Gratitude Magazine March 2015 Edition

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The Period of Jesuit Formation called Tertianship

When I was young, my parents would tell me to enter the shallow end of the swimming pool and proceed to walk into the deeper water—a way to get used to the water. As I did, I could feel the water overtake me. For us Jesuits, entering the novitiate and moving along in the testing and maturing of our vocation—candidacy being the first time of testing, the novitiate being the second, and “tertianship” being the “third”—is like entering the shallow end and proceeding into deeper and deeper water.

During the third testing time of tertianship, the experienced Jesuit might say to himself: “I’ve been in the Society’s waters for enough time; I now know it feels refreshing, consoling, reaffirming, and energizing. So, it’s time to walk into the very deepest end of the Society’s life and mission—letting its waters overtake me fully.”

Generally, tertianship is a time of renewal—lasting from five to eight months for men who have been in the Society for 15-20 years—when a Jesuit again studies the early documents of the Society’s history, founding, and development, plus our recent documents which contemporize our life and mission today.

During this renewal program held with other Jesuits in various international locations, in addition to the study component, the Jesuit makes again the Spiritual Exercises retreat of St. Ignatius, and engages in some ministry for a period of time. All these aspects of tertianship are meant to rekindle within the experienced Jesuit an ardent consolation indicative of a genuine “refoundation” of his religious and apostolic life.

Within a year’s time after the program, our Superior General will invite each tertian to pronounce his final vows in the Society. These final vows are more than a general offering of his life to God which took place at first vows. Though indeed still an offering, final vows are particularly an official “confirmation” of his Jesuit life by the Society itself—an endorsement of the man and a lasting commitment to him as one who has demonstrated over many years that the graces and virtues, the aptitude and capacity for our life and service of the Church have been both thoroughly tested and evident. It’s the Society’s warm welcome and incorporation of him into the body of our Jesuit community in a full canonical sense. He has walked into the deepest waters of the Society of Jesus, and has happily and fully surrendered to the Society and to God.

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