Michael Holman SJ, Principal of Heythrop College
Michael Holman SJ

Michael Holman SJ

I joined the Jesuits in 1974 and looking back I can say I would not have wanted to live my life in any other way.

I was born and brought up in Wimbledon, in a large and lively Jesuit parish, and attended the Jesuit school, Wimbledon College. It was while in the sixth form that I decided to join the Society of Jesus. It was a trip to Lourdes which changed me. To be truthful, I disliked the place at first: there seemed to be so much commercialism. But then I met this woman on a stretcher at Lourdes train station, very sick and quite terrified. Five days later I met her again on her journey home. She was a different person. No, she had not been physically cured but she was at peace and at home with herself.

This experience opened my eyes. I remember looking down at the grotto area one day with a crowd of sick people and their helpers. It struck me then that nothing would make life more worth living than trying to put Jesus at the centre of my life, in the way all these pilgrims seemed to do in Lourdes, and in the process to do what I could to care for those who needed the Lord most, the sick and the marginalised above all. As time went on, the Jesuits seemed to me to embody this way of life best so I decided to join them and I've not regretted it. 

My training was long, almost 14 years.  But from the first a young Jesuit is part of this world-wide family of men. Our way of life teaches us to encounter Jesus in our prayer and in our celebration of the sacraments, certainly, but also in our everyday life: in one another, in the joys and sorrows of those around us, in the choices we make and in the issues we need to confront. This encounter with Jesus is something which transforms the ordinariness of life and makes it extraordinary. We can be “contemplatives in action”; life becomes a journey with Jesus, as Ignatius himself used to say.

Most of my life has been spent in education, firstly in secondary school and now in university.

Working with students gives us the opportunity to have a considerable positive impact on them and their families. I have seen many young people whose lives have been transformed by schools which put them at the centre and which in the process help them become men and women for others who put their talents at the service of those who need them most, the sick, the poor and the marginalised included.

My life has had its ups and downs, and like everyone I have made my fair share of mistakes. But, as Pope Francis reminds us, it's when we pick ourselves up and walk forward that we can encounter the mercy of Jesus coming to meet us. In this way, our discipleship, founded on greater gratitude, is lived at a much deeper level than before. We are able to help others in their troubles, and that always matters very much for any companion of Jesus today.