A Jesuit Brother’s loving journey into Catholic Spirituality. 
At the start of 2021, I was in Portland, Oregon doing what we Jesuits call Tertianship. It’s a 6-9 month stage of our formation that takes place before we take our final vows. During this time, we do the Spiritual exercises again, we take a few seminars on our Constitutions and history, and are involved with some field work. My version of it was cut short due to the pandemic, but it was just as impactful! For 4 months, I felt so deeply engaged by my Catholic faith, and by my Jesuit identity. Tertianship is nicknamed ‘the school of the heart’ because it helps us appropriate our identity as Jesuits a little more deeply. The influence it had on my life is quite significant.
The deepest shift in my spirituality during this time, has been learning to acknowledge the role of love in my vocation. I have always known how important it is to my journey. I did not become a Jesuit because I had a desire to read or study theology or because I had ambitions of being an academic. I did it because my heart, which is in profound union with Jesus, even when I’m not consciously aware of it, longed to love the world with the heart of Jesus.
I embraced this journey as a religious, because I genuinely want to care for the whole world more deeply and knew that the charism of this community could teach me how to do that. I knew all of this about myself. What Tertianship did was help me remember that ‘God’s infused love’ is essential to my spirituality.
Secondly, I gained confidence in my vocation as a Brother and in the gifts I bring to that journey. As a heart-centred, people-oriented person, it’s easy for me to slip into the background and let Scholastics and Priests spearhead ambitious projects as I quietly watch from the side. But during these months, I had a significant wake up call proclaiming to me that I was called to more with these sacred gifts God had given me. It all happened when we were reading Vatican II together, and I was reminded of the tension that existed back then between conflicting images of what the Church is/could be
On the one hand, there were many progressive voices in the Church dreaming of forming a loving community of faith that was more pastoral, engaged with the world around it, and deeply connected to her spiritual roots. On the other, the traditional image of the Church interested in creating a community that celebrates her values, traditions and rituals, and doesn’t engage as much with the world around it.
That tension is (sadly) still with us. I now understand that my response to that tension as a Brother, is to reflect more on the spiritual, pastoral dimension of the Church that engages the whole world with a loving perspective. My time in Portland connected me with a strong desire to explore the Church’s rich spiritual heritage, and to share my exploration with others.
Now you know why I’m writing this blog! In the end, I’m genuinely eager to engage a larger audience about how we can better integrate the spirituality and wisdom of our Church in everyday life. I want to do this work for 2 reasons: I want to counter the unloving (polarized) negativity coming from many voices in our Church these days by exploring the rich heritage this Church brings to the world; and, in this pandemic , I know the Church can have something to offer people in terms of spirituality. I know that we can envision a better world.
I long to be a voice that pushes that rich vision just a bit more everyday! May you find inspiration and deepen in your spirituality as we journey together in this blog series! In my next entry, I will speak of the spark of deeper love, and inspiration that are guiding this blog series.