Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Fork in the road

Over the past week, I have been somewhat removed from the ‘outside world’ with my fellow postulants in a little town called Pickerel, Wisconsin. We have been given this time to write our final self-evaluations. These self-evaluations at the end of our postulancy period are necessary in order for the formation team (and ourselves) to better discern if we are prepared for the next period of Capuchin integration known as “novitiate”.

My self-evaluation was rather comprehensive and focused on the core areas of growth in my life (personal, spiritual, communal, etc). I don’t need to share with you every facet of my experience of postulancy. Rather, I want to write down the simple, true essence of what I have learned.

The year of postulancy is intended to give the discerner a closer look at the daily life of a Capuchin friar. Taking a magnifying glass to the reality of religious life in 21st-century America has deepened both my appreciation and apprehension of the path that may be set before me.

Entering into postulancy, I had a rather romantic vision of what life as a Capuchin would entail. I don’t think that I saw (or wanted to see) the imperfection and ‘shadow side’ of life in the Capuchins. Now, I have a clearer vision of reality. Let me put it this way: it’s not always Brother Sun, Sister Moon. I’ll be honest: I have been scandalized.

At the same time, there is a hidden goodness present among so many of the friars that I never before had observed. I have met so many incredible people that I can hardly contain my gratitude for their presence in my life this year. Among these are priests and brothers who have spent 40, 50, or even 60 years of their life devoted wholeheartedly to the service of the Church and the world. And some of them still as full of life & joy as the day that they entered!

In short: a hazy dream of religious life has become for me a human, incarnate reality.

Now, this is the question with which I am confronted at the end of postulancy: should I stay or should I go?

I have a deep conviction in my heart that wholeness is not found by searching endlessly for greener pastures. Rather, wholeness--that is, holiness--is found by being led to a place that you can call home and then embracing every moment of joy & pain that you are given there with every bit of your being.

It seems that I can call this place home. Nonetheless, I must continue listening to the voice of the Spirit through prayer, my formators, and my peers. That is the voice that tells me that I am free to stay or to leave, because I am secure in the fact that I am a beloved son of God.

Although I am not sure of what my life is generating or where I am being led (though I am given glimpses), I have faith that my aim is becoming more and more definite. My life is first painted with broad strokes, and slowly it is being whittled and brushed into something wholly beautiful. Perhaps I will never see the result of this work in my lifetime. Perhaps it is far from finished. Perhaps it is nearing its completion, and somebody else will have to view it in perspective to see the true beauty of it all. Whether or not Capuchin life is the definite aim of my life, I cannot claim to be certain. I can only claim certainty to have been led to where I am. With this, I am satisfied.

For now--for today--I will embrace this life and all of its gifts.

You can find more of Joe's reflections on his personal blog: friarbabs.com.