The First Vows

February 20, 2023

The First Vows, a film about a young man committing himself to Jesus

Blog by Br Mikhael Ahmad SJ

I could not help but reflect on the last two years and all that the Lord had done for me. At first, committing myself to God and to the Society of Jesus seemed like an ominous mountain looming overhead. It was in fact Jesus who then used this image in my time of prayer to help me see and gain a better perspective of what was going on.

I realised that saying yes to God and to the Society was going to certainly be a life changing event. However, it was Jesus who was leading the way. He was in front of me, climbing the same rock face, having prepared all the tools and equipment needed for the journey. It is he who was instructing me where to place my hands and feet as we climbed together, in relationship. I would like to add that he did this always joyfully, peacefully and with a great sense of humour!

I can often become so absolutely fixed on the fear and anxiety of a major event, transition, or challenge to be undertaken. It is in these times that I have had to learn and listen to what God is actually asking of me. To keep my gaze firmly fixed on him and to place my hands in his, in trust. If I was to try and summarise my journey through the novitiate so far with the Lord, it would be this: trying to keep my focus on the one who leads the way and trust as a small child does when stepping into the unknown.

I was greatly touched and struck by the generosity and love shown by my Jesuit companions, friends and family. Seeing everyone come together and share with each other was a wonderful experience. It was also for me an example of how at times God is absolutely in control.

To say that I was somewhat nervous as I approached the sanctuary when it came time to take my vows may be a slight understatement. My knees were shaking, my palms were sweating, and my mind was racing as I knelt down and received the vow formulae I was to profess. It is on reflection that I can see how God had his hand on my shoulder repeating the consoling words he expressed to me during the thirty-day Spiritual Exercises: “You are mine, don’t worry, I’ve got this”.

I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy throughout the day, and for the new chapter beginning in my journey with God. Though if I can be honest, I realised at that time it was going to take a while to comprehend really all that had happened!

I departed for my new community in Paris shortly after the vow ceremony. It was quite surreal having been among my companions, friends, and family one moment, to then be driving through Paris at night so close to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. I remember thinking back to where I was just over two years previously - living and working in a small market town in North West England. Could I have ever imagined that my circumstances would change so much? Surely not, but we must remember that we do have a generous God who is full of surprises!

It was when I arrived in my new community and put my bags down in my room that everything suddenly stopped, and everything became very still and quiet. I was comforted to know that this experience will have been all too familiar to many Jesuits throughout history. I quickly realised that moving from the novitiate to my next stage of formation was going to be quite a transition. However, I could also clearly see how my experiences of community life, the experiments and apostolates over the last two years were invaluable to my way of proceeding now. They have given me a strong foundation to walk upon in these early days, especially as I begin to ask myself: “How do I live this life and vocation well?”.

At the time of writing this, I have been in Paris for just over five weeks, and I certainly feel somewhat more settled in my surroundings. I am currently taking French classes with the intention of beginning theology the following year. It goes without saying that there have been serious challenges but living in community is such a gift and blessing.

Part of living this Jesuit vocation is alongside companions who help to support you, and you them. As well as this I see that I need to spend time contemplating the vows that I have professed and try to live to. They in themselves are gifts that create a space to deepen my relationship with others but also with the Lord. They are, each of them, a source of stability and freedom to be creative in my vocation, to help things grow rather than hinder.

With that, I look ahead with joy to my future in the Society of Jesus. Ever calling to mind the need to keep my gaze fixed on the Lord who reminds me to trust in him and place my hands in his.

If you are thinking about your place in the world, interested in exploring your vocation or calling, or want to know more about the Society of Jesus, please visit the vocations page on our website here.

Carols by Candlelight at Holy Name

December 14, 2022

Carols by Candlelight is a hallmark Christmas celebration in the city of Manchester.

Mary Bailey is presented with the Campion Medal

June 4, 2022

Some people want to make the square mile around them better

The Conversion of St Ignatius of Loyola, with Father James Hanvey SJ

May 19, 2021

How did a vain Basque nobleman and soldier fixated on worldly glory become a Catholic saint?

Statement on safeguarding

December 16, 2022

The Jesuits in Britain take their Safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously.