Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Please pardon if I speak of my own life for today, but I think that it might be of interest to the readers of these reflections. This January I travel to Nairobi, Kenya to begin the final stage of Jesuit formation, which we call tertianship. This period of Jesuit life lasts six months to a year, and occurs a few years after ordination to the priesthood. In my own case tertianship is taking place four and a half years after ordination to the priesthood.
The reason that this stage of formation comes from the root of ‘three’ is that it is like a third year of novitiate. Jesuits begin their religious life with two years of novitiate, after which they profess three simple, perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. During this time they undergo a combination of prayer, work, and study. Prayer: the 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; study: the Jesuit Constitutions; and work: a series of ‘experiments where a man works at different apostolic tasks.
Tertianship is like a third year of novitiate in that the Jesuit goes through the same regimens of prayer, work, and study before professing vows, this time solemn. Almost all Jesuits report that this second exposure to the journey of the Spiritual Exercises is a substantially more profound affair. The man has, of course fifteen or so more years of experience to bring to prayer. There is great wisdom in St Ignatius’s insight that in order to become a full member of the Society of Jesus, one must be tested in the crucible of the apostolic life–and tested we are. But what a great privilege to stop from work and devotee self to such a state of spiritual, religious, no personal advancement. If you yourself have not committed to finding time in your year to get away from the craziness of the world to find the Lord in a time of retreat, please do so. It is not a matter of obligation, but profound compulsion. You will be glad that you took the time to go away, because it is only there that you will meet the One who will direct the affairs of what comes after.
Please pray for me as I continue this journey.
December 9th, 2014