Looking back with gratitude

Today is the feast of St Stanislaus, a Jesuit novice who died in 1568, and is regarded as the patron saint of novices by many congregations. So it's a good day to pray for our novices, here in England-Wales (and include a soon-to-be novice in the prayer) and throughout the world; and to look back in gratitude on my own novitiate, almost twenty years ago.

Our Constitutions describe the novitiate as the time for the novices to ponder in faith the call received, and to prepare for the first religious commitment. That is a very simple summing up of a time which, for me was rich in grace and growth, filled with ups and downs and plenty of opportunities to deepen my relationship with God. Yes, there were the "downs" - the bad days and uncomfortable truths - but they were more than balanced by the "ups" - the growth and self-discovery and, central to all this, beginning the journey into the Heart of Jesus which has become the fundament of my life and being.

There are no road-maps for the novitiate; the process is different for each one, because each one is unique, with her own personality, background, gifts and limitations. Each one brings her self and her own story to this process, along with her hopes, fears, uncertainties, desires and expectations. So what I look back on is my own experience, of a time in which I gradually came to understand the grace of my vocation, and God's unbelievably wondrous choice and call, which led to my first vowed commitment. And for all this and more I give thanks.