In May of 2020, I completed my first year of studies in philosophy. I had spent the period of study from September until June living with some members of the Pallottine community in Dundrum, Dublin. On the 6th of September I returned to the formation house in Dundrum after an uneventful summer at home in Bray, Co. Wicklow. COVID-19 guidelines had limited my movements and activities to seeing only close family, doing the shopping for my parents, and helping out my siblings with their kids. I missed having the structure to my day that a summer job would have given, but I was happy to have more time with the people I know and love. After returning to the formation house on Saturday evening, I enjoyed seeing the familiar rooms and corridors and especially the chapel, having been away for the summer. I had the sense that I was home, where I was meant to be, and moving forward on my path once again.
After meeting the others dressed in my shorts and casual summer clothes, I was advised to dress well for a formal ceremony to mark the beginning of my Preparatory Formation, more commonly known as novitiate. This meant I would become officially initiated into the Pallottine community. On Sunday afternoon, the provincial, Father Derry and Brother Tony, along with the others involved in formation, gathered in the chapel to mark the occasion. We followed the format provided for the occasion in the “Liturgical Celebrations of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate” book. We listened to a piece of scripture, made the formal request, received the formal response, and were blessed by the provincial. Within a few minutes of my request to be admitted to Preparatory Formation in the Pallottine community, it was over. My novitiate had begun. Without delay, I was informally congratulated by the men who have become my second family over the past year. Following my admittance, this second family and I sat together for lunch where we chatted about our summers and any news we had to share.
Shortly after, I reflected on the significance of the formal and solemn compared with the informal. Since my first encounters with the Pallottines the balance between formal and solemn on the one hand and informal on the other is something I have found both interesting and heart-warming. Pallottines strive to embrace the value, wonder, and solemnity of the Mass and the sacraments, while also engaging the public with their rich and dynamic array of personalities in a very informal, playful, and personal way. This balance between formal and informal is something which I will continue to ponder as I progress along the way, as what is involved is something to do with the reverence due to Christ on the altar and the reverence due to Christ in our neighbour.