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.