I’m returning to my blog after a little hiatus and a very long journey. It is now going on 6 weeks since I arrived in the Philippines and I began the first year of my noviciate. The past 6 weeks of relative disconnection from the outside world have been a great blessing. The time has allowed me space to transition to the noviciate and to be present to new experiences.
As I think back on these past weeks, a major theme stands out for me: discovery and adaptation.
Each day holds something new to discover. On the first day I arrived (January 1st, which was auspicious, I think) I was confronted with a whole lot of new at once: new country, new culture, new climate, new environment, new community, and new way of life. Since then I’ve been slowly unpacking all of the newness.
Prayer. The most beautiful and life-giving discovery I am making is in my prayer life. The time and dedication to prayer during this part of formation gives me the opportunity to pray without interruptions (not to say that I don’t get distracted in prayer!), but also to take time to pray in the ways that I know give me life and help me relate to God. In particular, I have been able to return to a daily practice of Ignatian contemplation (scriptural contemplation) and it has been so beautiful and grace-filled. The first time I sat down to pray using the method of Ignatian contemplation, I felt like I received the most loving welcome back from God. Already in this short time, I can feel my relationship with Jesus (because it is Jesus I speak with during my prayer) flourishing and deepening.
Community. Another life-giving discovery I am making is within the community here. I am living with 3 other novices – 1 from Australia and 2 from Vietnam. Our novice director is also Australian and our assistant novice director is Indian. We are a truly an international community and I am learning so much from everyone. We share our respective cultures through meals and celebrations together, and we share our life stories and vocation journeys during times of reflection. I am discovering a world far beyond the world I knew in Canada and my heart and mind are expanding.
Spirituality and Religious Life. I am also discovering the person of our foundress Mary Ward through reading and reflecting on her prayer life and at the same time discovering the heart and soul of the IBVM. I am learning more about discernment in the Ignatian tradition, and experiencing the First Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I am learning about the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and discovering their beauty.
I’m also discovering things that create challenge.
Poverty. I’m discovering that poverty is everywhere. There are many homeless men, women, and children in Quezon City. There’s a slum a short distance away from our house. The causes of poverty are varied and complex. It often feels overwhelming because the poverty is on such a large scale. And yet, the spirit and generosity I have witnessed among the very poor takes my breath away. My heart yearns to find some way to contribute to reducing their poverty and to stand in solidarity with them.
Environmental Pollution. I’m also discovering that Quezon City is very dirty. Pollution is widespread. The air is polluted from the exhaust from the cars, buses, and jeepneys. The waterways and streams are polluted from garbage and sewage. The ground is littered with piles of rubbish. Again, the causes of the rampant pollution are varied and complex, and it will take a lot to create change. I am concerned for the current generation and future generations of Filipinos.
I could come up with a list of ways I have had to adapt that would potentially be as long as my list of discoveries, but when it comes down to it, I have one main method of adaptation: surrender. I am learning to surrender to the newness. To surrender my expectations and my biases (which is proving challenging!), to surrender my need to always be physically comfortable (on the hot days I find it impossible to be completely comfortable), to surrender my desire to have control (over knowing the schedule of the day, over what I eat, over relationships with friends and family that are now long-distance relationships, over being able to fix the problems I encounter, etc.), and to surrender to experiencing whatever it is that God wants me to experience in the here and now of the day. This quote from Mary Ward’s spiritual journal summarizes well what my experience has been like so far: God is with me, and I have freedom to speak to Him, and to ask of Him all I would have or know.
All in all, the past 6 weeks have been fruitful and full of the grace of God. I am happy to be here, open to learning new things and to deepening my relationship with God. I hope to post more regularly now and will delve into some of these issues in more detail in the future.
13 thoughts on “Discovering Noviciate Life”
A beautiful blog, Sarah. It is so wonderful to be able to get a little view of your your growing commitment to the path you’ve chosen. As you are learning to adapt and to surrender to the newness, I am sure that it is not without its challenges. But as I read, I can also detect joy and certainty in the rightness of your decision. I will keep you in my prayers, Sarah , as you continue this part of your journey and look forward to reading more posts. God bless you.
So good to hear from you Sarah and realize the many adaptations you have made and are still making in your new country. Reminds me a bit about the arrival in St. Vincent & the Grenadines in 1989. It is amazing how much the human body can adjust on a daily basis. Your are doing well and I am so proud of you.
My love and prayers, Cabrini
It is wonderful to have you back! May you continue to be blessed in this wonderful journey.
I am glad that the experience is good for you Sarah! You are in my thoughts and prayers and you are often brought up in conversation at the Abbey table when I am there. They miss you!
Wonderul – I will now take down your blog from December 29!. We miss you so very much. Thank you for this. I will copy it to all who do not have email and enlarge it for so many of your special friends who need large print.
Much love and prayers,
Dear Sarah, Thank you for sharing all those
enlightening observations. Sr. Yvonne
So good to hear from you and know that you are growing in the way of ‘divine love. 😊😊😊😊
A cooling thought _ tonight it is -20. Your shared observations and insights are keeping us connected. You and your companions are in my thoughts and prayers. Marion
Hello Sarah, it is good to hear from you. It is also very inspiring to hear about your journey over the past while. I must say, that I receive a lot of Lenten newsletters written by many very professional and religious people, even from a Bishop or two. But your words, the simplicity of them, the insight, the themes, the ideas, and yes the challenges, form a template that I can reflect on to examine my own spiritual journey over this Lenten time. They touch me in a more direct way than these professional messages do. I think your message will challenge me to look at poverty in a new way, here in Ottawa, on Bank Street or in the Market. I hope that with your words, my prayer will take on a new life and I will be able to give more to my Blessed Sacrament and RCIA community this Lent. Thank you. God Bless you and keep you in His loving care. Gord J.
Dear Sarah, thank you for sharing your gift of expressing yourself to share your ongoing journey. In union of prayer Marianna
You inspire me! Hoping to meet you in near future.
Lorraine Crawford, ibvm (Mary Ward Center – Chicago
you inspire me my dear sister my joy is that your heart is beating in the right direction. i thank God each time i pray for you. May you be the wonderful Mary Ward woman that the world has never met!
I took the time to read all your blogs – an impressive journey that will encourage other young people to follow their heart as prompted by the Spirit. Am praying for you during the Retreat you begin this week.