Feast of the Immaculate Conception
As a first post it seems logical to explain why this blog and what it will be about.
I am a Jesuit priest, entered in 1997 and ordained in 2007, who is preparing to begin tertianship, the final stage of Jesuit formation prior to solemn vows, next month. While currently living in Washington, D.C. tertianship will take me to the other side of the world. Literally. Following a short visit in Taipei, Taiwan I will arrive In Sydney, Australia . After enduring a major snowstorm last December and the back-to-back blizzards in January 2010 here in D.C. the thought of stepping off a plane on 11 January into the Australian summer is consoling in the extreme. I decided to create this blog as a way of keeping in touch with friends, family and students via posts, occasional homilies and photos (lots of those), and sharing a unique experience. The blog will have a finite life. Tertianship begins on 20 January and ends on 19 August after which I will travel a bit through East Asia, including a return to Taipei, and stop off to visit my niece in San Francisco before returning to the East Coast.
Tertianship is a serious undertaking for a Jesuit. He has been in the Society at least 12 years and is now preparing for full incorporation into its fabric. It can best be described as novitiate in compressed form. Whereas novitiate demanded two full years tertianship will be seven months. We (there will be 13 tertians from all over the world in Sydney) will do the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (aka "the long retreat") again, will read or reread foundational documents of the Society (the Constitutions, the General Congregations), the history of the Society, and the autobiography of Ignatius among other readings. Conferences, prayer, and contemplation will fill much of each day.
For a few weeks we will give short retreats. One of the highlights of the tertianship is the experiment, a time of pastoral work in an underserved area of Australia. The exact nature of that work is discerned by the tertian in concert with the tertian master.
Am I excited? Extremely. At the moment I am going through my room in the SJ residence to turn it into a guest room. The next week will include moving books (way too many) and other objects to a storage bin in the basement, cleaning the desk, packing, and completing a number of other tasks that I've been delaying for a while (seeing the dentist). The thought of spending twenty of twenty-four hours in a plane traveling between D.C. and Taipei is daunting. I've been there twice in the past eight years but, in this case, prior experience does not make the anticipation of the travel any easier.
As preparation for spending half of a year in Australia two Australian Jesuits in the community as well as a friend suggested reading In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Great advice. The book, as is typical for Bryson, is both informative and hilarious. It was probably a mistake to begin reading it while returning on a plane from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to D.C. There is something about a man with his head down and shoulders shaking that is disconcerting to the other passengers.
It is getting late. I cannot see the top of the desk. Time to pray as this feast of the Blessed Mother comes to a close. Tomorrow? More cleaning, packing and hauling.