The novitiate begins with a period of about ten days, called First Probation, during which the prospective novices live in the novitiate
community and follow the novices’ timetable and read some foundational Jesuit documents. It was particularly important in the early days of the Society when candidates would have known less about the Society before coming. Our candidates have usually visited for at least a weekend and been recommended various things to read by the vocations director. However, the reality of novitiate life as experienced
in First Probation still sometimes makes a candidate realise that it has all been a big mistake and quit while they are ahead. A three day retreat (a triduum) completes First Probation and the second year novices take the opportunity to slow down and spend some extra time in prayer at the same time, which we were doing for the last few days.
Being mostly in silence and individually guided, I don’t know much about how it went for everyone else, although we did have an optional
sharing period each afternoon of the retreat, which gave me some idea. For some it was a looking back over the last year, or more specifically at the long, 30-day, retreat we did in January. I started looking at things that I’d noticed and was praying about recently. Under the guidance of the novice director – although he may not like to take much responsibility for where I ended up – I looked at things I may face in the future. A key text for me was “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, and the spirits of evil in the heavens.” (NJB Eph.6:12) This led me to consider the need to confront “principalities” and “ruling forces” and that this often means going through difficult times, but that I often shy away from this.
For a change of pace we will go for a walk and to visit Baddesley Clinton (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-baddesleyclinton)
which was a safe house for Jesuits in the sixteenth century – more “principalities” and “ruling forces”, although thankfully these days it is more
likely that we will be able to enjoy its beauty rather than hide for our lives.