These painted traffic light boxes are all over Dublin and today's picture is of one of my favourite designs, because joy is a very good word to sum up how I feel about this pilgrimage experience. Even on the days when things didn't go so well or the long hours and long walks produced a sense of monotony or tiredness, I still found myself with a deep sense of something else, which was more than just happiness.
In the world of Ignatian spirituality the word we use is 'consolation' to describe the inner feeling when we are moving in tune with God's call for us and, among other things, it is a sense of harmony with the world, wholeness and joy at being. It is a feeling that is not dependent on rain or shine.
As I sit here in my little room back in the Jesuit noviciate, that joy or consolation is most definitely the underpinning feeling.
As I wrote a few days ago, the next big step in Jesuit life is taking vows and one of them is a vow of poverty. In my future life that vow of poverty is meant to mean a degree of simplicity in how I live. It is about being free from the desire to own lots of things and not using possessions to hide or run away from reality. It will never be a poverty of real hardship or uncertainty, of not knowing when the next meal will come or how the bills will be paid or whether there will be enough money for the kids' Christmas presents. That, however, is the poverty of many of the people I met.
If I am most grateful for one aspect of this experience, it is the opportunity it gave me to experience, even for the smallest moment and in the smallest of ways, some of the sharper realities of poverty. There were maybe two or three nights when I wasn’t sure whether or not I would get food and that was something I have never experienced before.
As I write this, the bell has gone calling me to dinner. That is the sort of security that I mean: in the community where I live, there is food put on the table every night. The alternative experience, even just for a few days, is something that I hope will change how I view what the vow of poverty means and how I go on to live it.