Ged Walsh



A brother's story: My experience as a novice

I began my novitiate at Aylesford Priory in Kent. Looking back over my experiences, I reckon the novitiate was an important introduction to my Carmelite life. Throughout my discernment with our Vocations Director I had the opportunity to visit various communities in the Province and essentially get a taste for the life I was hoping to pursue. As a lot of vocations literature explains, the novitiate is a year long retreat in which the individual gets to experience all the joys (and a few difficulties) that community life lived in the Carmelite way has to offer. I would have to say that the whole novitiate experience for me was a very positive one and I finished the year with some very happy memories.

During the novitiate I built up a very close relationship with my Novice Director who was responsible for my day-to-day formation. Some of the main features of the year were the availability of quality time for prayer in which my relationship with God was able to grow and flourish; it also taught me the value of allowing time for prayer and literally placing all my concerns and worries into the hands of God. Another important element was the daily classes which took place on weekday mornings; it was pointed out to me that the novitiate was not an academic pursuit but there was a series of introductions to topics ranging from study of the Order's Constitutions and document on formation to spending time looking at the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that all Carmelite friars profess. I also learned to pray the Office, the prayer of the Church.

Over the year specialist Carmelite topics were also studied, including a look at our models Mary and Elijah, the Rule of Saint Albert and Carmelite history. My afternoons comprised of what I fondly called 'manual labour', and living in a place like Aylesford, there was always plenty to do. I spent a lot of time working in the sacristy and this prepared me well for helping out on pilgrimage days which fill the weekends of the summer months at Aylesford.

The most important aspect of the novitiate for me was the experience of living life in a religious community. I found this a valuable experience as I got the chance to live with a variety of different people who had all been called my God to live the Carmelite life. Because of the large age range of the brothers, one of the main opportunities for the community to gather was at meal times which supplemented the other social times. I was glad of these times because it enabled me to get to know the members of the community and equally it gave them to opportunity to get to know me. This was extremely important because one thing I realised straight away was that I wasn't discerning my vocation on my own but rather that the community as a whole were journeying with me to make sure the right decision was made. As I have already said I found the whole novitiate a very rich and rewarding experience which I know has given me a solid foundation as I begin my life in Carmel. I suppose there was the initial fear of whether I was making the right decision but my time at Aylesford reassured me that I was on the right track. The novitiate is a big step to take and at first I had to do a lot of readjusting in my life but I know this was important for me to integrate fully and grow into the life of the community.

I am now in my second year in first vows and as I continue my own journey I rely on the experience I received as a novice to help me in my daily life. I owe a great deal of appreciation both to my Novice Director and to all of the community who made my novitiate such an enjoyable, rewarding and spiritual year.