First of all, I am most sorry that it has taken this long to offer the following reflections. As wonderful as the past days have been, they have also been incredibly hectic. I am writing to you now from Chicago, where I am very happy to be. At a later point, I will describe my time here in Chicago, but without further ado, I want to offer some reflections on the vow weekend, both for those who were able to come and those were not. The weekend of vows truly was like the proverbial act of trying to "take a sip out of a fire hydrant" (which is pouring forth grace :). As I mentioned before, there were some nerves with the approach of a commitment of this magnitude. Those are natural and to be expected. However, once guests started appearing for the barbecue before the vigil, I was swarmed with people who love me. They were surrounding me and encouraging me for the rest of the weekend. Of course, there were many people who I would have loved to have been in attendance but were unable to come. I understand that these friends and family were no less supportive from afar, offering up prayers that no doubt helped calm me and focus me at this crucial time. Thank you all again for your many prayers! They "worked"!
From the moment I woke up at 6am on the morning of vows, I was eager and had a certain peace. I was able to take about an hour of prayer, which I wanted to do in preparation for the ceremony. I felt called to keep my eyes on Jesus, the One to whom I would soon be making these vows, in front of the most Holy Eucharist, His true Body. I also had a sense of offering this sacrifice in union with His. The peace was intensified when I actually got into the church 45 minutes before the start of Mass. I was able to greet my guests, and Bob Braveheart, a Lakota-Christian and the Superintendent of Red Cloud Indian School (where I served for two years before joining the Jesuits), privately gave a special blessing to the 4 novices from our class who served on the reservation. He spoke appreciatively to us, prayed over us, "smudging" us with his sacred eagle feather while burning smoke from an herb that the Lakota use. Then we all lined up in procession. From then forward, I was just carried by the solemn desire to take these vows. The music was majestic, the readings profound, and the homily from my Provincial brought me to tears, as it recalled the continuous line of tens of thousands of Jesuits who have taken these same vows for 477 years, beginning with the original handful of recruits that St. Ignatius assembled at the University of Paris.
The actual vows take place in the context of the Eucharist. That is the way that St. Ignatius and his company desired to make this commitment, before the Blessed Sacrament. The Jesuits are the only religious order to do this. I will surely be reminded of the vows when I go to Mass each day for the rest of my life. St. Ignatius was quite inspired when he chose to link these two sacred moments together. It was amazing to see the six men who cam alphabetically before me profess their vows, suddenly going from novices to vowed Jesuits for life. Each man went up from the pew into the sanctuary, knelt down, was handed his hand-written vow formula by the Novice director, and prayed the vows directly to the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus that the two provincials held aloft from the altar. The vows filled the whole huge church, and were spoken slowly, deliberately. Once the man had made his vows, he went to the House Superior who was waiting for him, and handed him a vow cross, often passed down from a deceased Jesuit.
When it was my turn, I got up, and felt like I was going to the Cross. Let us remember that the Cross is not ultimately a bad thing, but rather is glorious. If in the photos I do not have my characteristic grin, there is a reason. As much joy as there was in the offering, what I was about to do sobered me immensely. There was no turning back (not that I wanted to :). I had to do this. Again, I kept my eyes on Jesus and said the vows to Him. I felt good during and after the vows (without many nerves at all), and upon getting off my knees, I went to receive my vow cross which was the same vow cross that Fr. Paul Mahowald took in August of 1957, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I had known Fr. Paul at Creighton University, where he frequently offered God's mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He was a humble, generous, magnanimous man who suffered much, especially in his later years due to health problems. I hope I too can have those virtues.
The rest of the day was one of conversation, relaxation, and celebration. We had a social following the vows, as well as a nice dinner hosted by the families of three of us who took vows. At the dinner each new Jesuit was able to say a few words. I spoke especially of how I wanted to do this for the Church that I love. Then one of the Jesuits in attendance, who has a terrific singing voice, offered a toast and a song for each of the three guys. The song for me was "Oklahoma!" and for the last refrain I got up and belted it out right along with him! There was clapping and much rejoicing from the those at the dinner who call Oklahoma home. Finally, most of my guests went down the street with me to a great place for ice cream. It was a perfect day, and ever since then, I have been happy to be a Jesuit. I know it will not always be easy, but I am confident this is for God's greater glory.
Welcome! My name is John Roselle, SJ, and I took lifelong ("perpetual") vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Jesuit on August 13th, 2011 after a two-year novitiate. I am now a Jesuit Scholastic for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. I will study philosophy and theology for the next three years at Loyola University in Chicago. At the same time, I will do part-time ministry in some capacity with the poor. After that, I will likely teach for three years before finishing three more years of theology. Then, God willing, I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest! It's a long road, but a blessed, fun, and enriching one. This blog exists as a resource for friends, family, and others who are interested in my progress through the Jesuit process of formation. Every day is its own adventure, and I am happy to have you along with me to share in this. This blog contains my own personal thoughts and should not be taken to speak for the entire Society of Jesus. Feel free to contact me. God bless you!