To Downtown Sydney
The tertianship is in the suburb of Pymble. Nice suburb but definitely a suburb. In an hour (it is 8:30 AM Wednesday) five or six of us will hop the train for the 37 minute ride into downtown Sydney. It will be a short day as we are to be back by 6 PM for the formal beginning of the tertianship.
I celebrated community Mass on Saturday at 5:30 PM. Though prepared to preach on the Mass of the day (Saturday), because the Mass was at 5:30 we decided at the last minute to celebrate the vigil for Sunday. Several of the men were in the throes of jet lag and sleeping in on Sunday was an attractive option. It was one of the rare moments that I preached without notes or preparation. As I’d not yet read Sunday’s readings I heard them for the first time during Mass.
Saved by the psalm. The response to the psalm was, ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.’ The reading from Samuel which contains this phrase was one of the readings at our vow Mass in 1999. It is a nice bridge between these two parts of Jesuit life and has stayed with me for the past several days. It was the topic of the short homily which cannot be recreated below, but the thoughts are the same.
Beginning tertianship is like beginning novitiate without the fear and anxiety. The two who have been Jesuits for the shortest period of time entered 13 years ago. The uncertainty is absent. We know what we are doing, why we are doing it, and, at least in some vague sense, how we wish to do it for the rest of our lives.
The psalm response, ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will’ encapsulates our desires as tertians just as it stated our desires at the end of novitiate. No, we are not seeking God’s will as to whether or not we have a vocation to the Society. Rather, we are seeking how we will respond, live, and work as men in final vows, fully incorporated into the fabric of the Society of Jesus. We could not have prayed this way in the novitiate because we did not know the questions to say nothing of the answers. Now, however, it is different. We begin this period, an experience that resembles the structure of the novitiate. But, the experience will be compressed into seven months compared with the 24 we spent as novices. There will be anxieties but they will have a different content.
A few friends responded to questions about making the long retreat a second time as tertians with the unanimous opinion that it is different, gentler, and a deeper experience of the Exercises than it was as a first-year novice. But, as those of us in New England heard time and again from the men a year ahead of us in the novitiate, “You’ll understand after the long retreat” or, “You’ll understand after vows” we will understand only after we have finished tertianship.
As I shared these thoughts with the half dozen classmates who were already here (two more to arrive) I saw the preacher’s/teacher’s favorite sign: head nodding, especially when I noted the absence of the anxiety we felt on entry day.
Time to hit the shower, pack the camera, and head to the city. Photos in a day or two.