The first week seemed like everything was waiting to happen. We had:
– The Vow weekend, which was a huge celebration and there were so many around the house, families and friends visiting and people wishing best regards to the four who took first vows.
– First Probation week, where we found out about all the aspects of the Society and what was expected from us. It was very relaxed and seemed like a warm up for the following week.
– The Triduum. Three days in quiet (not silent) contemplation. It was very peaceful and nice and allowed us to think about what we were undertaking with very few things to distract us.
So now we are in the real thing. We have a regular schedule so that we have a pattern in our minds how the week looks. Every weekday (except Thursday, more about that later) it’s:
7:30am -Morning Prayer for 15mins with 45mins private prayer done afterwards. At first, the earliness really bugged me, but I like it now because it allows us to get into gear for the rest of the day.
9:00am –Housework, – only 30mins of vacuuming and dusting.
9:45am -Seminars until lunch.
2:00pm -Outdoor work, usually gardening and it this time of the year, it’s clearing leaves, weeding and a quick mow of the garden. Everyone downs tools at 3:30pm.
3:30pm -Private study
8:00pm -Spiritual reading and private prayer
9:00pm -Anything really, usually just chatting in front of the tv.
The real surprises are on Thursdays. Every week we each are sent to a different local charity to help out for the day. Some go to an elderly care home, others go to help at a prison chaplaincy, I go (with Janis – another novice) to help at two refugee charities. In the morning we go to a place called Sanctuary that offers all kinds of services to refugees, such as food, education (English and computer classes), clothes supplies, anything they can really. In the afternoon we go to help a charity called Restore. Amongst other things, they get volunteers to be a friend to a refugee, so that the person actually has someone to talk to here, instead of not knowing anyone.
I must admit, at first I was very hesitant about doing something very much out of comfort zone. How on earth was I going to talk to a refugee? What could I say to them? It was like going into the unknown. Thankfully, it has been great. The people are really nice and just want to chat about normal stuff. It has been a brilliant experience and it is something everyone should do.
The surprises don’t just stop on Thursdays. The weekends are mostly free and so far, we have tried to get out the city as much as possible. It is really easy to get into the country and visit places. Everything is casually organised, it is necessary to go, but I’ve enjoyed every single one so far. We’ve been to old manor houses, seen incredible views from the Clent hills and been to Worcester Cathedral. Before I came here, my family and friends joked that coming to Birmingham, all I would see would be tall grey buildings and only eat curry. Strangely, I’ve been into the country more than I thought and I haven’t had a curry (yet, we’re having one tomorrow – finally!).
Sitting back on Saturday evening, I couldn’t help think that I have done so much these past three weeks, stuff that I would never do at home or working at a normal business. This place has really opened my eyes and kept pushing me out of my comfort zone. The bizarre thing, that there is another two years ahead and I can’t wait to what happens next.