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

by Nello Brunelli

Many years ago I was struck by the title of a book: “All quiet* on the western front”. Quite a beautiful title to define a book before even reading it. It’s the story of a static and distressing dimension in a terrible war scenario, the First World War. In the book some deep dimensions of human beings seem to remain always the same, in their rapid vortexing around the tragic experience of war: “nothing new”.

This is the premise which describes by contrast what is happening in the Novitiate. Once again, for the umpteenth time, everything has changed.

So it was that after for the departure and the return from the Ignatian experiments, during the first year, the community changed. So it was that during the summer experiences, finding ourselves once again in Genoa, the community changed. So it was that through the ordinary and extraordinary times and their difficulties, the community has changed.

And now? After the vows of the novices of the second year, the preparations for their celebration, the arrival of their families, the ceremony, the community has changed.

But in what sense has it changed? There were no changes in our way of proceeding or in the rules of the house. It is not even the emotions that we have experienced in the separation from a companion who left for Rome or in welcoming a person yet to be known.
I am not referring to all this, I am referring to the mystery of the community. The community is a mystery like a human being, like a body made up of many bodies. It doesn’t matter how independent or rebellious we are, how we see ourselves in the mirror and the depth of our most authentic desires. It is through this iridescent prism that we experience our life. They are people and hands and faces that together make one. The result is not always romantically beautiful, actually often it isn’t. It is flesh and sweat, fatigue and beauty, like moving house, when it is finished. The simile just came to me like that, sorry.

In a moment as beautiful as this for us let me say that I had never lived such an extraordinary and rich experience, tiring because it pushes me beyond myself. It did me good. I wish it to everyone, because all human beings should have the right to live such an experience, in the forms possible in their existence.

*In Italian, this title is translated as “Niente di nuovo sul fronte occidentale” which literally means “Nothing new on the western front”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWcyIpul8OE

Re- create

by Nicholas Cassar

One of the cardinal points in our formation as novices is to be moulded into “men of community”. A metamorphosis – or, a blossoming of that which was latent – which takes place through grace, prayer, commitment, learning, reflection. And, of course, the concrete events and rhythyms of everyday life.

One of these concrete tassels is in fact “Recreation”: a daily appointment after dinner in which, before concluding a day of lessons, household chores, apostolates/service in a parish, prayer, study, we regroup to relax together. We chat, play board games, discuss, swap jokes, watch a film… Some particularly tiring days, when the voice of one’s bed beckons earnestly, recreation can seem more something to put up with than an opportunity to unwind! But it’s truly worth the commitment to put community first and to value these short but golden daily encounters with brothers.

Every now and then, we come up with new ideas to re-create recreation, much to the Maestro’s chagrin… And so it was that, finding ourselves only in three one evening (all the others being out on Apostolic work, whilst the first years were still doing their month of Spiritual Exercises), and feeling in the mood for music beyond the limited repertoire of CDs in our collection (mainly a bizarre medley of Norah Jones, classical music, and Bob Marley), we decided to play some music videos off YouTube, each one choosing in turn.

And so it was that a new melody was born. Our characters revealed themselves in new ways, the rhythyms of our heart found new expression… subtle details previously overlooked were woven into the great patchwork that is our community through the notes and voices of Ennio Morricone, Mumford & Sons , Ex-Otago, Imagine Dragons, I Ratti della Sabina, The Staves.

A moment even of personal discovery, of how I have been ‘re-created’ during my time in the novitiate, when I saw the music video of Bon Iver’s  “Holocene” for the first time since crossing Villa Sant’Ignazio’s threshold over a year ago.

I remember when I first entered the novitiate, I couldn’t understand why so many of my co-novices were so enthused by the idea of discussing films in ‘CineForum’: in my experience back then, films were just (as one Romanian novice put it) ‘to consume’, a simple if enjoyable form of entertainment rather than a form of art. And yet, immersed in a context of prayer and ‘seeking God in all things’, and having been slowly converted to seeing beauty and culture where I previously sought only cheap thrills, “Holocene” presented a completely new interpretation.

A video which previously pleased me ‘just’ for the ethereal beauty of the Icelandic landscapes, suddenly became a film describing my relationship with the Creator…a little boy, led by the Spirit (0:50, 4:34), gleeful, smiling, in sheer wonder before the great vastness and beauty that surround him, contemplating it all in silent joy. A child who is not terrified by the great, empty expanse that surrounds him, but feels serene, secure…because he sees, he feels that his Father is near, is there.

Almost certainly, Bon Iver didn’t have this interpretation in mind. But I’ll allow myself a certain licence to re-create.

 

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