Last year I went to try my Vocation with the Trinitarian Order in the South of Spain, I love Spain & speak Spanish so I really jumped at the chance, I was able to try my Vocation through this Religious Order for men because I know very well one of the “female” branches of the Order and have worked closely alongside the Sisters in Pastoral Work.
I went for a trial period and had a beautiful experience & visited a number of communities belonging to the Order in the region and felt so called to join them, I was accepted very quickly and entered a few months afterwards. I was led to believe by the superiors that I would naturally have to go through a period of adaptation and adjustment to the religious life, and most likely a year of it. I was so excited because I had admired this Order through the Sisters as I grew up and I wanted to and still want to serve God.
However, within one week of arriving I was sent to the local University to begin a course in Philosophy and Theology, at degree level in Spanish (I couldn’t even imagine doing that in English). I had absolutely no time to adjust to the Religious Life, the year before I joined there were two Korean Postulants who had spent 1 whole year doing a year of adaptation and getting used to the Religious Life, I found it hard to understand why I was given no time to adjust and sent so quickly to the University. There was also a Spanish boy who joined with me and he was also sent with me to classes but to my shock horror I had more classes and subjects to study than he did.
For a number of weeks I struggled very much with getting used to living in a Religious Community, the divine offices in Spanish, totally new way of life and no time to get used to it with also having to rush to Classes after prayers in the mornings. I had to be in chapel say the morning offices, have 1 slice of bread for breakfast and then walk 30 minutes to my classes. I tried to give this all to God and although I was “struggling” I believed it was God’s will for me and tried very hard.
The classes were very complex and confusing for me. I come from England and believed myself to have a good and traditional (simple) understanding of the Catholic faith, I became very confused, very quickly by the extremely “liberal” stance which was taken in many of my classes and the ignorance of many of my class mates. The class was made up of Postulants, Religious & lay people. On one occasion the Professor asked what the Immaculate Conception was and not even some of the professed Nuns knew its true meaning, this was shocking to me.
To cut a long story short I gradually became aware of the fact that I was in a very liberal Catholic Faculty and that much of what was being taught and spoke about by teachers & students alike I was very uncomfortable with. It was kept from me that the Faculty had even been denounced by the local Bishop for its teachings, I felt it was wrong to keep that from me. I was struggling immensely with this.
Although they were good people in the community I could see very clearly that all the Priests and Friars had been formed in this faculty and were all advocates of women Priests, Gay Marriage, Contraception etc. and I had been told all my life that these things were not possible and believed I had them explained well to me, I just could not fathom the fact that I had “ended up” in a Community which was this way inclined, yet at first I stayed quite and didn’t voice my objections too loudly. There was an Indian brother who when he discovered what I did voiced very loudly his objections and the whole community seemed to turn against him and talk badly about him- it put me in a very difficult situation.
The Masses that we had in Community were totally alien to me, Mass was often said in plain clothes, the Missal was disregarded and the Priest would make up the words as he went along. The beautiful habit of the order was never worn, except on extremely “Important” occasions. I was also made to read at almost every Mass in the community and in Church, this is something I hated because it was not my first language, I had to practice and I was always criticized for mispronouncing something, yet none of the Spanish brothers or even the other Postulants were ever made to read and this really frustrated me…on top of that the Master of Postulants put me in charge of all the hymns in Church on Sunday, I am not a musical person, the hymns were totally unknown and alien to me and I had to set up a horrible projector and spend hours preparing slides with the words on every Sunday, plus being made to read all the time. I became very low and the Mass almost (God forgive me) became meaningless to me. I hated Sundays, after several months of this, combined with my classes and I felt very uncomfortable. I knew that what the other members of the community and my class mates were saying and doing was wrong. I began to become very vocal and made known that I did not accept or agree with Women Priests, that the Mass should be said wearing Vestments and with the words of the Missal, the Mass is not a “play thing” that can be changed and altered to suit people’s desires. I was very vocal towards Mass said sitting around a Coffee table, it just not acceptable.