We have come to the end of a two-week long sharing in the tertianship. This is part of our remote preparation before we commence the Spiritual Exercises in November. The Exercises is the key experience in tertianship, something that every Jesuit experiences twice in their life, in their first year as novices and then many years later as tertians. Because of this we are having a two month long build up before we start them. I think this is very wise and also a great privilege. So listening to my eleven companions stories has been something I will treasure. It has been remarkable, and without breaking confidences, I would like to share a little bit of my reflections as we come to the end of this process.
St Ignatius, talks about the ‘union of hearts and minds’ as being an ideal for Jesuits. As anybody who knows Jesuits or works with them will know we are often as different as chalk and cheese. As a priest celebrating mass, when you look out at the congregation – it is remarkable to see how God has gathered such a different group of people together in one place. Mass is the only place, maybe, where bankers sit next to street cleaners, footballers next to teachers, politicians alongside criminals (actually maybe I need to rethink that last one!). At communion there is no distinction, saints and sinners, all coming before God. Surely this is proof that something unique has gathered us together. Jesuit communities are often the same, I find myself thinking – How the hell did I end up living with these guys in this place? With our hearts in union, Ignatius believes that even disagreeing with each other another, when when we have a similar understanding of life and truth, we will always listen with greater reverence and respond with greater respect. This is of course the ideal – it doesn’t always work!
Reflecting on my fellow tertians stories it is remarkable how we share similar themes. Whether we are working in Jamaica in a tough inner city
parish, East Africa leading retreats, Teaching high school kids in East Timor, Lecturing in California, Working with tribal people in Papa New Guinea, Building and managing parishes in Indonesia ( the largest Muslim Country in the World), Organising farmers in the Phillipines, accompanying immigrants in Korea and the US or simply being a chaplain in North London. There is a real union of hearts and minds when we come together. How? In our struggles and joys, in our loneliness as celibates but also a desire to serve. In the incredible trust that people show us and how the communities we serve open up all their doors to us and invite us into their centre. In falling in love with people and places – trying to live that with integrity – and then having to be obedient to our superiors when they call for us to uproot ourselves again for another mission. In trying to build up theKingdom of God on the frontiers – and sharing successes with humility but more importantly describing our failures with honesty, humour and a certain fragility.
I know they probably won’t read this but thanks gentlemen…… It has been a privelege listening to your stories (I am trying to encourage them to share this blog with me – but perhaps wisely no one has showed any interest…. yet!)….. to be continued….