Reflections of a Former Novice

Today, we have a guest reflection by Gavin Murphy, an Irishman who left the novitiate eighteen months ago. 

Reflections of a Former Novice

by Gavin Murphy

So here I am about a year and a half after finishing my stint in the novitiate (which also lasted about a year and a half). The transition from the novitiate to the secular world has not been easy but I am now coming round to being okay with it.

I was an Irish Jesuit novice from September 2010 to March 2012.  At the time of entry I was pretty sure that I wanted to be a Jesuit. The novitiate was a place of seeing if this want was real or not. So with the backing of the Irish province I gave the novitiate a real go. Tom Layden, the Irish Provincial, thought that it would be a bit of an injustice if I wasn’t allowed to enter the novitiate after so many years of interest. I think he made a good choice.

I followed the novitiate routine religiously. One other Irish guy at the time said that I just kept being holy’ in the novitiate while others may have caved in earlier. I was one of five novices in my year and I was happy at the time to be part of it.

One of the first challenges I encountered was a sense of ‘home’. No matter how hard I tried I told my novice master repeatedly that I just didn’t get this sense. During my second year I made a great effort to feel at home by doing the dishes as well as cleaning up the tables nearly all of the time. I was confident that I was doing the right thing because I felt that the novitiate was running like clockwork in this respect.

Gavin as a novice (far left)

When I officially finished with the Jesuits on March 1st 2012, I felt a great sense of calm. Even though I was happy when entered the novitiate I was also glad to move on. Something of note is that it was through listening to my body (experiencing headaches and insomnia for four to five months) which enabled me to make the decision to leave. It took me about nine years to enter the Jesuits and about a year and a half to leave!

So what can I take from my time at the novitiate?

1)      A sense of trust: I learned to trust myself and others while at the novitiate. While living in close proximity to each other we were given the choice of building friendships and community. I’m glad to say that I have some good trusted Jesuit friends now.

2)      Eucharist: The mass was the centre of the day. Through daily participation in the mass I came to look at the bread and wine in a different way. I can’t say for certain that I am now totally sure about the real presence of Christ there but I was open-minded and I still take it seriously.

3)      Forgiveness: This was a real gem for me in the novitiate. I lived and worked with others closely and there were times when I reached pressure point. For the most part I was quite mature and handled times of tension well. However there were also times when I was too harsh on others. I gently transformed into a forgiving person and even now I’d rather break out into a smile than to frown, frown, frown.

4)      Contemplative in Action: Okay this is about the spiritual and the practical. My contemplative part has been highly developed at this point. I have an excellent eye for detail, great listening skills, and a heart to gently ponder. I’m still working on the action part. I think it just means that I need to get stuck in more at social situations as well as in my career. 

Gavin today

3 thoughts on “Reflections of a Former Novice

  1. Thankyou Gavin – this is a great reflection – which also shows that religious formation is a powerful process that is also totally free. There is nothing ‘cultish’ about religious life, and the Society of Jesus is incredibly generous in the resources that it puts into formation (wise men and women as well as money!)

  2. spiritual assault often equates to headaches, nausea etc., it is a pity the adversaries won this time? do consider joining CLC in the future, your experiences may help.

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