In October of 1834 Eugene wrote to Fr. Courtès about the relationship with the Novice Master and the Novices, as well as the behaviour of the novices themselves. It was quite detailed with a lot of ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’s’ and I admit that when I first read it I had to go and speak to someone to ask why.
“…It is essential that the novitiate be entirely separated from the priests who form the rest of the community. The superior alone is to have open access to the novitiate; he alone may penetrate into its precincts which must be closed to all others..” (486: VIII in Oblate Writings)
It was only after speaking with an Oblate that I began to understand – and of course it is not quite so rigid in this time.
This needed to be a time of intense inculturation so that they could build a base in the deepest part of their beings. They needed to be able to leave an old life behind and to empty themselves in order that they could become filled with the Spirit as God was calling them to experience it. I was even able to see it in my own life – when I joined AA and was told to let go of my old friends and haunts and ways of doing things – and so for that first year of sobriety I became steeped in a new way of living. And when I look back it was also like this when I went to stay at Madonna House. There I learned, among many other things, that I was Third. That is – God is first, you are second and – I am third. It seems to have formed a base, a foundation within me. It is even like that to a degree when we go on retreats or team workshops. Even when I went to convocation there were periods of intensity, there together as a large family. I look back at last week and know that I became imbued with the Spirit of God, with the charism of the Oblates and St. Eugene, with the charism of each of the persons there. It was demanding in a sense for it was rich with life, rich in symbols and images. Our times together in conversation and prayer, in friendship and love – all perfect. They were times of discovering the new depths of people around me – their depths were not new, but my discovery of them was.