The novice is conscious in this letter of no longer being a novice but a Jesuit in formation just about to begin a two year phase of training called the Juniorate, a time primarily of study of the humanities (literature, history, languages, etc). He is very realistic about the demands of farm life in Saskatchewan, the importance of haying and harvest for the livelihood of his family, and ofthe building of a new house there, to not think twice about having no family member present for the vow day. The letter also looks forward to the next steps in his life and to the family visit in the fall.
August 25, 1963
Dear mum, dad and all:
As usual it is too long since I wrote last....
My vow day was one of the happiest days of my life. Just before Mass all of us met in the library wearing Roman collars and black capes. Then we processed into the chapel and to our places. The solemn high Mass added greatly to the day. At communion time we all grouped around the altar and one by one offered to God our perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is impossible to explain the deep happiness and peace we all felt in offering all to Him. The rest of the day I was floating on cloud 77.
There were many letters of congratulations etc. Mrs. Thomas, a friend of most of us, came with a friend and her (the friend’s) three sons (age 4,6, 10). They sort of latched on to me for the day and kept me occupied. It was really enjoyable having them, especially the three little fellows. There was a buffet supper for the guests of the vovents in the refectory. I invited the little group to stay and they did.
I will tell you more when I see you in the fall.
Enclosed is a souvenir I received, I thought you would like to have it mum. Also a newspaper clipping. Not everything is exactly true, as usually happens things get twisted. I haven’t worn my clerics yet but I will have an opportunity very soon for I will be taking a course in Zoology at the O.A.C. (Ontario Agricultural College) this year and the course starts in September.
French exams are coming this week. I surprised myself in this course, for even though I knew no French, the whole summer course has been very enjoyable and the French I picked up is pretty good for six weeks.
Soon the first term of the school year will begin. It will be great to get back to real studies (e.g., studies other than Latin and Greek). I will be taking English, composition, philosophy, Greek, Latin and perhaps a course in German....
Well, harvest is going in full swing here at the moment. We have not had a chance to help as yet because of the French course but the novices have been....
All the peas, and beans are harvested by now. You should have seen all the peas mum, bushel and bushel baskets full. The beans were the same thing. Brother [McLaren] had an excellent crop in both. The cucumbers are starting to produce now.
The pumpkins are coming along fine. Last year was the first time brother grew pumpkins here and they were all used up very quickly to make pies. (Brother is a good pretty good cook and pretty good at pastries.) You should see the corn. We have been having quite abit of corn-on-the-cob in the past week because it’s just lovely. You should see how high it is in the fields. I could very easily get lost in it. But that is different corn than the kind we eat. It is made into silage for the cows....
Did I tell you about my new job? I am now a ‘bee man’. That means I help to check the hives, process the honey and other odds and ends. I have only been down to the hives twice but it looks like it will be very interesting and enjoyable work. Everyone laughed when I got the job because when I first came many bees stung me just out of the blue. They just didn’t seem to like me.
But I did not get any stings when I worked with them. Of course when we work by the hives (e.g. opening the hives and checking for honey and to see if all is well in the colony) we wear netting around our heads and an extra pair of pants, shirt and socks, plus a pair of gloves made so that the bees cannot get in. You should see the honey combs full of honey and the brood chamber. I learned all about these things way back in public school but this is the first time I have been able to experience it first hand. There is such order and cleanliness in the hive. But at first it is frightening to have bees flying all around you and sometimes trying to sting you through your clothing....
How is your garden mum?...how far are you on the new house [being built on the farm]? Have you torn down...the old house?
Well I have run out of news except that from now on I shall sign my name with just S.J. and not N.(ovice) of the S.(ociety) of J.(esus).
Please remember me in your prayers, I will need them to live up to my promises.
[The Jesuit vow formula reprinted from Frank’s 1963 files.]
Almighty Everlasting God, I N.N. though altogether most unworthy of Thy divine sight, yet trusting in Thy goodness and infinite mercy, and moved with a desire of serving Thee, vow before the most sacred Virgin Mary and the whole court of heaven, to thy divine Majesty. perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Society of Jesus; and I promise that I will enter into the same Society, forever to lead my life therein understanding all things according to the Constitutions of the same Society.
Therefore, I most humbly beseech Thee, by Thy infinite goodness and mercy, by the blood of Jesus Christ, that Thou will vouchsafe to admit this holocaust in an odour of sweetness, and that, as Thou hast already given me grace to desire and offer it, so Thou wilt also bestow plentiful grace on me to fulfill it. Amen
Source for photos: Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ