Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ten years on.

I entered the Society of Jesus ten years ago today, on Saturday, August 21, 2004. As I noted in a post published last year on this date, much has changed over the last decade. I entered the novitiate in a class of fourteen, six of whom are still Jesuits today. Pope John Paul II still reigned as Supreme Pontiff when I entered the novitiate, the only pope that I and a majority of my novitiate classmates had ever known. Ten years ago, I would not have believed that Joseph Ratzinger would succeed Karol Wojtyła as pope - and if anyone had told me then that the pope who would follow Benedict XVI would be a Jesuit, I would have scoffed at the suggestion and offered various arguments seeking to explain why it would never happen.

As I wrote last year, the reasons that led me to become a Jesuit and the reasons why I remain one are essentially the same. I entered the Society of Jesus largely thanks to the example of particular Jesuits whom I knew as teachers and scholars as well as priests, men who impressed upon me the sense that this motley yet cosmopolitan group of "learned priests" was worth joining. Some of the Jesuits who did the most to inspire my vocation have gone home to God, as Father Tom King did five years ago, while others, like Father Jim Schall, are now retired from the classroom. I am grateful for those Jesuits, living and deceased, who helped to bring me into the Society, but on this tenth anniversary of my entrance into the novitiate I am just as grateful for my friends and companions in formation who give me hope and confidence that the future of this enterprise is in good hands.

The photo that illustrates this post merits an explanation; this is the chapel at my old novitiate, Loyola House, as it appeared while I was a novice. Bright and airy if also austere and rather plain, the chapel at Loyola House has a special place in my heart owing to its role in my novitiate experience; this is where I first learned how to pray the Divine Office, initially struggling to figure out the organization of the breviary, and this is where I preached for the first time in the form of practice homilies that all of the novices were required to periodically deliver during Mass. Many times in that chapel my classmates and I attended morning Mass celebrated by Father Walt Farrell; the early hour was less than kind for night owls like me, but Walt's quietly dignified way of saying Mass and his invariably excellent (and often impressively concise) homilies made a lasting impression. These memories are bit more poignant now that Loyola House is no longer a Jesuit novitiate: the building is currently occupied by an interfaith peace organization, and I don't know what has become of the old chapel furnishings such as the altar, tabernacle, and crucifix. I recently heard that the old novitiate is also being used for Sunday services by a Detroit-area Quaker meeting, so the building is once again a place of worship even though it is no longer a Jesuit residence.

As I did in my ninth-anniversary post last year, I would like to round off this post with an appropriate verse from the psalms. Psalm 119:116 is used in the Benedictine rite of monastic profession, and I think that it speaks to my Jesuit vocation equally well: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam; et non confundas me ab expectatione mea. "Receive me, O Lord, according to your word, and I shall live; and let me not be confounded in my hope." AMDG.


At 8/21/2014 2:45 PM, Anonymous John O'Brien, SJ said...

Thanks for this reflection, Joseph. I remember praying in that chapel on our way to Denver for history month - we spent a night at the Berkeley novitiate. The entrance date for my year in Montreal was Aug 23. This inspires me to write a similar deo gratias.

- John O.

At 8/21/2014 10:45 PM, Blogger Lynda said...

Congratulations on this 10th anniversary. It is important to celebrate such milestones as they are opportunities to reflect and to give thanks. Blessings and prayers as you continue on this journey that God has laid out for you.


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