New wine – Fresh skins (Luke 5:38)



Peter and Henry taking first vows.


The above line from St Luke’s gospel seems appropriate to sum up the start of another novitiate year at Manresa House, Birmingham. Four new 1st year novices Dominic, Rene, Robrecht and Steve joined the community on 6th September. The timing was apt, as the next day we witnessed Henry and Peter make their first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience something God willing we will do in two years. After a fitting celebration Henry and Peter left later that day to go to London and Toronto respectively. They now start formal studies in philosophy and are known as Jesuit scholastics. It is a mile stone for them after two years novitiate however, there are still at least 8 more years to go until priestly ordination – like a good wine it gets better with time. Unfortunately Joel was unable to join them in Birmingham. He made his vows in his native Guyana and is off to to study in London. We wish all three of them well and ask you to keep them in your prayers as they embark on this next stage of their Jesuit lives.


It is curious how the whole dynamic of a novitiate community can change from year to year as men leave and new ones join. The structure of a novice’s day remains fairly constant but it is the new novices who join Carlos (now the second year novice) and the resident priests who now have to find a way forward to call their own. New wine calls for fresh skins – we were told by our Novice Director.


I have appreciated these two weeks of introduction culminating in a 3 day silent retreat referred to as first probation. It is something St. Ignatius initiated for sensible reasons as in his day men would join the Society sometimes without knowing much about the Society. Nowadays we have more preparation in the form of a candidacy programme in which we visit various Jesuit communities and works, make a retreat and meet regularly with a Jesuit for spiritual guidance.


One of the things that I like about the community is the good range of ages of the priests, one for each generation from their thirties to eighties. They have been resident longer than us and we are told that they are picked deliberately so that we may see what it can be like to live as a Jesuit throughout a lifespan. At this stage us new guys are trying to settle in and adapt from the busy work and social lives we recently led to a new way of being. Now we live in community and work for the apostolate (jargon for working in diverse area of need in the city). We are learning to put the needs of the apostolate and our community first.


In these early days I would kindly ask for your prayers for the whole community here as we work out where God is calling us to labour in his vineyard. 




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