This weekend is a rather special one in the Noviciate. We have some important guests – men who are considering a vocation to the Society and who come for a taster “candidates’ weekend” visit to the house.
I remember my excitement and apprehension this time last year (when I came for my visit). I had no real idea what to expect, despite being an avid reader of this blog and trying to read the runes of who people were and what they got up to. As I travelled down on the train, I nervously asked myself would I like the place, would I like the people and, most importantly, would I see it as somewhere where I could settle for two years and fit in? The answer, thankfully, was yes.
The weekend itself was a bit of a blur, with only a few memories remaining – including the Saturday movie night (we watched Amazing Grace) and the Sunday morning visit to one of the parish apostolates. What struck me most though, as soon as I walked into the noviciate, was the feel of the place.
You will know yourself that when you enter a place you can immediately sense the mood – if there is tension or unhappiness, you can pick it up straight away. Similarly, you know when people are genuinely content and happy. It is a gut feeling that you can’t fool. I remember returning home last year and telling friends about the fantastic atmosphere. Not only was it a place that exuded all the right vibes, but it also gave me an immediate confidence that I could find happiness there too.
In writing all this, I am conscious that I am setting a very high bar – but I believe our visitors this weekend will get a similar feel when they enter our community and home.
This year my excitement (and a touch of nervousness) remains, but from a different perspective. We are looking forward to meeting the new crop of potential novices and are keen to find out more about them (and what they might bring to noviciate life).
They will get a great reception and I hope that they will get as much out of the weekend this year as I did last year.
We start off with mass together on Friday night and then we share a meal, before we all get together again later for a social evening, so we can begin to get to know each other. On Saturday, we have mass again together in the morning, and then the candidates have the run of the house while we current novices go out on our usual Saturday ‘villa day’. We have a novice cooked meal in the evening – a Dutch delight this week! – and then the movie and more socialising. Finally, on Sunday, we will have various parish visits before the weekend culminates in our usual Sunday lunch.
My advice to any of the candidates, who may be reading this as they make their way here, is simple: enjoy it! We are looking forward to seeing you and getting to know you. You will be made very welcome. And, for any other readers, please pray for us all, but in particular for the guys who are considering whether they have a vocation to the Society. Discerning a vocation is a very challenging thing to do, so pray that they find God in their visit and that their time here helps them get a clearer sense of where God is calling them in the years ahead.