Philip Harrison SJ recalls life in the novitiate in Birmingham.
Life in the novitiate can be an intense experience bringing together people from very different walks of life and different cultures. All though share the same calling for service and that builds a depth of friendship which is unique. That was also the experience of Ignatius, Pierre Favre and Francis Xavier, the first Jesuits when they met as friends in Paris. Their difference of outlook provided a rich experience of community which we also experience today.
The rhythm of life in the novitiate is a carefully considered balance of work, prayer and recreation that forms us for mission. When not out on ‘experiment’ (the Jesuit word for pastoral placements) we spend time working in the garden and house, in sport, relaxation, study and spiritual reading. The novitiate also gives the freedom to undertake a personal project and work on areas of gift which could be anything from study to learning to play a musical instrument or learning to drive. Practically, when we are sent out on mission, we are formed in a way of life that is suitable and sustains us in the work that we do.
In order to be able to play our own role in the world, Jesuits need to develop a strong reflective capacity and an emotional maturity and much of the time in the novitiate is spent reflecting on our experience and in study. Spiritual direction also forms an essential element of the life we lead growing in a capacity for discernment. So that our prayer never becomes something cut off from the world, we spend time on Sundays working in parishes and one day a week of social ministry, working for example with refugees, homeless or the elderly. These experiences provide food for our prayer and enable us to become more responsive to the action of the spirit in our lives.
The heart of each day though is in the Eucharist and personal prayer. It is there that we discover and deepen a relationship with God. It is ultimately that which guides us in life within and outside the novitiate. We learn to trust in the God who provides for us and learn the discernment we need to be effective in carrying out his work in places where there is great need.
Tags:Novitiate, Novices, Jesuit formation, Joining, Jesuit Life