Other People’s Funerals

This post was originally published on the Capuchin Franciscan Vocation Blog:

It has now been over six months at the novitiate.

What are the possible symptoms of such a prolonged stay in the realm of contemplation?

One might very well acquire an outlook of prayer, gentleness, and silence. Perhaps half of a year of novitiate could transform an ordinary young man into a saintly friar. Maybe this is when friars can start preaching to birds.

To be honest, it hasn’t gone totally according to that plan. As it turns out, six months at the novitiate is actually quite similar to six months spent in any secluded place with the same people. What exactly does that entail? Well, human nature. It has all happened: cabin fever, conflict, frustration, anger, and distraction. Who would have thought that a life of prayer would be so nail-grinding? For instance, how was it possible that after a full day of hermitage my first interpersonal reaction was to tell off my brother for his ideas about mopping the floor? Many times, I have reached a point in my spiritual life when I have been able to identify with Mother Angelica when she jested, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy!”.

It crossed my mind that all of this has to do with my locus of judgment. Judgment is good and useful, but who am I judging: someone else or myself? There’s a reason for those times that I’ve sat there in prayer, roiling over other people’s petty offenses or remarks. It’s because I have been deceived into believing that my task is to pluck out the slivers from everyone else’s eyes. When I do that, I’m hiding from my own log. Thus, I have returned to the truth: we’re all broken, we’re all in need of healing, we’re all human. Now I can pray again.

In the wonderfully morbid words of Saint Theophan the Recluse, “With your own dead in the house you will not trouble about other people’s funerals”