Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus

A letter from St. Ignatius to a future novice

24 Feb 2021

Dear Novice and Companion

I am writing to you because in your second year of novitiate, during the period in which your companions of the first year will be experiencing the Spiritual Exercises, you will have your first encounter with Ignatian education and pedagogy. It will be a beautiful course of a few days with a dear friend and confrere of mine, fr. Stefano, who will introduce you to the purpose of education in the apostolate and what our pedagogical method and its history is.
You probably know me as a pilgrim, or as Father General. You are right, but I am also something else: a student. I think this is important, to remain in the attitude of research, of learning. The experience of the Spiritual Exercises came about through this attitude through which the Lord revealed himself in my life as the best teacher I could wish for. The Spiritual Exercises you have just completed are in themselves also a school of prayer. It can be said that our spirituality is already from this point a form of education.
If we look at the figure of Jesus, we also see him as the one who came to teach. But how did he teach and what? He taught love, by loving people. Called the great Master, he brings us teachings from the Father. We can find in multiple places in the Bible Jesus walking around to teach and bring the good news. So we understand better that education is also part of his way of evangelizing. To participate in Ignatian education means to take part in a prophetic vision of the world, as one is trained in the teaching of Christ.
The goal of education is to bring comprehension, in the etymological sense of the term: to bring out. To some extent, Ignatian education does just that: it proposes paths that bring forth creativity; a creativity that emerges from tradition.
You have probably already heard that a big part of our apostolate is education. Even in my day, teaching represented an important apostolate for the Society of Jesus. Over the centuries, up to the present day, we have accumulated a great deal of experience in pedagogy, a tradition in the education of young people, a worldwide network of schools and educational institutions in which various personalities of history have been trained, such as Athanasius Kircher, philosopher and historian; Molière, the father of modern French literature; or Georges Lemaître, the father of the Big Bang theory.
It is normal to still have doubts or questions about how to interweave our spirituality and education: how to combine our charism with some of our apostolic objectives, such as “to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world”? How to safeguard our pedagogical spirit in today’s context? How to transmit the feeling of being part of the Church and the universal community to the students in our schools?
These are all questions of concern and challenges to be faced. But don’t worry, remain vigilant, there is a right time for everything. The Good Lord is the best teacher there can be!

Fr. Ignatius of Loyola and the companions of the novitiate

2021-02-24 Raul Ciocani

Interview with the new Socius Fr. Davide Saporiti

21 Nov 2022

In September a new Socius arrived in our community: Fr. Davide Saporiti SJ. His predecessor Fr. Iosif Şandoru SJ began the third year in the Dominican Republic.

You have been for 10 years in the retreat house in Bologna. How did you take the news when the Provincial communicated your new destination?

Initially with a bit of sorrow at having to leave a place I knew and loved where I spent all my energy; loved for the activities I carried out and the beautiful relationships I experienced. Later, however – I say this without rhetoric – deep inside me I felt peace because I understand the apostolic mobility that is part of our vocation. The Jesuit is a man sent for others. I understand that staying too long in reality runs the risk of becoming its owner, of taking root, of no longer having pastoral freshness and therefore not doing good for the work itself. In this new destination, i.e. in the Novitiate, I have no problem with the type of work or the environment, but – as often happens – a sense of inadequacy arises in the face of novelty: am I capable of doing well the things that are asked of me? At the same time I feel that in the Novitiate I can give the best of myself.

You celebrated your 25th anniversary in the Society of Jesus a few weeks ago. You are now 6 Jesuits in the Society of your year. What is your memory of the Novitiate?

The first thought is that we are half the number of novices I entered with. Thinking of former companions, I realise that those who continue the journey in the Company are no better than those who leave: indeed, the vocation is something personal. (Although it has to be confirmed by the Society).
For me it was very formative to join a heterogeneous group. Companions with very different ecclesial experiences, different maturations, different tastes, have opened my eyes to so many sensitivities that I had not considered before. The most emotional memories are definitely with the people, both novices and formators. A unique bond remains with the companions of the novitiate, even if we hear each other very little. I also have vivid memories of the typical novitiate experiments: the month of Cottolengo, the Lent experiment with students from one of our colleges and, of course, the Month of Spiritual Exercises; these were the passages that marked me deeply: every time I think about them a light goes on.

And what is your memory of your Socius? In what aspect do you want to be like him?

In the two years of novitiate I changed Master and also Socius. The first was very gentle and also very learned without showing it. The second was good at accompanying and guiding Spiritual Exercises, I saw in him a model of a Jesuit. Both were very helpful and I too would like to be helpful in what was asked of me. Above all, God willing, I would like to witness with my life more than with words the joy of following the Lord in the Society. But this is also true in other environments, not only in the Novitiate.

What will your commitments be this year?

I am understanding little by little, because some things have changed since I did the Novitiate. I interpret my role in concentric circles. The first circle (and the most important) is the life of the Novitiate: the formative modules with the novices, the instruction for the Month of Spiritual Exercises, the re-reading of the Month and everything related to the life of the Novitiate in the strict sense. Then, a subsequent “circle” concerns the life of the house and our works in the city: guiding guests who make the Spiritual Exercises, spiritual accompaniment, helping the pastoral care of the Jesuits in the city (SEEL for young people, CLC…). Finally, the more ‘external’ circle includes all the requests that arrive from the diocese or from our Province: formation courses, Spiritual Exercises courses and so on…

What memory would you like to leave in the memory of the novices? What message would you like to communicate through your example of life?

As mentioned earlier, I would like to communicate the joy of following the Lord in the Society. When I think of the Jesuits I admired in my youth, what impressed me about them was not only and above all their great pastoral skills (although they are important) but that they taught me ‘who a Jesuit is’: a person sent because he feels part of a universal body, a person in love with the Lord who can only spend his life for others, a person capable of self-denial and obedience, capable of living in community with a constructive style (today we would say ‘synodal’) but always in obedience to the superior because the two are not mutually exclusive. I too would like to testify, at least in part, to all this.

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