An eye opener
Samborlang Nongkynrih, SJ - Kohima Region
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]
My first steps in Jesuit Life.
“Don’t you want to become a priest, son?” asked my dad. As a child, I innocently responded “YES.” However, as a teenager my life was in real contrast to this “Yes.” I failed to live even a normal Christian life. I did not put my best in my studies, so my performance in the final matriculation public exam was far from satisfactory; I expected that I would fail. The reputation of my family was at stake and this terrified me.
This fear left me with no other choice than to turn to God for a miracle, and it happened... I passed!
What next? I thought. I remembered what I had
answered my dad… A priest maybe. I had heard about the Jesuits and I thought
that, maybe, it could be the place for me. My family and relatives had heard
that the Jesuits go through a long formation and take many years to become
priests. And so, they discouraged me from joining the Jesuits. My mom, finally
but reluctantly, agreed. I still remember how she cried and, grief stricken, would
not talk to me when I left home. But my dad, on the other hand, encouraged me
to go ahead and to become a good Jesuit priest. He has been the source and
inspiration of my vocation. For the first time I would stay away from my
close-knit family web. I was like the proverbial frog getting out of the
I joined the Society of Jesus in 2018, beginning with the first stage of training, the “novitiate.” During the first year, the Society guides us in a one month Ignatian retreat, the Spiritual Exercises. The retreat really opened my closed eyes of narrow-mindedness and self-centeredness; it helped me to see more deeply the marvels of God in everything. Moreover, it taught me that my life is to love, praise, and revere God. This new approach to life definitely changed me and helped me to see God in all things. It also brought me to better perceive the significance of God’s creation and taught me to be more caring towards other creatures. More interestingly, the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), which came up a year later, also highlighted the priority for the care of our common home. They helped me to see God’s creation from his perspective and to integrate it in my daily life.
The Society also taught me to imbibe the spirit of the Magis, “More or Better.” I remember my novice master, Fr. Gregory, encouraging me, “You can do better Sam. We, Jesuits, always aim for the Magis. We have no room for mediocrity.” This spirit of magis has helped me to be more efficient in all the activities I do and makes my life more meaningful in my journey towards God.
In the novitiate, we also had special intensive
experiences. For instance, a “work experiment.” We had to work seven or more
long hours a day. This identified us with the poor, the neglected, the working
man, and enabled us to understand their struggles. It was tough at times,
toiling from morning till evening, on a frugal meal, just like any other
laborer. We also had the opportunity to serve the sick through the “hospital
experiment” with the Mother Teresa sisters. The second UAP (walking with the
poor, the outcasts, and those whose dignity has been violated) rightly took a
concrete visage through these experiments and therefore helped me integrate in
my personal life the love and respect for the poor.
The three perpetual vows, poverty, chastity, and obedience, set me free and enable me to serve in the mission of God wholeheartedly. For me, the vow of poverty in particular doesn’t restrict only to how much I have (be it materials, privileges, opportunities...) but is about what I do with what I have and about using them in as much as they help in achieving God’s will and not using them if they hinder or are not useful for the same.
After two years of novitiate training, I feel strong and firm spiritually in my vocation and can see the finger of God leading me on the right path. My second stage of formation thus continues now in the South Asia West zone juniorate, in Mumbai, India. Here I see God’s guiding hands more clearly through my superiors and confirm my vocation to the Society of Jesus. More importantly, the UAPs have helped me as a “junior” to focus my studies on the needs of the apostolate.
Now after the short span of three years in the
Society of Jesus, I look back at myself and, surprisingly, I see many new
things. Three years have transformed me and enabled me to look at the world and
the future in the Society of Jesus with the new eyes of optimism and hope. I am
grateful to God for bringing these transformations in my life.
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