Johnson K, NSJ
Every year at the Dhyan Ashram novitiate, the Jesuit novices take their first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on June 21, the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga. We offer these vows to God and promise to enter the Society of Jesus and spend our whole lives in it. Two of my fellow novices, Rakesh Mondol and Vijaya Raju, pronounced their first vows last June. It was a day of great joy for all of us at Dhyan Ashram.
That morning all of us were busy arranging and decorating the chapel with flowers and garlands. The vows ceremony was in the evening. But there was a feeling of celebration all around already from the morning. I was really joyful to welcome our guests and to see them walking around in the campus.
The main celebrant for the Holy Eucharist was our Provincial, Fr Jeyaraj Velusamy. He was accompanied at the altar by the director of novices, Fr Jerome Francis, and the dean of Juniors, Fr Maria Joseph. Rakesh and Vijay looked so peaceful and happy. I think there was a little bit of halo around there heads that evening. It was a sight to see them entering the chapel in spotless white kurta-pyjamas with a red rose pinned near their hearts.
While many religious pronounce the vows during or before the offertory, the Jesuits do it just before the communion, because, for St Ignatius Loyola, our Founder, the Eucharist is the total self-offering of Jesus to his Father and to us. During the communion, he shares his body and blood with us as a free gift. So the Jesuits make their self-offering, in the form of the vows, before the Eucharistic Jesus. There was a solemn silence as Rakesh and Vijay knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and pronounced their vows.
As I saw them taking vows, something stirred within me deeply, which made me all the more eager to offer my own life in an act of self-surrender to God, who chose me to be his servant. When my companions were reciting the vows formula, I started repeating it quietly in my heart. I felt a great consolation and joy within me, which, I believe, only God can give. I felt a little sad to think that I have to wait for another year to offer up my own life to God and to add those precious letters, SJ, to my name.
After the mass, we congratulated the new Jesuits with singing and dancing and many fraternal embraces. Later at the fellowship table, Rakesh and Vijay got a chance to share their sentiments of gratitude with the gathering. Our hearts were truly touched listening to them. The day was like a dream. Next June 21 can’t come too soon!