Have you ever stopped to consider your own story? You are a complex individual formed by experiences with your family, community, language, culture, faith, traditions, education, peer-group, and national identity… just to name a few of the elements.
Over the past two weeks, the tertians spent time reflecting on these points and sharing their stories. These narratives – first written in full detail and then summarized in group discussion – took more than two weeks of our time. Not only was it a long endeavour to put our thoughts on paper, but the sharing took the 11 men about an hour each.
In the end, it became clear that our personal histories define our present realities in many ways. Yet, as a group of Jesuits preparing to enter the 30-day retreat of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we are seeking to lay our entire selves before the Lord – both the good and the bad. A deep and serious reflection on our lives is therefore an important activity in preparation.
The actual date that we are beginning the Long Retreat of St. Ignatius – often called The Exercises – is this Thursday, 20 November. This essentially means that the tertians will be in total silence and out of touch until a few days before Christmas. We will pray very regularly as well as meet with a retreat director daily for the next month… and – as you might expect – we will take our meals and do our house jobs in silence.
We would be most grateful if you could pray for us throughout the retreat. It might be helpful if you could go to the About the Tertians page and pick one man to pray for in a particular way while keeping everyone generally in your prayers. We are all firm believers of the power of prayer, and we trust that you will remember us.
Of course, until the retreat begins, our life continues as normal. Over this past week, the evening dishes were washed by Tim and Stjepan. I have included an impromptu photo of these two so you might see them in (all their glorious dishwashing) action. Maybe – if you have a moment – you could also offer a prayer for them… Dish-duty is not a fun job, but it’s absolutely necessary.
In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, our beloved founder St. Ignatius of Loyola spoke about the need for various experiments over the course of a man’s formation. In the Novitiate, the first two years of Jesuit life, these experiments – or tests of character – involved ministering in hospitals; working for the good of the community in humble ways; and being sent on pilgrimage to beg for our daily bread.
In the tertianship program, we are also the subject of such experiments. As men who have spent many years in the Jesuits, we are given a final test of our characters by being sent out for three months of humble service. As such – come the first week of January – we will be going to places such as Russia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Eastern and Western Europe, as well as Africa. Each of us will have a specific task to do, such as working with refugees and the homeless or ministering in parishes and schools.
Whatever we are assigned to do, we are to give ourselves fully to the work as men who understand that the fundamental charism of a Jesuit is to be a sinner loved by Jesus who is sent on mission. To this end, we leave with zeal and we serve with great spiritual freedom.
The other night, while I was walking back to the tertianship community after watching a movie in downtown Dublin, I noticed the signpost that points to the various buildings on the property. One of them points directly to our tertianship house; it seemed to be a beacon for those of us who are being sent. You see, even though the respective ministries of St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius of Loyola separated them by great distances in the 16th century, they never forgot that they were united to each other as members of the same community and under the same Lord.
As such, while each of us is away doing the work we have been entrusted to do, we will know – on a deeply personal level – that we are not alone. Rather, we will be a community of brothers that has been sent. In time, when the experiments are concluded after Easter, we will follow the signpost to our one community again – no doubt like the 72 disciples sent by Jesus – rejoicing at the good works we have done in His name.
It is good to be a Jesuit; it is a joy to be here in Ireland on tertianship.