Poverty, chastity and obedience

Michael, pictured fourth from left, with his novice companions, Pierre Grech Marguerat SJ (far left) and Maltese Jesuit Provincial Paul Pace SJ (3rd from left) on the big day.

What is it that makes a young man choose to join the Jesuits and take vows of poverty, chastity today? Michael Debono let us in on what led to his decision.

Two years have past since you made the decision to enter the Jesuit novitiate. In September this year you made another decision - to take your first religious vows within the Society of Jesus. What did this occasion really mean to you?

It was September 29th, the feast of my Patron Saint when I made a vow before God that I would choose a life of poverty, chastity and obedience within the Society of Jesus and that I would enter the same Society. I did this with four of my Italian companions.

In a few words, this meant two things: It was a public declaration of my desire to offer my life to God so that I would be of greater service (referred in Ignatian terms as the ‘magis’) to Him and to my brothers and sisters in the Church, specifically as a future Jesuit priest; and together with this, there was a great sense of thanksgiving for all that He has done and continues to do with and through me.

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Michael's written vows

What was it, during these two years, that led you to confirm your decision? Did you have any particular experiences that touched you deeply?

This desire was already very present within me some years ago, when I considered and then decided to enter the Jesuit novitiate, however two years of novitiate helped to clarify what it means to live this desire in a very concrete way within the Society of Jesus.

During these two years I had several experiences, some big, some small (but not less important!), which gave me a deep sense of what is meant by the Jesuit ‘way of proceeding’ (way of life). Among these experiences, which I lived together with the other novices, were the month-long Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, a month of work in a home for the elderly and a series of lessons where we learnt so much more about our founder, St Ignatius and the way in which he wanted Jesuits around the world to live.

However I think that the experiences which touched me most deeply were the pilgrimage we made in poverty (where we were required to make our way on foot from one place to another, begging for food and lodging without saying we were Jesuits), the everyday service we offer within the novitiate and above all, the deep experience of community life.

Finally, and particularly during this last year, I had the opportunity to reflect deeply on what it really means to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience within the Society of Jesus, and how it differs from other religious orders.

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What was it that originally drew you to consider joining the Society of Jesus and become a Jesuit yourself?

At the outset of my journey, I could see persons within the Society who were really trying to be intimate companions of Jesus and, true to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, and endeavoring ‘to know Him more nearly, to love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly’. This relationship propels them towards searching for ways of encouraging those around them in everyday contexts to also draw nearer to Jesus.

This is what I too seek, and this is what I expressed in my first vows. Now it is time for me to put this desire into practice day after day, with God’s grace. I know the journey will not be an easy one; I know I will stumble and fall, and I know that there will be times when others might not make it easy for me. But I have every confidence and hope that, just as a father is always close by to pick up his fallen child, God will not leave me on my own and will be with me every step of the way.


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