Zimbabwean and East African Novices making their vows at the end of the novitiate– These young Jesuits (now known as 'scholastics') are currently studying at Chenai, India
This stage of formation focuses primarily on helping the novice to come to a deeper knowledge of God, of himself, and of the Society of Jesus. This is achieved through a number of different activities that constitute the highly structured daily timetable of the novitiate.
These include about two hours of individual and community prayer each day, as well as a weekly session of individual spiritual direction and helpful personal advice from the Novice Master.
The novice also learns, from the Novice Master, his assistant, and visiting teachers, about the history of the Society of Jesus, Scripture, important Jesuit and Church documents and decrees, and any other topics related to Jesuit life and work.
There is also time for reading about the history of the Society of Jesus, the lives of Jesuit and other saints of the Church, and other inspirational characters who have made an impact on the Church and the world.
Then there is time for mental relaxation through sports and working in the garden.
Central to the novitiate experience is the month-long retreat that each novice undergoes. This is a very special, silent retreat lasting 30 days, and split into four sections, with a day of rest and relaxation between each section.
During this retreat, the novice experiences the full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. As a fruit of his own conversion experience, St Ignatius developed a series of topics for meditation, contemplation and reflection. All these topics are based on Scripture, especially the gospel story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But in the midst of these are some very challenging special meditations, where Ignatius asks the individual to use his imagination, and to see and hear Jesus speaking personally to him.
During this retreat, the novice is invited to make his own the fundamental dynamic of St. Ignatius’ own conversion, and experience himself as unconditionally loved by God our Father, yet also a sinner, forgiven, and now called to be with Christ on mission. In the process of this retreat, and subequent novitiate experiences, the novice is tasked make use of St Ignatius' rules for the Discernment of Spirits, and so discover whether he is being called to become a Companion of Jesus in the Jesuit way of life.
(Novice during his hospital experience)
Two other important processes which happen during the two year novitiate, are when the novice is sent out for a month to experience life serving God's people. This may be a period of working in a hospital, or a home for the handicapped, or with the poor, with refugees, with the elderly, or some other context which will help the novice to discern whether the Jesuit way of life is really God's call for him.
At the end of these two years, should the novice be judged by the Novice Master as suitable to continue on the path of Jesuit formation, he is invited to profess simple perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus.