‘Come, if serving Christ is at the very centre of your life.
Come, if you have broad and sufficiently strong shoulders.
Come, if you have an open spirit, a reasonably open mind and a heart larger than the world. Come, if you know how to tell a joke and can laugh with others and on occasions you can laugh at yourself.’
Vocation comes from a Latin word meaning “calling” or “voice.” Every single person in the world is called personally by God to love, reverence and serve Him. Each person can discover their calling through prayer and discernment.
Hearing and understanding the call of God’s voice requires distinguishing it from the background noise and from the other voices seeking your attention. This process of discernment - discerning the movement of God’s Spirit in your desires, thoughts, moods and feelings - helps you recognise how God speaks to you through the experiences of your everyday life.
For nearly 500 years, Jesuits have taken up Christ’s challenge to serve a world in need for the greater glory of God and the help of souls.
Jesuits are a religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. At the end of a two-year novitiate period, they take three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty, to share the life of the poor, chastity, to be Christ-like men for others in friendship with all, and obedience, to respond to the call of Christ and so be available to be sent in celibacy to wherever the need is greatest.
After the Novitiate, men called to be Jesuit brothers follow a flexible programme of formation, tailored to maximise their natural gifts. It may involve some form of special studies or skills training and be rooted in a particular work or aspect of the Society’s mission.
Men called to serve as Jesuit priests become known as scholastics after they profess their first vows at the end of the novitiate and move into studies of philosophy and theology, essential components of ordained, priestly ministry in the Church.
An important and distinctive feature of Jesuit formation for both scholastics and brothers is a two-year regency period. For scholastics, this comes between academic studies of philosophy and theology. It entails the individual working pastorally full-time in a Jesuit ministry, further developing his strengths and gifts and deepening his discernment about God’s invitation to follow him as a Jesuit priest or brother. Regencies are wide-ranging in scope and span the diversity of Jesuit works: teaching in a Jesuit school, offering pastoral support in a university chaplaincy or Jesuit parish, accompanying destitute refugees and migrants with the Jesuit Refugee Service in London (or overseas) or helping to bring St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises to people through retreats and workshops at a Jesuit Spirituality Centre or online.
For Jesuits priests, the training, study and spiritual preparation before ordination can take around ten years. Jesuit brothers are usually in active ministry after about five or six years. Both remain in ‘formation’ however until, at a point discerned by the provincial and the individual Jesuit, a short period known as tertianship is undertaken. This ‘school of the heart’ prepares the man for final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and so to become full members of the Society of Jesus, as priests and brothers. At this point, some priests are invited to take a fourth vow of obedience to the Pope for the Church’s mission wherever the need is greatest.
The history of the Jesuits is a history of mission! Unlike diocesan priests, Jesuit priests are not ordained to a particular geographic area to serve a local church under a bishop. Jesuits - priests and brothers - can be sent all over the world and this is still something that makes the life of a Jesuit relatively unique. Jesuits are sent to where the needs are greatest and in particular to the frontiers where faith and culture meet, where peoples of different faiths and no faith encounter one another. Because of this, most Jesuit priests live very varied lives, ministering in many different places and ways in their lifetime.
If you would like to explore becoming a Jesuit priest or brother, our Province Vocations Promoter, Fr James Conway SJ would love to talk to you! You can get in touch with him here.
Since I was a teenager I’ve had one question that wouldn’t let me go: What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with my life?
There were so many options out there; I felt I could do any of them, but each would take commitment and exclude others, and I didn’t want to commit to something I wasn’t sure of. I looked, but there was nowhere I could find, and no one I could find to give me, a satisfactory answer.
So, I tried my own thing. I remember when I was seventeen I wrote a list of the things I wanted to do before I was thirty. It included things like: become a professional skier, be fluent in at least seven languages, and write award-winning poetry. A kind of cross between Leonardo da Vinci and James Bond. That didn’t really work out for me.
When I left university, I tried doing research on famines, mostly in Africa. It was interesting, but it didn’t engage all of me, didn’t go deep enough. So, I tried working on conflict analysis and almost got myself killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As I was reflecting after that, I found myself looking up the hierarchy at my boss’s boss in Oxfam who I was working for and my friends’ bosses in the UN. I realised that that wasn’t where I wanted to be in ten years time.
This searching went on for a decade until I just couldn’t do it anymore. I woke up one morning and realised I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I’d built a protective armour around myself and now I couldn’t crack it. All the things on that list, I realised, were designed so that I didn’t have to be vulnerable. And now I was stuck, alienated from my own softness.
So, I went on retreat to a monastery, and the armour started to fall away. I cried. I cried a lot. All the tears that had built up now wouldn’t stop.
In the midst of all this God surprised me. Something opened up inside me much more deeply than before, and in one moment I knew that who I most deeply wanted to be was a Jesuit priest. I could turn away and keep searching, but I knew with all of myself that if I didn’t follow this path I would always have questions and never be fully happy. I hadn’t met any Jesuits at that point, just read a couple of books, so I turned up at a Jesuit house, a bit like a stray dog, and told my story to the first Jesuit I met.
Gradually, very gradually, I realised I’d found an answer to my question, and a spirituality that encouraged me to ask it even more deeply. What do I most want to do with my life? It was the beginning of a journey that’s helped me to meet the God who’s been with me all along and is waiting for me to realise it. Because that’s what God is like, waiting to welcome us home to ourselves. The one who’s been with us all along, who’s not concerned about the list of things we ‘should’ do, but who gently calls each one of us to a fuller and deeper life.