This past week Quincy and I, along with other novices and seminarians from all over the country, gathered in Washington D.C. Why? Because Pope Francis invited us! We were lucky enough to be present in the National Shrine when the Pope said Mass and canonized Junipero Serra. It was an amazing experience to be there with so many other young people in the beginnings of this rather counter-cultural life we are embarking on (admittedly it seemed a lot less counter-cultural surrounded by hundreds of other novices). We stood in the security line with a large group of seminarians in various stages of their philosophy and theology studies. It was a time of teaching and learning the differences and the similarities between the orders and even within our own family. As Quincy noted in the last blog; It's a Family Affair. We happened to sit next to a group of Ann Arbor Dominicans and quickly made the family connection. We also got a great picture with some of our St. Louis Dominican family. We were "Dominican sighting" throughout the trip. Every time we would see a white habit we would introduce ourselves as family; the Ann Arbor's sitting next to us, the English province brother who just happens to be studying here this year, last year's CDN crowd, the throngs of brothers that came in as one big group, the Springfield sisters on the porch at the retreat house, and the Nashville sisters at the airport eager to tell everyone that their novices made the front page of The Wall Street Journal. What a way to meet family!
We also got to see the Pope on the road leaving the Vatican embassy. He looked rested and ready to talk to Congress as he waved to us.
This would have been enough to make being a Novice right now special but it isn't the only happening. We were blessed to enter the community during the sesquicentennial commemoration of the death of our founder, Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli; a year dedicated to his legacy. During our candidate year Pope Francis declared the Year of Consecrated Life. He then invited us to see him while he was in Washington D.C.! And later this year we will begin the 800th Jubilee of the founding of the Order of Preachers. All of these events have/will highlight the life we have begun, whether it is religious life in general, Dominican life more specifically, and even Sinsinawan.
It is a special time to be discerning. Some may say it is all downhill from here but I don't think that will be the case. I think this is just solid, joyful footing to ground us in what can, and probably will at times, be an unsteady journey. We have also been blessed with hands to grab along the way; the sisters who sent us on the journey and the many family members we encounter along the way. And all of these events have helped to shed light on our path for our family and friends who might not understand what we are doing. It is a good time to be a Dominican novice!