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

Hey Friend, let’s take a Selfie!

23 Jan 2017

Not having Facebook during the novitiate, the other day I came to realise one thing. This may already be news for some, but there is something else, perhaps even more noteworthy and scandalous: I don’t have my co-novices “friends” on Facebook. “Wow,” I said to myself: “How is this possible? So what does this mean? That we are not really friends?! How come I never thought about this before?!”

Think of a friend, the first that comes to mind. Now ask yourself: why is this friend your friend? Perhaps it is because you have lived an experience together; you know each other for a long time; or have mutual friends… So why did you remain friends? These may seem tricky questions to answers, and so reflecting upon these dilemmas, I wanted to share some lines about how we live friendship in the novitiate.


The first word that came to mind was “Acceptance”. In the novitiate I feel welcomed and listened to; I don’t feel judged for what I say, and therefore I feel accepted for who I am. Each one of us lives daily troubles such as challenges in apostolate work, relatives passing through hard times and moments of tiredness or nostalgia for the fact that we are far away from our homeland. A community with an ambient of listening and acceptance permits that on returning home sad, someone will notice this and asks: “How are you? What happened?” At times it only takes a tap on the back and hearing a co-novice telling you “If you need anything I am here for you!” to turn a frown upside down.

We are very different as persons, thus anything may become a cause for exclusion: age, country of origin, culture, way of thinking, and even how we live faith! We live these realities differently because we are different! It requires goodwill and patience to say: “Even if we don’t understand each other and see things differently, we are friends just the same.”

Good Humour

Good friendship requires a breath of lightness: it’s fundamental that one knows how to have fun, to make a joke… and to receive one too! As novices we have many moments throughout the day together: breakfast, washing dishes, meals, the afternoon and evening recreation. There is always an opportunity to pass a witty comment: “Oh look whose washing the plates, we’ll be here all night with his pace!” or else “I always loose at cards teamed up with you!”

We also have moments out of the novitiate house: once a year we go on vacation; each week we have one day off: those that go for walk in the mountain, others to the sea or else visit a museum in the city centre. We go in twos to the apostolate groups and the parish on Sunday. It often happens that we drink a cup of tea in the afternoon; there are language study groups with those who are more learned in one language helping others. Some of us exercise together: we play football or volleyball, others go for a jog.

“So do you ever argue?” You’re kidding! Some might think that we are a community of “good boys” so no arguments arise. Far from it! And in this regards, playing a game of “Risiko” or “Monopoly” surely doesn’t help! Like in any friendship, many times we argue about trivial matters. Nonetheless, we try to find the opportune moment to meet up: one apologizes, one hugs and we keep moving forward.


“You said that you don’t have Facebook, that was already news! So how do you manage to keep a good friendship without a phone? Without Whatsapp?” Ironically, non having all this fosters friendship, real friendships. Walking together to the parish, or when we meet in the corridors, we greet each other. There is no risk that you meet someone so immersed in the virtual world, perhaps scrolling new Instagram photos, that he doesn’t look at you. During meals no one puts his phone on the table vibrating every couple of seconds because of new notifications of some WhatsApp conversation… as I often have seen happen in restaurants and was guilty of doing myself! During meals we look at each other and speak, we discuss and we laugh. Discourse doesn’t revolve about some complicated theological and philosophical issue, rather, we speak about how our families are doing, share past experiences and thoughts about our activities.

At the beginning of the year, each community member (formators included) communicates his life story in front of everyone. We narrate memories from our childhood, the difficulties and joys lived in maturity, and recount study and work related experiences prior to the novitiate. This listening exercise establishes a strong tie among us: knowing each person’s strong and weak points, and knowing that the other knows yours, fosters intimacy, trust and compassion. We also share our feelings and thoughts during prayer. During daily morning mass, during the prayers of the faithful, anyone can share what would have struck him during the early morning meditation, or pray for some intention. I find this very beautiful as during the prayer-sharing one can get to understand how others are feeling, and the personal situation they might be living. This becomes an opportunity to find that person later on and show closeness. We also pray for friends at home that have their birthday, for deceased relatives or persons we get to know that might be passing some hard time.

However sharing goes beyond words, it is random acts of kindness. The other day I heard that a co-novice didn’t have a scarf, and knowing that I had one extra, I gave him mine. It so happens that sometimes I find things, little gifts when I open my door in the morning.

It is true that we are called “Companions of Jesus”, and it often happens that as Jesuits we are called to accompany others, however, we are also companions one of another. We are friends, and friendship isn’t born out of chance but it is a daily and constant commitment. Even if we are not friends on Facebook, once in a while, with the camera in hand, I tell some companion “Hey friend, let’s take a Selfie!”


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