Often poignant memoir of the author’s eight years with the Jesuits and his eventual decision to seek a different path.
Looking back on his entry into the Society of Jesus and the spiritual and emotional adventure that followed, Krivak tells his story from the perspective of his first, grueling “long retreat,” a time of silence and prayer specifically designed to further a novice’s clarity of calling during the initial year. That retreat was deeply formative for the author and shaped much of his journey as a Jesuit. Raised in northeast Pennsylvania, Krivak broke away from working-class roots to study poetry and philosophy before turning to the religious life. The chapters on his first year as a novice, detailing both the monotonous work of acting as beadle and the more introspective examination of his prayer life, set the tone. Throughout the book, the author shares his deepest fears, hopes and swings of emotion as he struggled with his calling. His studies and work took him from homeless shelters to inner-city hospitals and college campuses, from upstate New York to Russia and Slovakia. He describes the people he met and the situations he encountered with the skill of a storyteller, in prose that is erudite without being dry or aloof. His account of examining his soul, though fairly typical of this genre, is well-executed and enjoyable. We know from the first pages that Krivak fell in love and left the Jesuits, but the conclusion is emotionally charged nonetheless.
In an age when the religious life is foreign and mysterious to many, these self-revelations provide a worthwhile focal point for understanding its attractions and its pitfalls.