The Jesuit training path provides an experience during the novitiate of about a month at a health care facility. In particular, in the case of our province, the Company has chosen for many years to collaborate with “Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza”, better known as Cottolengo. The novice is called to assist the staff by offering their own contribution in the relative operations to patient care and proper functioning of the department. Specifically, it is about to collaborate in activities dedicated to the hygiene and nutrition of the guests and the reorganization of the premises in which it operates. The experience, however, offers above all the precious opportunity to meet suffering humanity, marked by disability, illness or the weight of years.
Facing pain, the attitude can only be marked by a certain modesty; I will therefore limit myself to sharing some personal resonances sprouted during my experience at the Cottolengo of Turin in a department that can be combined with a retirement home, without any claim to universality. One aspect of the experience that struck me concerns the authenticity of the relationships that can be created. Pain digs, throws itself in front of the reality of ours condition. We are fragile, totally in need of each other. The myth of autonomy and independence, perpetually courted in our existence, clashes with the inexorable reality of the human condition, which finds its own in its weakness moment of truth. And weakness disarms; without pity and, perhaps because of this, with mercy.
If this fragility is accepted, respected and even blessed, it can be transformed in a privileged meeting occasion. In fact, we have the impression that, just when and because, everything else is lost and every mask torn, the relationships can really find its place in the heart of existence. The relationships with others, the relationship with God. Relationships between people, between those who are healthy and those who are not, between those who need help and those who are in able to offer it. Relationship with God, who unequivocally has demonstrated me through many guests, it does not fail to indwelling us, giving us strength and peace even in the worst storms, if only we consent, sometimes as the last lifeline, to deliver the helm to him of our life.
It is perhaps for this reason that despite the great suffering encountered, Cottolengo is appeared to my eyes as a place overflowing with life. A place where it was possible to contemplate the good sprouting between the folds of pain, the fragility becoming through one Beauty, revealing itself, to quote an expression of a cottolenghino brother, “a wound that becomes a slot”.
Stefano Guadagnino, first year novice