A Jesuit journey for law academic

SYDNEY — I was born in what is now Namibia and grew up in South Africa. Although I was baptised an Anglican, church attendance was not all that frequent. However, I grew up with a love of Anglican ritual and the King James Bible — which I have retained — and a vague sense that God was somehow out there.
My mother converted to Catholicism when I was about 10. Although she put no pressure on me, this triggered my interest in religion and a hunger for God.
I received the Eucharist at 13 and was confirmed at 15. Even at this stage, I felt a vague (although not terribly coherent) sense of being drawn to the priesthood. This sense grew stronger over my high school years and I thought seriously about joining religious life at the end of high school.

Justin Glyn, centre, with Fr Michael Stoney, SJ, left, and novice master Fr Brendan Kelly, SJ.

A Marianhill Father in Durban very wisely (although I did not realise it at the time) pointed out (ever so tactfully) that renouncing the world might not be such a good idea until I actually knew a little bit about it! As a result, I indulged another passion (law) for 20 years, practising first in South Africa and then in New Zealand and gaining a doctorate exploring how international law human rights guarantees can be enforced in national legal systems.
I have long felt that law and religion are closely allied. At this stage, I saw the link in terms of a fundamental rightness in human conduct that both disciplines seek.
Although practising commercial law in New Zealand was intellectually stimulating, I found the world of business cold. I knew there was more to life than making money for people, and I found myself drawn again to the priesthood and to religious life.
I had grown to love the writings of the Jesuit palaeontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the poets Robert Southwell and Gerard Manley Hopkins. When I explored the Society of Jesus on the web and visited Jesuit Theological College in 2003, I found myself hooked. I was absorbed by Ignatius. His spirituality of God in all things and the mix of contemplation and action were intoxicating. I loved the people I met at JTC and felt that here, at last, was a spiritual home.
I was advised not to join while my PhD was in process, but I kept up contacts during this time and joyfully submitted my application form as soon as my thesis passed.
The novitiate had new lessons for me. I discovered the limits of the intellect and grew in an awareness of the spiritual and the relational. In particular, I found that the Long Retreat, and the prayers and encounters during my experiments in Jesuit works and clinical pastoral education, opened me to an understanding of my vocation as a part of an intensely intimate and personal relationship with Christ. The urge for justice and rightness was still present, but I realised that these things were simply inevitable byproducts of the underlying relationship of love. I came to understand that it was on this relationship, rather than on its symptoms, that my vocation rested.
On May 4, 2011, I took my first vows in the society and am now engrossed in the first round of Jesuit studies. I have come home.
For more information on becoming a Jesuit, go to www.jesuitvocation.org.au

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Michael Otto

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