Jumping for Joy

So I got some fantastic exciting news today.  I was literally jumping for joy and yup, might have cried a wee bit.

Turns out that we might have a quick drop in visit from the Novices this weekend! I know! Haven’t seen  my boy since October…and have been gearing up to go see him in August for first vows.  Another whole post or two, that.  Anyhow, turns out they are helping one of their priests move down to the our town and so the whole crew is coming along to lend a hand, and visit some of their sister Dominicans.  Mercifully, Fr. James has decided that we are on the way home and that they might just be having a craving for some MamaDo’s (the brownies that I make from the recipe of one of Peter Joseph’s best friend’s mom).  So they have asked if it would be too much trouble to stop in for a quick visit, “Just family, no muss no fuss.”  Hmmm….”Um, yeah, yup, I think that would be all right…”  That’s what I said, I’m pretty sure.  All cool and collected like that, just like that.  (Tho, it might, just maybe, have also had a few leaking tears, stupid grin, and gibbering, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” )

gonna do some visiting


So it’s a family only quick visit, but with all those brothers and ours too and I am simply giddy in anticipation.  I have been warned to not kill myself cleaning or make too big a fuss.  So I will try, try I tell you, to heed that directive and simply bask in the pure joy of it all.  But I will admit to a little happy dancing around my kitchen this morning when I told the big girls, and that I will be thrilled to be hugging the neck of my other big boy heading home when he arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning.

best brothers

And I’m gearing up: gonna be making multiple batches of MamaDo’s, some for here and some to go!

I can’t wait!

Further Up, Further In

So, it’s just past the half year mark for my son at the Novitiate.  So people ask me all the time, “How is he?  How’s it going?”  And…I don’t have a perfect answer for that.  So I say, “He’s good.  Please keep praying for him.

That seems to sum it up, really.  He’s good. He sounds like himself when we talk.  That alone is such a big deal!  He still has the essence of ‘him’ and doesn’t sound or talk differently when we chat on the phone.  Stupid, I know, to think he might.  But, ya worry.  Ok, I worry.  I worried. Past tense now.

This year is such a huge year of change for him; a radical year of leaving behind and choosing other…that I guess deep down part of me worried that I’d lose the essence of him somehow too.  But, I have seen and heard that it is not so.  In fact, of course, it is much the opposite.  He is becoming  MORE him.  That is the really radical beautiful part of this choice….by growing closer to God, we become more ourselves, our truest selves.  By him living this life, intentionally and fully without reserve, he too is growing closer to God and thus becoming more and more himself.  It’s kind of like a warp speed growing out and growing in all at the same time.  Rather Narnian. “Further up, further in!” as the children were called into the Aslan’s country; and the land became bigger and more beautiful the further  and the higher in they went.  So too, it seems, novice life, Dominican life.

Not that Novice life is all easy.  It’s rigorous. It’s spiritual bootcamp, as I’ve noted many times before.  And, now, of course it’s February <Shudder>.  February is a tough month no matter where  you are, I think.  It is/was the dreaded month in the homeschool calendar.  It’s the  housebound gray cold dull month where everyone gets on each other’s last nerve.  Ok, well, it is here at any rate.  I can only imagine that it must be that way for the novices too.  I’m guessing.  But, still.  Thankfully, it’s the shortest month in the year.

Spring approaches.  But first, lent.  And this is where the real crux of the novice year (I think) lies.  The novices have completely settled into their life.  They have new clothes, habits.  They have new religious names: my son, now  Brother Peter Joseph.  They  have new jobs and learn new skills, they have classes, they study, the do work outside the parish in the community.  They know each other very well, are becoming a sort of family.

But lent is upon us and I have been told that this lent is the one lent they will get the opportunity to really, FULLY, live the liturgical season of lent.  I have been told its the most beautiful lent they will ever have (due to really mindfully living it, daily) but also the most rigorous and with the most spiritual growth.   This lent, this growth, will help lay the foundation these novices need if they are to go on and live the call to Dominican life.  If my son is called to this, I want him to have that foundation to stand on.  Thus, this next forty days will be an intense growth period for these young men.  It will be rigorous, challenging; filled with hard and beautiful both.   So, I will ask for your prayers for my son, for all these novices.  They will need them.

So, how is it going? It’s going well.  It’s a struggle, it’s a joy.  It’s funny and hard and happy and peaceful and difficult.  It’s a year of living prayer; of learning to live prayer.  Please, keep them in yours.  They are halfway through.  Further up and further in….

Now, they will be spending much much time in prayer over this lent, of course.  But this video shows the Irish Dominicans, having a bit of fun.  These Dominicans, globally, they have such laughter and fun, even with their deep prayer life – it just  makes me grin.  And it’s totally in sync with that whole ‘further up, further in” thing……

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Name Edition

Introducing, Brother Peter Joseph!

Yeah, they get new religious names.

A post on that very big deal, later.  For now, go see A GREAT SHORT SLIDE SHOW of the Vestition and  his new brothers…..

And, as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Leaving all things behind….Updated. With pics

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, an amazing saint and one we are getting to know much better around here.  For a prior post of mine on his feast day, go here.

St. Dominic in Prayer, by El Greco

As today is St Dominic’s feast day, that means this day is one of great import in our family and for my eldest son.  My son has just entered the novitiate of the Dominican Order (the Eastern Province of St. Joseph).  Today is the day of Vestition.  Which means, today is the day my son gets his habit (those white and black robes) and very likely, a new, religious, name.  Today is the day that he really begins.

It’s a big day.  We feel it.

To go and see what I’m talking about, you can go here to see last years Vestition…I saw it last  year and it made me cry.  I’m not watching it today, because it will make me cry all the more, I already puddled up during the Morning Office and prayers.  I’ll save those watching tears for any video that might come of the Vestition for MY son. Those are enough for me, for this.  And while it all sounds like I’m so torn up and sad; I’m not.  Not really.  I’m remarkably peaceful about it all…..but…..I surely do feel the moment of this day.  I feel the weight of it.  Heck, I feel even now that connection to my son and I wonder if he’s feeling nervous or edge or just excited for it all?

But today is here, and he begins.  He literally lays down his life from before, to take up a new one.  Thus, the habit, a clothing of a new man.  And he steps up and forward into a new life, and living it to discern if he is called to it ALL.  That’s what this is for: to live it fully and completely, in order to grow into it, or find out that it is not fully, finally, for him.  Either way, it is a huge transition.  For him.  For us.  And hopefully it is a life that will be covered in joy, as is the  mark of all Dominican’s I’ve ever met.

Today, it begins.

UPDATE: That’s my boy, oh dear, my grown son…..center.

This is my first glimpse, it just came through email…and yes,

it made me burst into tears…of joy and..i don’t know…took my breath away.  wow. (And no, it’s not a requirement that he shaves and buzzes his head. That’s just him. Yeh I was surprised too. That’s my son!)  

St. Dominic, pray for us.  St. Dominic, pray for my son.  Happy Feast Day, everyone!


Well, I don’t want to beat this to death.  But I think for me to really, honestly, track this process from the parental standpoint, ok, the mom angle, I’ve gotta just put a quick blip up on blog.

This is hard.

This giving your son to God, it’s kinda hard. Oh yeah, it’s joyous and deep and profound and all that…. But the clear hard fact is that we are saying goodbye for reals, and he is not only moving far away, he’s giving up his worldly life.  Which means, learning to detach from us too in many ways.  And it means us learning to detach from  him.  And I type that and feel the hot tears.  I hold myself tighter as I blink hard to keep typing, fast, get it out before the flood hits and/or to let me blink even FASTER to push that tide back, again.

And I know, this is all a personal pity party in many ways.  It’s all tangled, happy sad proud amazed worried:  I am truly deeply tap dancing happy for him as he enters, for  this beckoning call, his ability to recognize it and respond.  And I know that many a mom has said goodbye to her son to go to war across the world, with legitimate fears for his safety. I get that.  Utterly.  I mean, I’m sending by son to Cincinnati, for heaven’s sake. Not Afghanistan.  The irony is not lost on me.  My dork factor and wallowing ability makes duck my head in shame even as I can laugh at the/my stupidity of it all.  I know that my fears for his times of lonely and spiritual struggle are something each of us go through, no matter our circumstances in life. Some of the loneliest times can be IN a marriage.  So, I cannot protect him from any of it.  Nor should I try. And while I want to, I know that I can’t and really, shouldn’t want to because it’s part of the process he, we all, must go through.

But anyhow.  I’m bad at goodbyes.  We are in the countdown weeks now.  And I’m feeling the pressure, brittle, tired, leaky.  I can still savor these days and  hours with him, and I do.  But, another part of me wants to drive him straight up to the Novitiate house right now so I can get him there safely.  It feels like battles are afoot.  Spiritual battles, even.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post and I just heard the few  readers I have click away anyhow, because now they know I”m a nutcase.

But, I  need to say, for any mom going through this too….it’s amazing but it is hard.  And it’s a loaded few weeks ahead.  And I’m a bit brittle and holding tight, carrying myself carefully as I walk through these days so I don’t fall to pieces.  I’m leaking…feels a bit like the little dutch boy……holding back the dam.

Claiming my boy

This came up on my facebook feed this morning…..

Announcing the 2011 Novitiate Class for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

Christopher –  Tennessee, 21 years old, studied at Notre Dame
Though born in southern California, I was raised in a small Tennessee town, not far from Nashville. I am the oldest of eight children, the youngest five of whom are adopted (two of them from Ethiopia).
I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t until I was in middle school that fully practicing our Faith started to become important to my family and me. I became an altar server, and in eighth grade I had my first religion classes and went on my first retreat. It was around that time that I began to have sincere thoughts about becoming a priest, but in high school those thoughts were pushed to the back of my mind, later to be more or less dismissed. My faith remained important to me though, as I involved myself heavily in diocese-wide retreats and youth programs. After high school, I went to the University of Notre Dame, and in May 2011 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology and Piano Performance.
I spent the spring semester of my junior year of college studying in Rome at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (“the Angelicum”). Priesthood and religious life were still only at the back of my mind when I was in Rome, but as the semester progressed, the idea that God might be calling me to the priesthood slowly began to fight back to the forefront …

Now, that’ll wake up a mom; to see her son’s face and bio popping up on a social network feed.  And as I’m working through this process – in my head and heart and blog – toward the Novitiate, this is the formal announcement of their new Novice Class for this coming year.

In a public way, this is the Dominican Order, claiming my son.  Or, precisely, stating their intent to claim.  This coming year will be a year of final discernment on both sides of the equation.  My son will “live the life” and decide if God is truly calling him to a life of prayer and study and service; while the Order will decide, prayerfully, if they think he’s got the chops for it.  Maybe his toe tapping and drumming will become annoying, I don’t know.  Kidding…. But it’s a big year all around, for all of them.

Go see, it also shows a few of his new brothers to be: the whole Novitiate Class that will enter with him in July.  These men, younger and older, will help each other in prayer and company and studying, through the joyous, profound moments, the goofy, and through the tougher times of uncertainty, and homesick for the life left behind.  Big stuff indeed.  I pray daily for all of these  young men and their families.  We welcome your prayers too if you think of it.

He’s In.

The word is out, it’s not so much a surprise, but he’s in.

My son has been accepted to the Eastern Province of the Dominican Order of St. Joseph as a novice for this summer.

My son is entering the Dominican Seminary.
We will take him up to the Novitiate on July 25.
It is rushing at us, at warp speed.
So many changes, for him, for us.
So  much to say and process, but for now, we will rejoice for him.
He is so happy, when he called to tell me the news, his voice was full and just happy.
He is relieved a bit too, he wasn’t worried but it’s always nice to have it settled as well.

Now we plan, and he works to prepare himself.
There are many parts to that, but for now, we all just want to announce the acceptance and say “Deo Gratias.”
My Chris is a Dominican to be.
Officially, beginning in July, a “Novice.”
A new friend told me I’m now a “Dominican Mama” and have just inherited many more sons.
I”m good with that.
And I love thinking about it like that too….I’m not losing my son, I’m gaining so many more.

Obviously, this post was written a bit ago.  His progress through this Aspiring and Application process was months long.  But to progress through it on my blog I chose weeks…because I’ve gotta get to MY processing of it all.  Because,  you know, it’s always all about me me me.  Ahem….. And of course, all with his permission.



Applying to the Dominicans of the St. Joseph Province

{Note; the Aspirant time frame was about 6 -8 weeks.  Again, these posts are post-dated, if you will.  The timing is not, currently, real time.  I wrote them earlier and only publish with Chris’ permission}

So. Now, my son is an Applicant.

This pleases me if only because now I can pronounce it properly.  This is a comfort.  Also, it’s easier to explain or address in a concise manner.  So when friends ask about him, wondering about his post graduation plans, I can say, “Well, he’s applying to the Eastern Provence of St Joseph, the Dominicans.” And even though that it is something of a mouthful its much more direct than trying to explain and pronounce what an aspirant is.  So, because these posts are really about our parental side of this process…this is a step forward in more ways than one.

Now of course, he has a boatload of work to do.  Not that he didn’t already have a boatload of work to do, what with extra class units, senior piano recitals for one of his his majors, work as an RA, being social and all…..and oh, the continuing discernment to the priesthood…now he has an a “formidable” application to undertake.  We never said he wasn’t an overachiever.  This will be quite the juggling act.  Good practice, the discipline it will take to manage it all.  Anyhow, so, now he has a list to work on.  It’s a lengthy list, but a tangible list, rather than only the more internal work that he’s been doing for this process.

I think that this concrete, numbered, tangibility is helpful.  Then again, i am totally task oriented so maybe that’s just me.  But for me, this next step, this new title to the process kind of releases me from some of the fretting about all this.  Because even though this whole process isn’t about us, it is, tangentially.  There is an underlying sense of import and looming change for us, the parents and family .

As  I type this, now, he has just finished the rigors and requirements of the application. He had to write either a shortish narrative of his life to date, or answer a number of personal exploratory sort of questions. This was probably the most challenging part of the application for my son.  Having a tendency toward procrastination, typically he put it off until this clanging deadline and personal introspection demanded the attention of his numbered hours.  My guess is that he completed it in the standard fashion of most applicants; both fussing over it a bit and then barreling through it to get it off the to do list.

After that he had to request five letters of recommendation from various persons in his life; happily they all agreed to the chore.  On of those letters had to be from one of us, his parents.  He asked his father.  Thank goodness for that, as just reading his father’s letter made me cry; I couldn’t have done it so well.  It was a most excellent letter.  No surprise that, the quality or the tears I suppose. Lastly, but certainly not least, he had to run the gauntlet of full bodily examination: physicals of every sort.  He had his eyes checked, his teeth, his body with the big general physical and blood work.  He had his mind and psychic well being checked too; they don’t need to cope with any burdensome neuroses, the garden variety ones are certainly enough for each of us, eh?

Certificates of sacramental preparations, birth certificates as well as baptism and confirmation were requested.  I happily gave him a scare when I mentioned finding and sending the perfect Baptism pics: where he looked both cute AND holy, even at five months old.  No, I didn’t send the pics but it was awfully fun to tease him that I did. It’s good to keep your kids on edge, just a bit, I think.   A mom has to have some fun with this process right?  Right.

The last official part of the application process and the most weighty perhaps, other than the ongoing discerning, was the official “Vocations Counsel” interviews.  Chris had to fly to D.C., and after his psych evaluation, have a few interviews with some of the higher ups Dominicans of the order.  I asked him, after, if he was nervous.  He said, “A little, but they were very nice.  One was kind of hard in a way, but it was good.” Listening to him after the trip, between flights to come home, made me grin.  The excitement in his voice was, again, like a young man, excited about a new adventure.

And now, we wait.  His application has been approved by the vocations counsel ( even without the baptism pictures, imagine!) and has been sent to the Prior Provincial for the final stamp. Kinda like sending the bill to the president; he can approve or veto it,  final answer.  I’ve asked him if he is nervous for the outcome.  “Not really” he says.  Funny, me neither.  Yeah, I think we all know what that outcome is going to be.  Gods will.  Thankfully, the peace of that is settling in.

For today.  Today my son is, still, an applicant.  Tomorrow, in the next few weeks, we will see if his status changes.  Prayerfully, we wait.