So, you want to be a Carmelite?
I began this blog describing the emotional experience of taking simple vows this past summer after my novitiate year. Over the past few posts I’ve tried to connect the dots describing what my personal journey toward joining the Carmelites was like. That experience is as individual as each person who has pulled his hiking boots on for the trail, but once I decided to follow the path up Carmel there was a very clear process that is common to most of us who decide to apply for “formation” as a Carmelite.
Interview and Application: These days can be filled with angst. Personally, I found this to be a trial because it is a lot of wait and see. The answer is never immediate and made me feel very vulnerable, I was allowing the possibility that I might be rejected as everyone does. You gather all of your documents that prove you are indeed real and sacramentally trained. If you have ever dreamed of being a writer, your dreams come true when you write an autobiography! Recollecting, for me, forced me to remember things that I wanted to forget, but allowed for me to remember the people who were agents of God’s grace in my journey. The paperwork is followed by psychological evaluation and interviews with Carmelites. My interviews were so casual that I didn’t realize that I was even being interviewed! Provided that all goes well, you’ll receive a letter confirming that you’ve been accepted into formation. My letter came at the last minute, after I got a lot of the parts in place so it was an anxiety-ridden time.
Pre-Novitiate: It is typically a year long, but there are some of us who took longer. I often joke that I am one of God’s slow children, and this was no exception. I took the two-year route through, finishing up my philosophy courses while a pre-novice. While I felt the urge to push on, I can see now that it was my insecurity seeking more certitude. The pre-novitiate teaches you foundations of Carmelite life, the two most important prayer and community. You will learn to master the breviary and negotiations in daily life. There are many opportunities to get to know Carmelites in the larger community of Chicago as you discern life as a Carmelite.
Novitiate: At the end of the pre-novitiate, there was a special ceremony where you receive the Carmelite habit and enter the novitiate. As I mentioned in my inaugural post the novitiate year for Carmelites is a time when novices put some of their internal dialogue to rest for a time to listen more deeply to God. That year of prayer and study culminated in a very emotional moment in which I professed my simple vows to my provincial…which brings me full circle to where my story began on this blog.
This is by no means an ending however. My formation has recently entered a new phase in which I now live in community with other Carmelites at Whitefriars Hall in Washington DC and study at Catholic University. I hope my future posts can offer some insight into what my current. everyday life as a student, Carmelite and community member is truly like.