Open Letter to the New Novice Moms

{…and the Dads too….but, most especially, to the Moms.}

Today is the day.  Today is the day that you are taking your son to the Novitiate; or are bidding him goodbye as he sets out.  I don’t presume to know you, of course.  However, I think I might be able to understand some of what you might be feeling.  Not all, surely, as we are all different; our families are unique.  But, even so…I want you to know that you’ve been on my mind and in my prayers and will be.  Your son is setting out on a great new journey; the adventure, literally, of a lifetime.  It’s exciting and wonderful and amazing and scary and nervous making and a little uncertain maybe, and maybe even more…bittersweet.  I get it.

Now you might be just so ready for your son, younger or older, to make this step forward.  You might be able to slap him on the back with a hearty “best wishes” and big happy hug and grin at him as turns.  But, maybe your brow is furrowed and your heart is cracking just at bit as you wonder what this all means – to you and your family, how’s it going to work, will he be ok?

And I want to tell you this: I wish I could sit you down at my table and pour you some coffee, or, even better, some wine, and give you something good to eat and talk with you…compare notes, chat a bit.

I wish I had someone to tell me what it’s like, last year when we opened our eyes, this day.

So, today, if  I could, I’d tell you:  Yes, this might be one of the hard things you’ll do.  God is asking a big thing of your son, a radical thing.  Thus, by extension, he is asking it of you as well.  BUT….he doesn’t ask this of you and leave you hanging.  Grace abounds.  Seriously.  I promise.  Grace abounds.  You do have to walk the walk, you have to make the drive, do the drop off (be it at airport or St. Gertrude’s).  You have to gulp and blink away your tears and swallow your heart as you hug that young man goodbye and kiss him.  But it’s gonna be ok.  It’s gonna be better than that…

To tell you how it went for me {and of course it might be totally different for you!}: Last year, I’m telling you, I was a MESS!!! I was sure of this for him and happy for him too.  But I was also practically sick with tension and tired, eyes swollen like a bullfrog from crying the night before at our farewell dinner…sleep deprived because I can’t sleep with a crying headache and swollen eyes.  I leaked tears as we prayed in the car, I was tense and jangley.  My husband and my son were too, tho Chris was also excited; tempered tho by the difficult family/sibling goodbyes.  So, as we got to St. Gertrudes, I had to remind  myself to breath and then we turned the corner and saw the white tents.  Really, lovely against the bright green lawn.  We saw white splotches against the green: Dominicans in habits meandering about.  Breathe….  Then suddenly, Fr James swooped toward us and shook Chris’ hands, Toms, and tried to shake mine but I burst into tears. He made a joke and we all laughed.  I wasn’t and you won’t be the first to blink tears or force a smile.  Then they took us on a tour of the priory, and all the words slipped past my ears, my heart was scanning every detail: the rooms, the old novices to see how they were, what kind of men, and so on.  Very soon, it was time to go and so we did.  That last hug was searing….but… we did it, we got in the car, we drove off. Were we kinda robotic by then? Um, yeah.  Did we crash the car in our blinding tears? No.  But, Tom was driving.  Ahem.  Still.

I write all this not to ratchet up your emotions, but to confirm them.  I get it.  And to tell you the most important part of this.  Today the worst part of this.  Period.  And it’s fast and it’s done.  Like ripping a bandaid in a way.  YOWCH!  Gasp!  But then, the task is done.  You’ve delivered your son into God’s hands; this priory, his house.  Well done!  Faithful, hopeful you.

All day, especially, grace abounds, only to increase in this transitional year.  I promise.  And your son? Well, he is in [spiritual] boot camp of sorts; but it’s one he chose and it will lead him to be the man he was made to be, either way.  New ways, new folks, new modes, new tasks.  Some of it is so beautiful it made me grin just to hear him when he would call and describe it.  Some of the life is a chore, literally.  (He will develop great expert skill sets: dishes, laundry, mopping, minor carpentry, landscaping, tutoring….)  And, if this life is for him, he will grow into it.  He will.  It’s so very cool, actually.  If it’s not for him, he will figure it out and that in itself is a great gift and part of the process.  This process, this novitiate, works.  It’s our process too, the whole year of loving him and connecting to him in a deeper, more prayerful way.  A process that actually does bring a closer joyful connection.  I promise.

And for the practical concerns? Those parishioners are so great! They feed the Novices, take them under their wings like their own sons, they bring them cookies and cakes and hug them.  The priory cook is a great cook, plus terrific and caring and kind.  They don’t go hungry, I’m just saying.  The priory is not plush but it is sufficient, totally, to their needs.  They have medicine and privacy and time to be goofy and exercise, they walk into town together, they can watch a big game in the common room.  They laugh, all the time.  They are funny!  Let me repeat, they laugh, so much!  They study, they pray, they serve, they sing. The rigor of the ordered days strengthens them, even as they adjust. It conditions them, seriously, just as if they were training for a marathon.  They are training.  They are laying the foundation for a Dominican life.  As dear Fr. Benedict told me, “The foundations they lay in the novitiate are absolutely necessary to live a (happy) Dominican life.

And so, they begin.  You do too.  You’re a Dominican mom now. Your sons just increased in number, tenfold.  See, that’s the beginning of it in the most tangible way: Grace abounding.

It’s all gonna be ok.  It’s all gonna be better than ok, it’s gonna be wonderful.  And, for what it’s worth, I’m praying for  you, all the way through.


ps, if you’d like to reach me, just email {info in “about me”}.