So despite the consistent routine we have grown into over these past few months here at Manresa House, there is no ‘typical few days in the life of a Jesuit Novice’. The first week of Advent, a period where our society begin to be obsessed by counting days and time, seemed as good a time as any to write a blog outlining what a few days are like for a first-year British Province novice in the International Novitiate, Manresa House, Birmingham. I hope what follows gives an idea of the variety of social settings and opportunities for personal development we are being exposed to as our novitiate unfolds:
Sunday 29th November
Like many good Jesuits before me, I am imprisoned. OK, not quite, but I am in prison, helping a Jesuit priest say Mass in a local prison by distributing hymn books, helping with readings and, most rewardingly, chatting with men who find themselves in a vulnerable point in their life. Hopefully these conversations will somehow lead some towards rehabilitation and a change in lifestyle as they find themselves at a difficult crossroads in their lives. Such a brief entry does not do justice to how meaningful an experience this weekly parish placement is to me, I’ll return to the experience of working in a prison at a later date.
Sunday afternoon has a homely feel about it as I top-up on the warmth offered by both Martina and Collette’s fantastic Sunday Roast Dinners and by the weekly catch-up conversation I have with my family over the phone. The day is rounded-off perfectly with an intimate adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel.
Monday 30th November
Our conference today focused on the Complementary Norms of the Society’s Constitutions and was a lot more interesting than that title suggests. I found myself enlightened by an alternate approach to community life, seeing it as a mission in itself and not just as a ‘means to an end’, a ‘bolt-on’ to life in the Society.
This afternoon Patrick (a novice from the Irish Province) and I visited a local primary school attached to the parish he serves on Sundays. We spoke to two classes of children about our vocation stories and about Jesuit life. We also discussed Jesuit values and virtues with the school leadership team, organizing our next visit in which we will lead an ‘Examen’ prayer workshop with the staff in the hope that they can transmit the important skills of attentiveness to the Holy Spirit and discernment to their students in future.
Tuesday 1st December
This morning our conferences were paused as we hosted visitors from the Queen’s Foundation, an ecumenical charity that trains Anglican and Methodist ministers. It was interesting to compare and contrast our formation periods, as well as guiding them on a tour of our building and the random assortment of artifacts that seem to be a common feature of most Jesuit communities I have visited. It is the third tour of the house I have helped with recently and has contributed to the growth of a settled feeling that I am enjoying three months into novitiate life. I admit to already having a feeling of ‘house-proud-ness’ as we show visitors around and plagiarise the anecdotes we were once told on our first visits here.
After another session of outdoor works (I’m developing a disdain for deciduous trees after weeks of incessant raking!), I had my fortnightly session of spiritual direction with Brendan, our novice-master. This, like my experiences in the prison, is a topic to be expanded on in more depth and with the sensitivity it deserves in another post. So far I have found myself leaving such meetings re-energized and full of renewed enthusiasm for novitiate life and today was no exception.
Excitingly I found out that after making the Spiritual Exercises in January 2016, I will be spending the following weeks on placement at Jesuit Missions in London, working alongside the team there.
As it happens I am currently training to run the 2016 London Marathon to raise funds for Jesuit Missions so it should be a great way of developing a deeper understanding of how exactly the charity works, who, what and where I am running for. If you can spare two minutes, please have a look at my fundraising website, make a donation and share with your family and friends: www.virginmoneygiving.com/christopherbrolly