The novitiate is the first stage and lasts two years. It is a fundamental time where eone takes their first steps in the Society and consists of many useful experiences to continue the discernment already begun. One begins to live according to the vows and chooses between two ways of being a Jesuit: either scholastic (in view of priestly ordination) or brother.
Among the various experiences, four are fundamental
- the month of Spiritual Exercises,
- the month of service in the hospital,
- the time spent in the Jesuit community
- the pilgrimage in poverty.
At the end of this stage, perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (also called ‘First Vows’) are taken.
After first vows, the Jesuits begin studying philosophy. This phase, which lasts two or three years, is dedicated to philosophical and humanistic studies.
For those who have a degree in philosophy/theology acquired before entry, the philosophate may be a time to integrate or conclude their previous studies, or it may lived as a time of insertion in some apostolic activity.
After the first years of study, there is a pause in academic activity. The Jesuit is assigned to one of the Society’s apostolic works: for two or three years he works in a mission where he integrates his personal, spiritual and intellectual experiences into the daily work of apostolic service.
For those who interrupted a civil degree course to enter the Jesuits, this may possibly be a time devoted to the completion of their degree.
After regency, Jesuit scholastics begin theological studies. These generally consist of a first cycle of three years and a subsequent specialisation of two years. Jesuit brothers (not priests) also undertake a path of theological studies, tailored according to the needs of the Society and the personal characteristics of each one.
The purpose of these studies, for both scholastics and brothers, is to better prepare them for apostolic service in the Church.
In the case of Jesuit scholastics, their theology studies are also in view of the sacrament of ordination.
At the end of the third year of theology, the scholastic is ordained deacon and, a year later, priest.
After completing his theology studies, the Jesuit receives his prima missio, the first assignment in an apostolic work of the Society.
After so many years of formation, then, it is time for him to spend his time in apostolic service with generosity and full dedication.
After the first assignment, the Jesuit is called to experience the last part of formation, called tertianship, or also known as the ‘third probation’.
It is a period of about six months in which the Jesuit is helped to make a synthesis of his journey, spiritual, apostolic and intellectual, in view of his Final Vows. It is a time in which he renews and confirms his desire to live forever in the Society.
Some time after completing Tertianship, the Society invites the trained Jesuit to join it ‘definitively’. This is the time to take the Final Vows, which mark the Jesuit’s final incorporation into the Society of Jesus. In addition to the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, some make the fourth vow of special obedience to the Pope concerning missions.