I will miss the sound of the laughing Kookaburras in my backyard here in Pymble, north of Sydney.
As the tertianship begins to draw to a finish, I am mindful of several fruits for which I am very grateful: friends, faith, freedom, and a deepened appreciation for St. Ignatius, spiritual father to many of us.
For starters, when you come to a new group, there is no telling how things are going to go, especially if the group is constituted by people of a great diversity of cultures and backgrounds. I am so grateful that the 12 of us got on so well and that we developed into a close knit and very functional community. Drawn from 7 different countries and of an age range spanning about 15 years, we managed to find more in common than not, and to truly enjoy one another's company. More than that, we became real 'friends in the Lord,' that is, people who not only enjoy close friendships, but who also are committed to a common purpose and mission. And in addition to my Jesuit brothers both here on tertianship and new Aussie Jesuit friends, Sarah, Michael & Emily, Nick & Min, Melina & Nick, Marty & Kerri, Tom, Matt, Anne Marie, Robina, and my diocesan priest friends from South Australia. What a gift international friendships are!
Then there is the grace of freedom from old illusions and fears, one of the real gifts of the long retreat. After really wrestling with God and my poor spiritual director, it became clear that I wasn't really trusting others, including God, to take care of me. I became aware that for whatever self-protective reason, I develope this notion that no one could take better care of me than myself... a sort of defensive self-sufficiency. While this might have been necessary at some point early in my life, to continue to live that way is actually a kind of death. As human beings, we are made to be in relationship, to love and be loved. It's only taken me 40 years to discover how I was blocking others, including God, by saying implicitly- "no thanks, I've got myself all taken care of." What a relief to be relieved of this burden!
And faith... my faith, a Catholic faith. In all honesty, I have been a bit hard on my own institutional religion over the years, seeing more of the Church's faults than appreciating its blessings. But meeting lots of regular folks who have lived for 70 and 80 years as faithful Catholics, seeing the beautiful ways that their faith has enriched and sustained their lives and how it has been far more of a blessing than a burden-- this has been a real gift for me. It may sound odd, but it is true.
And finally St. Ignatius of Loyola: a major part of our study in the tertianship involves a return to the basics of our Jesuit life, to exploration of Ignatius' autobiography and spiritual legacy, study of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, and of Jesuit history. I know that other religions orders have rich traditions and deep spiritualities as well (currently, I am reading a very good book by an Aussie Cistercian monk, Michael Casey), but I am so grateful that providence called me to this particular religious order at this very interesting crossroads in history.