What These 397 Incredible Days Have Meant: Reflection on Novitiate Life
February 20, 2015
By Sister Mandy
Editor’s Note: The novitiate phase of becoming a Sister of Mercy is divided into two parts. The first year (canonical year) is an intense period of discernment while you engage in prayer, study the vows, minister with other novices and continue to live in community. The second (apostolic year) includes more ministerial involvement and a deepening awareness of God’s call in you. Sister Mandy reflects here on her transition between these two years of her novitiate.
Prophetic witness seems like such a huge part of life as a Sister of Mercy to me, and it scares me a bit. I so resist the idea that as a sister I need to be presentable at all times, that I need to be patient, and that people will not always accept anger as a reasonable emotion from me. I do not like the idea that as a sister I will be expected to be wise, learned and a theologian. I do not feel prepared for this burden; I do not feel equipped for this call. I do, however, feel called to be something different, to step out of life as we know it, out of the rat race, and by so doing to say to the world, “Hey, there is another way!” Or in the immortal words of Olaf, the magical snowman is Disney’s Frozen, when his friends were faced with an impossible mountain climb: “Not sure if this is going to solve your problem but I found a staircase that leads exactly where you wanted to go.”
Like Olaf I may not have the gifts the world is looking for, but I might have the gifts that are needed, enough to cause ripples if I dare to rock the boat. I do not always see in me the gifts I see in other Sisters of Mercy, and I do not know for certain that courage—a trait I see in many others—is one of my gifts. I am, however, beginning to see some of my own gifts emerge, and they enable me to be something different than what the world has already chosen.
I am reminded of a movie I watched in my religion and art class in college. We watched On the Waterfront in which Marlon Brando is an ex-prize fighter turned dock worker struggling to stand up to his corrupt union bosses. The new and just union leader is murdered and at the funeral Marlon receives his coat and experiences a conversion leading him to take up the man’s cause. The coat is like a prophet’s mantle, the sign of a prophet in the Old Testament, and just as Elisha inherited Elijah’s place, so Marlon inherits the role of the union leader.
I find myself faced with this same choice as I move through formation so I can fully join the ranks of those who have come before me and live a life that will preach the Gospel louder than any words could. So as a symbol of my year I have knit my mantle: a spiral ever deepening, ever wider, made up of all of these parts of my year, all knotted and looped together to form a whole story woven together in me.
This post was originally published on Sister Mandy’s blog, Nun with a Side of Pirate.
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