Brendan McManus SJ
I first came across the Jesuits in Sidney. I remember thinking at the time that it was like coming home. It felt like fitting in with a group of travellers and companions of Christ who were like me.
I became more and more attracted to their way of life, the nature of the people, their openness, generosity, reverence, gentleness and sincerity. In the same way the blind man must have been enormously attracted by the group of Jesus’ followers!
There was something very specific about the Jesuit way of life that appealed to me, it was Ignatian Spirituality, though I didn’t understand it as such at the time. I found it to be a very accessible, practical and personable way of proceeding. Based as it is on a experiential, incarnational mysticism (God in all things) I found myself relating to it with great ease and relief. I came to recognise how similar my story was to that of Ignatius’ own. The radical discovery he had made in his life, the trying out of different paths, the learning by experience and the intense searching and travelling.
As I began to understand how central God was to my sense of identity, how God made me and holds me in being, I came to a new appreciation of my skills and abilities. I came to value characteristics that I had previously denied or underrated: a great capacity for reflection, sensitivity, compassion, perceptiveness. Now I see these as important aspects of God’s plan for me. I also discovered an ability to adapt to people, situations, and cultures and with it came a need for change, travelling and exploring. Other worldly prized attributes that I had spent much time developing such as competitiveness, aggressiveness, maintaining, control and prestige I came to understand as not essential to my being or my future.
Community life means much to me: mutual support, the ability to be vulnerable and the healing effects of closeness. It’s something of a mystery and a grace. This became something that I knew I wanted to be part of and could contribute greatly to. My own gifts were essentially well suited to and in need of this type of lifestyle. Like the blind man I can’t go it alone, to prevent regressing I need to be with companions and the Jesuits represent what I would humbly be part of: controversy, serving God in the world’s needs, travellers, flexible and great; in two words: generous lovers.