Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks here. Just before August, Carlos and I went to Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality centre in Rainhill, Liverpool for a 6 day retreat to take stock of the past year and get some quiet time to think and pray about the upcoming Vow Day on 7th September. I went into the retreat with one aim, merely to pray more. Out of everything, this is the most important thing for me and it is also the thing I am the worst at. Prayer is one of those things, for me, that I know makes a big difference in my life, the benefits I get from it was actually quite visible. The time to review my day, or week, or month, or (in this case) year is essential, because shows me where I need to improve and so can be seen in how I conduct myself for the rest of the day. All too often I know how important prayer is, and the amount of time needed for it, but for too many times, something comes up that takes me away from it, or causes me to postpone it. Thankfully, the retreat helped me put my prayer life back on track.
Immediately after the retreat finished, we went into the centre of Liverpool everyday for a week to help out with the Living Theology conference there. It was five days of talks, presentations and discussions on spirituality and issues about the Christian faith, shared between the Jesuit-staffed Church of St Francis Xavier and the next door campus of Liverpool Hope University. It was very good and very eye-opening. There were talks that were more practical, such as on how to pray more and more academic topics such as Christianity and Islam, which was very interesting and helped put a lot of potentially misleading things into perspective.
Last week, we had our fellow novices from the French-speaking novitiate in Lyons and the German-speaking novitiate in Nuremberg over for our annual meeting. Every year, we meet in one of these novitiates, last year’s was in Lyons and next year’s will be in Nuremberg. There is also a theme to the presentations given in the mornings. Last year’s theme was to describe the Jesuit provinces or regions we came from, but this year we all had to prepare a presentation on a topic, such as vocations, the Year of Faith, the international nature of the Society of Jesus, and how we work in collaboration with other people, but show how a saint (Jesuit or otherwise) is a good model, inspiration or example to follow. Admittedly, when I first heard about the topics and the fact that we had to incorporate a saint into the presentation I wasn’t that enthusiastic about it. But, I have to say, I thought all of the topics worked out really well. The presentations were very unique, never boring and the discussions afterwards brought up some great perspectives from everyone involved.
Trips were arranged for everyone to see the local area. We went into the centre of Birmingham, visited Worcester, the Balti Triangle and Baddesley Clinton, where ‘priest holes’ – hiding places for Catholic priests during the Reformation – are on display. By the end of the whole event, we were all pretty tired, but very excited that everything went well, that we all got to know each a lot more and we all came away feeling much better for it.
Now we’re preparing for our two week villa (break) away in Barmouth on the west coast of Wales, starting on Saturday. Can’t wait.