After a few rather static weeks in the house, I’ve noticed a shift in pace once again as we build to Christmas and the very different shape of novice life in the new year which will be focused on our experiments, including the spiritual exercises in January, our first ‘short experiment’ in February/March and then a likely pilgrimage in the early summer.
We’ve only been told this week where our short experiments will be. I’m going to be working in a hospice in the east end of London and living with a Jesuit community that has a good number of scholastics (the post-noviciate formation phase). The hospice is a large one, with an excellent reputation. I am almost certainly going to be working with the chaplaincy team there, so a very direct engagement with people in the final stage of their life. It is a type of work that is alien to me and also one that will push my boundaries. I am very much looking forward to the experience.
This week has also seen the visit of the Provincial of the British Province. Every year, as members of the Society, we make an account of conscience to our Provincial and this is my first one. The idea is that we are completely open with him about where we are in our spiritual journey, what is going on in our lives, how we are managing to live the vows (even though we have not yet made the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, we live them here in the noviciate).
One of the main purposes of this conversation is to give the Provincial a full and proper insight into us – our strengths and weaknesses – so that he can then mission us effectively in the future, that is, give us the right jobs to do. So, part of the conversation will also be about where we see ourselves contributing to the work of the Society in years to come.
I have a good number of thoughts about this, but am conscious that these are still very early days.
I’ve also realised, in preparing for my conversation, that I have a tendency to revert to my comfort zones, whereas I think part of my vocation is to do something more than I have been used to in the past. I am not looking to become a Jesuit to simply do the same work as before with a clerical collar on. As I was reflecting on what I would say, a phrase used recently by Pope Francis came to mind – he said we need to get our hands dirty to do the work of Christ effectively. Who knows what that means for me in the future, but it is both an exciting and daunting thought.
There are a few other highlights in the weeks running up to Christmas, including a short visit from my folks and a week’s trip to Catalonia to help out at a conference in Manresa (a foundational site for the Society). I hope to write a bit more about Manresa, from Manresa, next week. Both will provide a break from the norm, and add to the sense of a shift in pace and focus – indeed I might even say that it is all downhill now to the end of the year!