“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” -John 15:16
Dear Beloved Friends in Christ,
It has been many months since I last spoke to you, and I hope and pray that all of you are doing well as we approach the beginning of Lent. Know of my constant prayers for all of you, as it is though your generosity that I am able to live this life and hope to one day be a priest of Jesus Christ. The novitiate has been a grace-filled time, full of many joys and opportunities for growth, and I want to share a little of what our life is like and a small reflection on it.
Our life is structured around the praying of the Divine Office and Holy Mass. Generally, we gather four times a day to pray, immersing ourselves in the official prayer of the Church. Most of it is sung, and learning how to sing and chant the many rich musical traditions of the Dominican Order has been one of the unexpected surprises and joys of the novitiate.
One of my favorite moments was when all the novices went in a Eucharistic procession. It started with Mass in the local cathedral followed by a long walk with the monstrance. There was singing and chanting as we walked through the streets of Cincinnati, to the bewilderment of some the people going about their normal business. It ended with us entering a beautiful church, welcomed with bells pealing and organ resounding, followed by benediction.
Community life, learning how to live out the description, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32) is also one of the great tasks of the novitiate. As one might expect, doing almost everything together creates its own set of challenges. But, amidst tension, there is also a great beauty to it, as you surrender more and more of yourself to the common good of the community, in doing so you find it greater than if you were an assortment of people doing their own thing. As a result one of my favorite moments of the day is the evening meal, where the priests and brothers come together to share a meal, like one big Dominican family.
Part of living the common life, is trying to strip away all that divides us from Christ. We come face to face with our own pettiness and weakness, which you can’t hide from in religious life. Often there is a temptation to approach our relationship with God as if we have something to prove, as if he loves us because we possessed some prior goodness apart from him. But that’s not how the love of God works, we are confusing human love and divine love. For humans, we love something or someone because it is good. God’s love is what makes something or someone good. As St. John says, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19).
Because of this we don’t need to hide ourselves for fear that our sins would somehow hinder the love of God for us. All our faults, no matter how petty or ingrained, will, by the grace of God, be consumed in fire of the crucified Christ. This is the task of a religious: to offer one’s entire self to God for His sake.
I am going to close this reflection by my favorite quote from a quote from St. Boniface, from whom I take my religious name.
“Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For He is all-powerful and He tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yours in Christ,
Br. Boniface Maria Conroy
Province of Saint Joseph- Eastern Dominican Province