The novices who were on experiment in England have returned – the Irish contingent is due to return on Saturday while three of us set out on the Northern Cross pilgrimage (http://www.northerncross.co.uk/). I have really welcomed the opportunity to have a few days at a slower pace. We have started reflecting on the experiments and sharing about them. As always it is clear that we had very different experiences; the activities were different but the way we reacted to them was also different.
I was really touched by the warmth of the farewells I experienced when I left the Catholic Worker last week. Listening to others sharing it was difficult for some to leave relationships that have formed over the period of the experiments. Over the weekend we said another farewell with a mixture of emotions. We knew that Gavin had decided to leave and he returned to collect his things. The decision was not easy and it can’t have been easy to come and see us again, but I am really glad that he came at this time so that we could have some time to say goodbye. On the one hand I feel sad at losing a companion for the last eighteen months, especially with whom I painted the library and went to Oxford last July. On the other hand we come to the novitiate to test our vocation, the implication being that sometimes the result is finding that this is not your vocation. The novitiate is doing its job when some people decide to leave and hopefully in the long run the experience will not just be an elimination of one vocation, as important as that is, but a valuable experience in itself and perhaps one that positively influences his life. Thus far I still feel that my vocation is in the Society of Jesus and so I continue to make this journey as generously as I can; it seems that “the Holy Spirit who moves them is offering them so much grace that with his aid they have hope of bearing the weight of this vocation” (Formula of the Institute #4). One of my reflections after the experiment is that I need to pay more attention to the graces the Holy Spirit offers and rely less on my own resources or lack thereof.
For six weeks we have a couple of Slovakian novices with us – doing an experiment to learn about the international Society and life in another country. They joined two of our novices for the end of their experiments and will be with us until the week after Easter. I can only imagine how demanding the experiment is just to be in a place with a different language and culture, let alone challenging apostolates. They seem to be coping well with the challenges.
I am looking forward to the cross walk – hopefully the sunny weather persists next week and my feet go the distance – particularly since I have not been to Lindisfarne (http://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/), our destination and other ancient Christian sites including Melrose Abbey.