In the midst of the ordinary novitiate timetable, we have been looking into the vow of obedience.
Obedience is seemingly what Jesuits are famous for; it is what sets us apart from other orders at least in terms of vows. I find obedience to be an interesting concept to Jesuits, particularly as we seem to be famous for it, because for a Jesuit discernment is extremely important if we are to be authentic to our Ignatian roots. It strikes me that someone who works for a large multinational is living a far more radical, almost draconian obedience than us, for example there seems to be very little choice if one has to move to take up a position elsewhere, whereas for Jesuits, at least so we are told, there will always be a gentle time of decision-making. So we started the conferences on obedience yesterday where Paul gave a surmise of his personal experience with the vow, including a story where during outdoor works in the novitiate he had to replant a Privet bush 3 times! Outdoor works, it seems, is a timeless bane of the life of the Jesuit novice, but something that has to be endured at the very least to maintain our reputation for obedience, I hasten to add.
At this time the Jewish community in Birmingham is celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year. This morning we visited the Birmingham Central Synagogue to hear a lecture by Rabbi Shalom Hammer to mark the start of the new year. He was talking about the Jewish approach to penitence in light of Rosh Hashanah, the 10 days of penance and Yom Kippur. I think we were all struck by his strength of conviction and the way in which he presented his faith to us as a group. He spoke of the Jewish way of praying three times a day, all of which are a looking back upon the time just gone seeing where God has been at work; something our beloved Ignatius would be proud of, perhaps the examen was not as original as we thought, God forbid. The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks was
describing recently in a television address to mark the new year how important faith and religion is to society and humanity in its intrinsic nature, and certainly this is something that we as Jesuits should espouse, and it is only by attending such interfaith events that we can understand the importance of faith in the wider context.