Having spent a few bumpy years discerning a vocation to the Society of Jesus, I was finally determined to try to apply for entry. Speaking with Fr Matthew Power (the vocations director) I suggested that it might be helpful to stay with some other religious orders and broaden my experience of Church. Matthew was also aware that I would likely need something to support me through the last stages of my application – something to act as a counter to the doubts that have made my discernment a touch volatile! Matthew suggested that the Compass programme may meet both these needs to some degree.
After checking the Compass website I felt Fr Matthew was right to have suggested Compass – it sounded good! My visit to Worth, and Fr Luke, left me more excited but I was also fairly apprehensive. My discernment was still a white-knuckle-ride and I often felt I could lose my hold in a moment.
Joining Compass, I had two objectives: A broader experience of Church and support navigating the final stages of pre-application discernment. I’m still not sure what Church is – at least in its entirety – but I’m sure it’s more than I thought it might be and I am happily past the pre-application stage. Fr Matthew was spot on – I certainly needed something like Compass for the final push.
It will be hard for me to explain all I got from the Compass experience, as much of it impacted upon me at a level too deep for simple words to find easy comfort. Joining the monks of Worth Abbey for prayer has been a great privilege and I even gave myself the space to consider if I could be called to this form of religious life but the Jesuits had the edge – which is a shame as Worth is beautiful! The highlight of sharing in the religious life of Worth has to be Holy Week – this was a key moment for my understanding of the need for Worth and the place of the monastery in the Church.
Another understanding of Church was enhanced by the growing sense of community felt within the Compass group. It was a strengthening joy seeing the group serving each other and being supportive and basically loving. We all brought something different and all had very different approaches to faith. Yet despite these differences we all had the same agenda; to try and understand our life in the light of our shared faith in God. It was great to have fellow discerners, asking similar questions, to walk the road with. Though I would sometimes disagree with members of the group (that is another understanding of Church), it still felt right – that is to say that I have reasonably reconciled a need to question my faith with a need to live my faith.
Regarding the educational side of Compass; it is obvious that only an introduction to the themes covered could be provided (I suspect, for example, that the vows can probably only be truly understood by living them – hopefully I will find out). I was least satisfied by the weekend on Chastity but this is likely because it is the vow that most rattles my cage!
Without Compass I’m not sure that I would have found it in myself to actually make the application to the Society. Other things outside of Compass were also very significant but Worth added that extra touch, which I had to go back to each month, even when I felt at my most negative about religious life – a commitment that was rewarded as my deep attraction to religious life and Church was always shown to me as I arrived home.
I have, just this week, received Fr Provincial’s permission to enter the Novitiate this coming September. He has asked that I spend some time reflecting before giving my response. It seems that I will be under the care of the Novice Master come September!
Thank you Compass.