Vow Day 2012- My Eighth Vow Day
On Saturday I celebrated my eighth Vow Day since becoming novice-master. Four men, who had completed their two-year novitiate, committed themselves to life-long poverty, chastity, and obedience. Will they make it? Will they still be living according to these vows, if they last that long, half a century from now? Who knows? What I do know, having worked closely with each of them over the last two years, is that each of them on Saturday freely committed himself to try, to give it his best shot. And he did that, not on the basis of some romantic idealism or wishful thinking, but having lived this way of life already for 24 months, thought about it, prayed about it, and tried to see as clearly as possible whether it was for him. Do his own particular gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses, fit him for Jesuit life? Does he experience, in living as a Jesuit, that energy, light and enthusiasm that are the signs of a genuine call from God? Not without struggles, each of the four, in taking vows on Saturday, publicly answered “Yes” to those questions. That is surely cause for celebration.
Celebration there certainly was. Christian, Mark, Janis and Geoff took their vows at our local parish church, surrounded by about 150 family, friends, and fellow-Jesuits. The British Provincial presided at the Mass, the new Provincial of Flanders and the Netherlands read the gospel, and the Irish Provincial preached. There followed a fine reception, back at the novitiate house, complete with the cutting of a cake (a recent addition to Vow Day tradition), and the taking of many photos. The next day, the four went their separate ways, to begin their first missions as vowed Jesuits. Janis returned to Lithuania, to prepare for studies in spirituality in Chicago next year. Mark left for Salamanca, where he will follow a course in philosophy. Geoff and Christian join two different communities in London, while working for degrees at the Jesuit-run Heythrop College.
I, meanwhile, continue working with the four current novices, three of whom will, God willing, be the stars of the show at my ninth Vow Day next September.
Paul Nicholson SJ