Monday, August 22, 2011

Breaking the Surface

We have begun our orientation. The friars and postulants gather in the chapel and arrive into the day with meditation for 15 minutes, soon to be a half hour when we assume our regular schedule. This leads into morning prayer as we sing hymns, recite psalms, hear Scripture, and offer petitions. Immediately following morning prayer is Eucharist in the same chapel. We will celebrate Eucharist at the friary on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; on Tuesdays and Thursdays we will go to Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish, a neighborhood parish. Following breakfast, we have instruction, which today concerns the philosophy of the postulancy program and the elements of this first stage of our initial formation. Through the year we will have instruction every morning in the cozy basement library, and our classes will touch upon prayer (liturgical and personal), the catechism of the Catholic Church, conversion and discernment, and the life of Francis of Assisi and Capuchin Franciscan saints.

Following lunch, we did a thoroughgoing tour of the friary, room by room, to learn how the house "works," in anticipation of our responsibilities, as residents, for its upkeep. Mid-afternoon we took a walk through our part of East New York, getting our bearings, seeing where we can buy groceries, where we can go for recreation and exercise, and meeting our neighbors. Momentarily I will return to chapel for meditation and evening prayer. After dinner, the friars and postulants have free time, which is understood to be personal time. There is no obligation to "be together" in fraternity, prayer, or otherwise for the rest of the day.

On our walking tour of the neighborhood, the friars stopped over at the North Brooklyn YMCA on Jamaica Avenue. We were mightily impressed with the facilities and variety of programs for exercise, training, and development of general well-being of mind, body, and spirit. We are considering whether to get a membership so we can lift weights, walk the track or treadmill, or take a swim.

With some loving encouragement, you could coax my self-conscious body into the pool. But the truth is my head is swimming right now.

For me, the experience of starting something new is like diving into cool water. Right this moment, it feels like the moment of impact with the water, when the shock of the cold slaps you and the weight of the water envelops you. Ordinarily, we absorb these shocks one at a time, because life doesn't change all at once. Well, this is several simulataneous changes: a new worship life, a new social life, a new work life, and above all, a new domestic life in community with the brothers. There is little falling back on my former lives. My routine will be, and is already, vastly reformed. I am breaking the surface of the water, and the sensation of it is a rush! So it will feel for a week or two, until my body relaxes, rises, and floats comfortably in the immersion. But first, I must complete the dive and go through with the plunge. Thankfully, the friars are jumping in with me and with all the postulants. We are breaking the surface together.

Let us hold hands gently as we stand at the edge of the water. Stay with me in prayer, friends, and I promise to keep you in my many petitions.

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