After several days of prayer, reflection, discussion with friends and my spiritual director, I have decided to take a leave from the Novitiate, in order to continue to stay in India for a longer time. The Paulists would have liked me back just before Lent, in order to send me on the Lenten assignment. I simply could not conceive of myself returning in such a short period of time. I have felt strongly that in the immediate future, I want to spend more time with my family, especially my mother.
The only way this could work within the structure of the Novitiate (which is a formal period of discernment before someone commits himself by making temporary promises of Simplicity, Chastity and Obedience), was for me to leave this year's class. I received an email this morning from the Novice Master letting me know that my request for leave has been accepted. As of today, I am no longer a Novice.
The Paulists have been remarkably supportive of me throughout my father's illness. When I return, I hope to rejoin the formal discernment process.
For my part, I am viewing this as an interruption, or a delay, in my formation process. My sense that my vocation is to the priesthood remains unchanged. It seems though, that my path will remain crooked and a bit murky.
Since my father was diagnosed with cancer last April, I have been haunted by those passages from the Gospels where Jesus says, "Let the dead bury their own dead," and "He who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me." They continue to haunt me. And it may be that I am like the rich young man, who when confronted with Jesus' demand, turned and went away sad. However, this is the best I can do, and, like with everything else, I beseech the Lord to have mercy on me, a sinner.