Thursday, September 9, 2010

Monastic Lexicon #17

Years in Community

How many years have you been in community? An easy question you'd think. But it's not.

Do you start with the very first day you arrived, when you were given a bed? Postulants aren't really recognized in canon law. How about when you entered the novitiate? Novices are canonical. Yes, but you're not a vowed member.

So, maybe the year of first or temporary vows? Could be then, yes. But don't those first 2-3 years count for anything? How is the 25th Silver Jubilee determined, entrance? novitiate? first vows? final vows?

Answer: all of the above. Some communities go by entrance, some by novitiate, other by first vows.

Why this monastic conundrum today? Because yesterday, September 8th, was a big entrance day for many communities and many of our own members, including yours truly. Although sisters certainly entered at other times, Sept. 8th may rank as one of the most if not the most common day for such a ceremony. It was right before the college school year started, summer was over, in the case of school teaching it was right in time to jump into a classroom and, finally, liturgically it is the Feast of the Birth of Mary.

As for our community, jubilee is measured from first vows, but sure enough yesterday I heard a lot of "I entered 42 years ago today!" They were talking about the very, very first day.

And we were very welcomed on that day, too. In our present hospitality director's office this Willow Tree statue, Hospitality, welcomes our many guests today. The book on the lower level is Radical Hospitality by Daniel Homan, OSB.