On September 3, my five brothers and I were welcomed into a year of discernment with the Order of Preachers as we received the Dominican habit and officially began our novitiate.
After a few months, I am now able to reflect on my early time with the Order, using the four pillars of Dominican life.
It has taken me a little bit of time to get used to an increased regimen of prayer. Our daily lives revolve around prayer -- the Mass, the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Eucharistic Adoration, personal prayer, the rosary, the Angelus, and so on. Prayer is communication with God, and it is important for us to be in touch with Him throughout the day.
Praying the Divine Office has been a form of prayer that has been extremely helpful for me. Before joining the Order, I was not very familiar with this kind of prayer, but I am beginning to understand it and enjoy its fruits. The Divine Office is a beautiful form of prayer for a number of reasons. It connects you with priests and religious around the world who are also praying the Psalms several times a day. It forces you to stop what you are doing and turn your attention to God. And it also helps you to celebrate the Church calendar more deeply.
In the novitiate, we are beginning to take seminar-style classes to learn about topics such as the liturgy, history of religious life, and religious vows. These classes are helping me develop an appreciation for the depth and breadth of our faith. As a cradle Catholic, I have a tendency to take aspects of the faith for granted. These classes force me to think about questions such as 'What is the scriptural basis for religious life?' -- anew.
One of the biggest adjustments to this way of life is living with a house full of new people. The six of us in my class are from completely different backgrounds. What do an elementary school teacher, an engineer, a consultant, a marketing major, a computer scientist, and a liberal arts major have in common? A strong belief in God and a sense of a calling to preach His word, apparently. I don't think any other circumstance would bring us together, but we now call each other "brother" in Christ.
I am also getting a sense of how large the Dominican community is. In addition to my novitiate classmates and the senior members of my community that I see every day, I am meeting more and more friars from around the province. All but five or six friars in the province are buried in our cemetery in Benicia, California; what is sometimes jokingly referred to as one's "last assignment." The cemetery is a manifestation of our community even after friars have left this world.
And the Dominican family extends far beyond the friars and includes Dominican nuns, sisters, laity, and, of course, the Dominican saints.
If the Dominican mission can be expressed as sharing the fruits of our contemplation, then let's just say we are a little under-ripe. We are beginning our life in the Order of Preachers, and one of the major purposes of the novitiate year is to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the world and reserve one year to discern God's calling to our quiet hearts. Nevertheless, even though it will be several years until we can (God willing) minister sacramentally to the people of God, we are developing our skills as preachers and taking the opportunities we have to preach.
We also 'preach' in many small ways. At the beginning of our time here, we shared our life stories with each other and explained how we think God has been working in our lives to lead us here. We are also beginning to do ministry on Mondays. So far, we have visited elderly friars in a retirement house.
These first few months have been a wonderful beginning to a great journey of faith with this community. Thank you to all for your continued prayers and support!
May God bless you and keep you,
Br. Scott Norgaard