The Troubles with tour guides

The visit of the tertians to Belfast involved meeting with Jesuits working in Northern Ireland and in taking some time in the city. The tours of the Shankhill and Falls Road areas are guided by people from the local communities, sometimes by former paramilitaries. Three levels of impenetrability made it difficult for some of the tertians to understand what was being presented; Irish history – always a complex subject – was not made easier by strong Belfast accents and rapid-fire English. It was interesting to see how Celtic myths had been reworked to validate history on the gables in the Shankill and how recent history, as presented along the Falls Road, moves steadily towards the realm of myth. The Titanic exhibition in the dramatic new building was fascinating in its presentation. There was some discussion of how it was able to submerge the personal suffering and loss of life by focusing instead on the context of the ship’s building in Belfast. Saturday allowed time for the journey home by direct or circuitous routes, with different groups taking in scenic and historical places.

Friends in the Lord

Ignatius of Loyola used the expression “ friends in the Lord” to describe the relationship members of the Society of Jesus have to one another. Something of the meaning of this expression has come to new life as the tertians continue to share their experiences, to engage in study and reflection and begin to look to the missions they will take up or resume in the coming months. The week began with the sharing of reflections on the previous week, hearing from each person in turn. The discussions which followed addressed the topic of poverty and continued to look at the Jesuit constitutions.

Friday’s two sessions were collaboratively presented by David Ford and Micheál Ó Siadhail. The theologian and poet have been friends since meeting in Trinity College And have remained in close contact since. Their presentation evidenced an interplay of inspirations and demonstrated our friendship affirms, challenges and enables the expression of truth. They began by highlighting the importance of gratitude, indicating the influence of teachers and mentors and then went on to consider how friendship enriches life.

Using the lens of friendship, David Ford spoke about interfaith dialogue as representing an invitation to have daring friendships – ones which do not necessarily involve agreeing with people. “We need to be open to fundamental surprises of who God wants us to relate to,” he said. David described Scriptural Reasoning, talking about his engagement with this emerging discipline.

Micheál  offered perspectives on the themes that he and David had chosen  by  offering a selection from his extensive work, introducing and reading some poems to which responses were also invited.


Micheál Ó Siadhail introduces and reads his poem never which is taken from his 2002 collection, The Gossamer Wall: Poems in Witness to the Holocaust (Bloodaxe Books).

Interfaith dialogue

Using the lens of friendship, David Ford speaks about interfaith dialogue as representing an invitation to have ‘daring friendships’ which do not necessarily involve agreeing with people. “We need to be open to fundamental surprises of who God wants us to relate to,” he says and goes on to describe some personal insights from his experience of Scriptural Reasoning.

The disciples returned…

The tertians resumed life in Dublin during Easter week. There were many stories to tell as the twelve returned from the various assignments with which they had been occupied since January. Time was taken during the week to reflect on these experiences as each person described how his expectations and hopes had been realised and offered an insight into his personal reactions. The comparisons and contrasts helped the tertians to recognise how the Spiritual Exercises are lived out in diverse situations.

Sent to serve

Every Tertian has had a range of pastoral experiences during his earlier Jesuit formation. Tertianship allows further exploration of his adaptability and aptitude for different kinds of work. This help him to test his apostolic availability, the better to know how he might offer the fullest service to the Lord.

The Tertians left Dublin during this week for their placements – “Experiments” – and are now settling in to different surroundings in Israel, Armenia, Italy, Malta, England, Scotland, Algeria, the United States and Ireland. They will work in different settings ranging from interreligious dialogue, pastoral care, directing retreats, chaplaincy, and assisting people who are sick, seeking asylum, homeless or migrants.

The map shows the places the Tertians come from (upper rows) and the places to which they have been sent (lower group of 11 locations).