Having now experienced over a full year in the Novitiate, I thought it might be useful to share what I have learned in the form of some useful survival tips! It is important to note that these are only one person’s reflections, and do not represent the community as a whole.
1) Live in the present:
Two years can seem like a very long time to figure out if Jesuit life is for you or not. Instead of viewing the Novitiate as a prison sentence, it is better to trust the decision that you made, accept your situation, and live each day as it comes. With the right attitude, I have found myself even enjoying the small things of everyday life, such as cleaning the toilets or weeding in the garden! Live in the simple trust that you are growing as a person, and that will receive greater clarity in the way of life that is meant for you.
2) From the head to the heart:
The road from the head to the heart is a long one indeed, and one which never truly ends. Instead of ‘doubting, analyzing, and rationalizing’ everything – try a different philosophy instead. I have found that ‘listening and noticing in all things’ and ‘pondering upon reflection’ enables me to use all my senses and gives me a great sense of heart.
3) Embrace the tension:
There are so many challenges in this way of life (or opportunities to grow!). It can be very easy to give up when the going gets tough but it gets you nowhere. For instance, instead of choosing to ignore someone who annoys you in the community– why not muster up a bit of courage and talk to the man! I have found that the greatest moments of personal growth have come from facing my challenges head on. So embrace the tensions that you feel every day, learn from your experiences, and notice yourself become more fully alive!
4) Make new friends:
There is no way that you can live this life on your own. Instead of seeing yourself as a single man crusade, try and experience what it is like to live in companionship with others. Jesuit community is constantly changing. With new faces arriving all the time, it can be very difficult to live this life unless you are constantly open to new friendships. So stop holding on to the past, be open to new people and new experiences, and enjoy the gifts that each new person brings into your life!
Without a growing commitment to your faith, you will find that this religious way of life is impossible. Your work will become shallow and uncreative, you will start pointing the finger and look for other ways of running away, and you will become dead inside. The man in charge of the Jesuits worldwide talks about ‘depth, creativity, and life in the spirit’. From my own experience, I’ve found that by being a prayerful man and by remaining fully open in heart and mind, I can maintain the energy, enthusiasm, and spirit that help keep the sense of adventure in my life!