are heard but apparently never seen. The nuns sang throughout the Mass, but they did so from within an oratory with a window small enough that they could see out but no one else could see in. This presented an interesting contrast with my experiences at Santa Clara - where I was able to enjoy a friendly chat with a couple of the sisters in the sacristy after Mass - and in Cusco, where I briefly glimpsed a Carmelite in full habit opening and closing the monastery door. For what it's worth, I'm glad I had a chance to see something of the Carmelite presence in Northern Michigan, even if I didn't actually see any Carmelites.

(Addendum, 10/24/06: I've noticed that a lot of visitors have come to this page through Google searches for Mass times at the Carmelite Monastery in Traverse City. Therefore, as a public service I'm posting those times, with the caution that I am not responsible for any changes in schedule that may have been adopted since my visit. As of August 2006, the Carmelite Monastery in Traverse City had Mass on Sundays at 7.30 am and weekdays at 6.50 am. To be on the safe side, readers thinking of going to Mass with the Carmelites should call the monastery at (231) 946-4960 to confirm these times.)

My retreat at Colombiere was pretty low-key. The focus of the three days was to prepare spiritually for the experience of making first vows this coming Sunday. I suppose I'm as ready as I'm going to be to take vows, though I don't know exactly how I'll feel until I'm actually kneeling on the floor of Gesu Church reading the vow formula that I carefully wrote out by hand last night. As the hours before the ceremony become fewer, I feel a sense of increasing excitement regarding the commitment I'm about to make and the challenges that lie ahead. At the same time, I also feel a bit apprehensive about all the tasks I need to complete over the next few days. Professing perpetual vows of chastity, poverty and obedience is, to put it simply, a big deal. In ways banal and concrete, preparing to move from Detroit to New York is also a big deal, as is the prospect of being a full-time student again after two years out of school. My prayer for the next few days is that God will give me and my brother novices the strength to do all that we must do. More than ever, your prayerful support is needed and appreciated. AMDG.