Vow day with Stephen Noon SJ

POST BY TByron

Stephen Noon SJ kneels as he professes his first vows
Stephen Noon SJ kneels as he professes his first vows

It was 'vow day' last Saturday,  after two years as novices, a time of testing to see if God has called them to join the Society of Jesus, three men were invited by their provincials to take simple and perpetual public vows.  One of them, Stephen Noon entered the novitiate from the cut and thrust of Scottish politics. A member of the SNP, Stephen worked as an assistant to Alex Salmond and an architect of the 'Yes' campaign in the Scottish referendum.

Reflecting on the last two years as a Jesuit novice he admitted that it was quite a change of pace.  "At the beginning, I felt self-indulgent spending so much time praying and gardening, but I soon realised that keeping myself busy in the novitiate was a way to avoid facing up to deeper issues.  The novitiate kicks away your props.  The silence and the space is precious and now I have the ability to understand myself better."

We talked about the pace of modern life and how Ignatian spirituality had been a valuable tool for him to take control and understand a lot of those 'movements' that go on inside us that we so often ignore. This was a journey that began when Stephen attended a retreat organised by Nick King SJ and run by Gerry W Hughes SJ in Oxford. At the time he was immersed in politics, and it was a  transformational experience – and now he would like to dedicate his life to sharing that experience

"The prime reason I am taking vows is that this is a great place to be, the privilege of deepening on a daily basis your relationships with God and others is special."

Stephen's experience in the novitiate was an interior journey as well as an exterior one. He worked in a dynamic Jesuit media apostolate in Amsterdam – and the creative energy of the community life encouraged him to make the commitment. 

However, it was an urban pilgrimage in Dublin where he received the greatest confirmation on his radical decision to enter religious life.

"Politics, for me had become very shallow, too black and white.  I found that nuance has been lost and the possibility of a connection is also lost. So the Jesuit idea of “both, and...” offers much more hope for the future of our culture". His experience in Dublin, living without money on other people’s generosity lead to some unexpected and powerful connections. He recorded his experience online at Snsjblog.wordpress.com.   He found the daily reflection, the examen,  that Jesuits are trained to do, a very powerful tool, giving him the ability to recognise and journal, and create a track record – seeing growth and patterns.   This is something he would like to do more of, to “witness to this online, not preach, not polemicize.”

His advice to the new men entering the novitiate, " Give it everything, give it 100%, and when you feel like running away that’s when you need to push in harder."