Luke Taylor SJ
Born near London, I was raised in St Andrews in Scotland. I come from a large Christian family who read the Scriptures and prayed together. As a result, I can’t remember a time when God was not there. God was as vast as the North Sea, and he had Dad’s voice and hands.
Between 2007 and 2014, I completed a doctorate in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. During that time, my quest for catholicity led me to the Catholic Church. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, the dogmas of the faith freed me. Here at last, it seemed to me, the wisdom scattered across tongues and centuries coalesced.
Desire drew me to the Church, but fears seized me on the threshold. A single rule from Ignatius’s rules for the discernment of spirits carried me across: never change in desolation a resolution made in consolation. I took Ignatius for my patron saint. I became Catholic. And, obscurely, I suspected that I was meant to be a Jesuit.
After graduation, I taught Renaissance literature at Baylor University in Texas for two years. I remain very grateful for this experience and to those colleagues. It was everything which I could have wished for. Yet that call – tiny, insistent, still, living – just would not go away, and eventually I made my application to the British Jesuits.
Those close to me – my family, former girlfriends and spiritual directors – know that it took me years of messy and often unedifying struggle to reach this point. As the song goes, “I fought the Lord, and the Lord won.” Through all this time, God has been very gentle with me. I wish that I had been more gentle with myself and with others.
In the novitiate, I enjoyed community life and the rhythms of daily prayer. I got to know and like many more Jesuits. The international outlook suited me. Yet I would have left without the experience of prayer in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagine a symphony of your life whose theme turns out to be Jesus Christ. No other experience has gone so deep for me.
The experiments (short ministry experiences) sent me where I would not have chosen to go. Working in a rundown Welsh town with a Catholic bishop, an Orthodox archimandrite and a Church of Wales vicar, with prisoners and the sick in Birmingham, with homeless people in Dublin, and with asylum seekers in London, with Amerindians in Guyana, and university students in Manchester – the unexpected gift in all of these places was solidarity. We belong to one another, far more than we often like to admit.
After taking first vows, the provincial missioned me to compile a report on lay-Jesuit collaboration in the British Province. To that end, I listening to the experience of almost a hundred lay partners in mission. Their generosity and gifts profoundly impressed me. After that I moved to Paris, where I’m preparing to study philosophy. It’s lovely to reintegrate some of my old loves – languages, literature and art – with this new and ongoing adventure.