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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”

“Would they be French?”

by Filippo Carlomagno

A group of us novices, for one of my usual jokes Pietro looks at me and laughs, and showing us a group of tourists, he tells me: “imagine if they hear us!”.
But I had tried to understand what they were saying and, for having heard the French accent, I justify me by saying: “but they are French!”.

Humor is part of our everyday life, just think that if the adjective “witty”, in italian “spritoso”, comes from “Spirit”, and for those who is living a spiritual life it can only be a familiar attitude.
Also K. Rahner, reflecting on irony, said: “God laughs, says the Scripture. And, with that, he states that even the tiniest pure smile, which comes from no matter where, from a heart righteous, in front of any idiocy of this world, reflects an image and a ray of God. It is a trace of God whose smile shows that, after all, everything is good in the end”.

The humorous attitude serves to relativize, to look critically at positivity and negativity of the adventures of life, brings with it a sense of proportion, and to take lightly and with elasticity yourself and others.
“In a word, he knows how to live within contradictions and it is considered as lubricant or as an abrasive that unlocks rigidity and closures, it is a tension relief valve and, finally, it is a liberating experience” using the words of the Barnabita father, Gentili.

You can experience how irony and a sense of humor are an attitude that helps, rather, I would say, it teaches us to transcend all that is not God, continuing to live it in the experience of God, finding meaning in the circumstances that you are living.
It therefore helps to see all the situations that surround us and to contemplate in it the profound umanity and creatureliness and consequently arousing a attitude of love and compassion,by participation, in the world and in the history we live.

“This look of tenderness and indulgence gives us grace – because it is a true grace – to laugh on ourselves: at our failures, at our broken dreams, at our missed flights. The Christian who has a sense of humor, when he clashes with disillusionment, understands and smiles: he understands his limitations and smiles at the collapse of his illusions. If on the one hand humor, as sense of the relative and of the limit, it leads to detachment from itself and is established in humility, by another it is an invitation to trust, rather to audacity “(from the Editorial of Civiltà Cattolica Year 137, vol III, Quaderno 3265 – 5 July 1986, Humor and Christian life).

In the end, even St. Ignatius looking at his story and telling it in the Autobiography, looking to the pilgrim he was, he could not hold back jokes or ironic reflections on situations he lived. And it is not even difficult to notice a certain irony, charged at the same time of an incredible depth of his personal and spiritual experience, in the advice: “Pray as if everything depended on God, work as if everything depended on you”.
And because “the smiling mouth reveals what man is” (Sir 19:27), for us this attitude of irony and hilarity is also witness and symbol of the experience of God that we do.

Then a few days after that joke, always with a small group of novices around Genoa, I said another on joke, and this time, maybe they even heard a group of boys that was just behind us, and looking at us we asked ourselves: “would they be French too?”

Filippo Carlomagno, first year Novice

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