Q: What’s the significance of Sevenhill for Jesuits?
Sevenhill has a very special place in the hearts of the Jesuits in Australia. It’s sort of our “hearth place”. The first Jesuits to come to Australia were Austrians, who arrived in 1848. Sevenhill was the very first place they settled, about two hours north of Adelaide.
I think of Sevenhill as the house of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. Our ministry is built around the Exercises, giving people spiritual direction and silent directed retreats.
Q: How have you seen other people growing in their journey with the Lord through Ignatian Spirituality?
One of the most profound ways people find growth through the Spiritual Exercises, is a deepening of self-knowledge – that they are totally loved by God.
Increasingly that’s a very hard thing for a lot of people to come to today. We always carry some element of a more negative image of God in our mind. There can be a whole lot of causes for that. So one of the great things that comes out of the Spiritual Exercises for people is that overwhelming sense that God loves them. It’s one of the most profound insights that I think Ignatius came into.
The other thing people benefit from is a knowledge of the discernment of spirits – the ability to see the signs where God is working in my life, and the opposite, the signs where there are obstacles to my encounter with God in my day. It’s having an internal awareness of things that are moving me towards God – peace and joy and life – and the opposite, things that take me towards myself.
Q: What would you say to a young man who was thinking about religious life?
I often think back about my own experiences, that I probably waited a bit too long. I joined when I was 35. It takes courage to take that step. And I had some fears. Fears around sexuality were a big thing – can I be chaste? There was also the lack of confidence and maturity within myself to make a life commitment. It seems daunting and the bad spirit can play with that and make the fears much worse than they really are.
So if you find yourself thinking about something all the time, and you feel kind of excited at the idea of doing it, and there’s a sense that you know this is leading me to something more in life, it doesn’t hurt to give it a go. It’s not closing doors on other options, but you’re opening a door and if it’s the right place for you that will become very clear, very soon.
There’s no shame in giving it a go and deciding that’s not the path for me. But my advice would be that it’s important that a young man gives it a go. That’s probably the only way you’re going to find out whether you’ve got the vocation or not.
Q: What in Ignatian Spirituality are you finding helpful in life at the moment, particularly in these uncertain times?
I’m very lucky where I am because Sevenhill is such a beautiful place. I have cows on the property so I’m playing at being a farmer.
That’s been a very important way of offsetting what a lot of people are feeling in terms of isolation. And I guess for me it’s also grounded in my sense of Ignatian Spirituality – finding God in all things. Every situation we find ourselves in provides a means for encountering God.
You can find the full conversation with Fr Rob and learn more about the Jesuits at www.facebook.com/JesuitVocationsAustralia.Jump to next article