'Novice Notes': Scenes from Marian Formation

This is the beginning of a new weekly series on the formation journey of Josh, a first-year novice at the Marian Scholasticate, the house of studies in Washington, D.C. 

For a Marian seminarian, the novitiate is the most important stage of formation. This is the time when the novice learns what it is like to be a member of the Marian community. The novice follows the ancient monastic tradition of ora et labora — that is, pray and work. He will learn the dynamics of prayer and the contemplative life, study the history of religious life and mysticism in the Church, and learn to reflectively read and pray through the Scriptures. He will study the Marian Constitutions, charism, spirituality, apostolate, and the history of the Congregation. Most importantly, he will study the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience in preparation for his temporary profession of these vows at the end of the novitiate year. In addition to prayer and study, the novice works at various manual tasks on a daily basis. 

It was spring of 2014, and I was sitting silently on a pew in a wooden church at a Franciscan friary in Griswold, Connecticut. The Eucharist is bread and wine miraculously transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Eucharistic “host,” Christ appearing as bread, was mounted on the altar in a gold throne called a monstrance. 

The Eucharist is known to bring immense power down upon people’s lives, sometimes in subtle ways and other times in torrents.

I wore a bluish gray tunic, as the institute permitted postulants to wear it in those days. 

I heard a small noise, a shuffling of feet behind me. A middle-aged man stepped up to the pew and asked, “Can I sit here for a moment?”

“Of course,” I quietly answered, moving away from the edge of the pew to make room. 

Praying together
The man sat down next to me. His voice was trembling as he said, “I was wondering if you might be willing to pray with me. It’s for my son . . .”

He explained the dark spiral his son had fallen into, as I listened. When he finished, I asked his son’s name, and then said, “Let’s pray together. Would you be all right with taking my hand?”

“Sure,” he agreed, and we held hands.

I didn’t say another word out loud; we just turned to the Eucharist together and took the situation to the Prince of Peace. 

Soon, I felt deep peace flowing into my soul. I prayed for the man and his son and family, and I relished that delicious peace. 

Eventually, the man next to me asked, “What’s your name?”

“Josh,” I answered.

He said, “Thank you so much for praying. I feel a lot of peace now.”

He left the church, and I never saw him again. 


Intimacy with God and Mary in religious life, and the gift of sharing this blessing with others, is a tremendous grace. The world needs it, and I’ve found in the depths of my soul that I need it, too. I’m undertaking this weekly diary to open a window into the training process through which men may become Marian religious. 


My name is Joshua – Josh for short – and I’ve been invited to write about my experience of the novitiate program I’m participating in with the Marians. 

I was raised an Evangelical Protestant in a devout and loving homeschool family, but I converted to Catholicism in 2008, followed by my three younger siblings. I first recognized my call to religious life in August 2009, right after being consecrated to the Virgin Mary. 

There were many trials over the coming decade, but also powerful experiences with God and our Lady encouraging me to keep coming back to religious life whenever I was away. I sometimes felt like a “ping pong ball,” being batted about by the buffets of Divine Providence. 

After a spell with the Franciscans, I shared my story with Fr. Don Calloway, MIC. He was sympathetic, and welcomed me into the Marians’ shortened postulancy program, swiftly proceeding to novitiate. God willing, I will be a candidate for ordination to the priesthood before the end of the decade.

Active and communal
I’ve been finding myself sometimes stretched by the workload. This is an active order, whereas I spent much of my adult life in an active-contemplative order with more prayer time and less apostolic outreach. However, novitiate is meant to stretch us, and I know how to pray on a continual basis throughout the day, an essential feature of Marian lifestyle. Prayer to receive the Holy Spirit nourishing our souls gives us the capacity to reach out with God’s grace to the world.

I share the short story above as an example from my experience of what religious life’s blessing can be for those who live it and those they serve. Its value is immense . . . my former employer in the world, a non-Catholic, a Jew, stepped into a Benedictine monastery one day and felt as though “all the cares and burdens” of his life were instantly lifted away and he was freed. 

Intimacy with God and Mary in religious life, and the gift of sharing this blessing with others, is a tremendous grace. The world needs it, and I’ve found in the depths of my soul that I need it, too. I’m undertaking this weekly diary to open a window into the training process through which men may become Marian religious. 

Next entry: Starting Novitiate with a Bang!

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