We are out on the road – in my case it should be literal, a small road about halfway between Birmingham and Walsingham. Ignatius recalls in his autobiography that he made his journey to Paris “alone and on foot”. We, Joel and I, are making a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in Norfolk (http://www.walsingham.org.uk/) and then to Canterbury (http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history.html) and back to Birmingham on foot, but with a companion.
Chapter 4 of the General Examen, a pamphlet Ignatius prepared for candidates to tell them something about the Society and something of what they might expect if they joined, includes a mention of a pilgrimage undertaken in the novitiate “for love of God our Lord, in order to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging. Thus, too the candidate through abandoning all the reliance which he could have in money or other created things, may with genuine faith and intense love place his reliance entirely in his creator and Lord”. (I don’t know how easy it was to find when first released, I couldn’t find it online, instead I refer you to http://www.jesuitvocations.org.uk). My experience in the Jesuit communities that I have visited, “discomfort in food and lodging” is not a pressing requirement. Perhaps it will be an encouragement to pursue a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. Learning to rely entirely on God would be a wonderful effect, particularly if it extended beyond the duration of the pilgrimage. Doing it “for the love of God our Lord” has got me thinking and praying. In the general sense of why I came to the novitiate and this being a part of the novitiate experience I can affirm that. But more specifically, my main motivation started out as “the novice master told me to do it” or “all the novices do it”. Perhaps this is an encounter with obedience – the vow I hope to take in three months time. The first companions decided to vow obedience to one of them to allow them “to follow the will of God in all things with greater certainty”. I pray that I may be strengthened in my sense of responding to God and for God in this journey.
My first major challenge in “abandoning” my reliance on “created things” will have been to get out the door with a load I can lift. It has been said that some have gone on pilgrimage with less than I’ve taken on day walks. However, difficult it may have been, I assume that by the time you read this I will have managed sufficiently. I don’t like writing about something that has not happened; hopefully, it won’t have gone badly wrong or already ended before you read this.
Over the next six weeks I hope that you will hear from some of the other novices about their experiences.