Candidacy for the novitiate of the legion of Christ is a time for a bunch of normal guys to get to know each other and the life they are thinking about entering. And for the most part, that is what it was for me. We were just a bunch of normal guys from different backgrounds trying out what seemed to be a promising future as priests.
Now when you get a bunch of high school aged young men together during the summer, mischief is bound to happen. And it did. That’s normal.
There were a couple of guys in my group that were, you might say, more normal than others. In other words, they were pranksters.
One of the stunts planned at the dinner table and hatched while most everyone was snoring was to move a candidate’s old hospital bed, candidate intact, to a remote part of the building. Not an easy stunt, given the building was built on many different levels and stairs had to be surmounted. I took part in one of these. But no sooner did we cross a threshold with an abrupt bump, the candidate awoke and said, “Alright, brothers, bring me back”.
At one point these pranksters were able to wheel one candidate out and leave him in the lobby in front of the Chapel door where the novices found him as they made their way to morning prayers. Lots of fun.
But the major event of our candidacy was the attack on the Oaklawn kids.
At that time Oaklawn Academy was using part of the building in Cheshire while the campus in Edgerton, WI was being prepared. One of the candidates, Thomas, noticed the boys were filling water balloons in the bathroom and quickly surmised they were planning an attack on the candidates. Not true, or course, but he was able to convince the superiors. Actually, the superiors in a way encouraged our antics. After all, it was our last chance to be normal before entering the novitiate.
So, after getting all the necessary permissions, the boys were brought out to the steps outside the back of the building for a “group photo”. We candidates had strategically hidden water balloons, and ourselves, in the bushes and on the roof. We also filled garbage bins with water on the roof to douse the little guy with. On the signal, all hell broke loose.
It didn’t take long for the boys to find our stock of balloons and counter attack. All in all, it was great fun, and I’m sure everyone in our group remember this with fondness. Just a bunch of normal guys having normal fun before we weren’t able to be normal anymore without it being a grave sin.
Of course, none of us knew that some of the most enjoyable parts of our young lives were going to be stripped away. We were innocent and enthusiastic and willing to give ourselves wholeheartedly to serve God and Church, maybe to be like our favorite saint or the parish priest that inspired us. Just normal Joe’s.