Adaptability and Humility
If you want to grow, you must be willing to stretch- unknown
Apologies for the lack of posts in the last two weeks, but since returning from our recent experiments/placements we have been kept busy. It was interesting catching up and reflecting and sharing on how very different our experiences were. We were all dispersed again for the Easter Triduum. Peter and I were helping with a family retreat at Stonyhurst College, Henry was back in Manchester at the student chaplaincy and parish, and Carlos was helping at the Loyola Hall retreat centre.
Many people ask me, and may be wondering from these posts, what the novitiate experiments are all about. They serve several purposes. Our last Superior General gave some guidelines on the purpose of the experiments. A few of the points are listed below:
(a) to verify someone’s vocation to the Society
(b) to facilitate a novice in gaining firsthand knowledge of the type of life
that awaits him as a Jesuit; its realistic and difficult moments with other
Jesuits and persons
(c) a practical living of the vows outside of the novitiate
(d) to show how a novice has made his own the Jesuit way of doing things
(e) to discover hidden apostolic abilities
(f) to have an experience contrary to personal tastes and likes
(g) to evaluate the motivation, maturity and ability to confront difficult
The experiments have been the highlight of the novitiate for me so far. The one from that list, which always jumps out at me, is having experiences contrary to personal tastes and likes. I often marvel at my journey so far and can see myself a bit like Abraham, in leaving country and family to embark on a new step in life. It has been a journey out of my comfort zone. The first thing which I had to learn was to adapt to a different climate and culture. On the experiments I find that I need to be extremely adaptable in what I do. A temptation is to change a situation into something which I can easily manage or that is familiar instead of simply adapting. Adapting for me involves putting aside my ego. It’s much easier to tell people “this is how I have always done it!”, or “this is the way we do it in my country/Church etc”, than to listen and go with their ideas. This brings the humility that I’ve gradually been learning into play. In some of the experiments my role is great, in some it is small and it’s in those moments I realise that even the simplest gesture or task is just as important as having huge responsibilities.
I’ve observed that it’s in the moments when sometimes I feel completely out of my depth that prove to be the most fruitful. The phrase “let go and let God” comes to the fore as a grace which I desire in those situations. A challenge also comes with how much to adapt, since I believe that I can’t just go into a situation with no personality of my own, but to be flexible. Pope Francis is I find a great example of this for me in the way he has embraced his new role as Pope and still remains a humble and listening person.
In total, we do six experiments over the course of the two years apart from our weekly apostolates. So far, I have done five of the six. My sense now is that they have given me a wide range of pastoral experiences. After doing the month-long Spiritual Exercises, working with the elderly, parish ministry, prison ministry, school chaplaincy, working with the homeless and a six-week pilgrimage I feel as if I’ve been exposed to more things than I would have normally done in my life before. If anyone asks me what I’ve learnt from the novitiate and the experiments so far, I can simply say that they have challenged and stretched me, and made me more adaptable and maybe a bit more humble.
Below is a link to a video of the popular song “The Summons” by John L. Bell & Graham Maule, copyright (c) 1987. It always speaks powerfully to me, and it may do the same for you. Give it a try! Have a Happy Eastertide!