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


Community life

18 Dec 2017

“How do you see yourself living in a community?”

When I was asked this question – the first for one of my interviews for admission to the Novitiate – my mouth was (thankfully) full of ice cream, giving me a few seconds’ grace to come up with an answer.

Two months have flown by here in the novitiate, and as I’ve finally settled into a new rhythm, that question presents itself more and more concretely.

Being the eldest of five brothers, sharing a household is by no means new to me. Still, the context has changed dramatically: my newest brothers are 11 other novices, from four different countries, each bringing a vastly different experience of life. Add to this the different so-called «Apostolates» (work we do assisting parishes or institutions in Genova) we do, and even our daily experiences have become more distinct.

Though we may not all share the same language, culture, work & academic background, Apostolate and interests, we are united by a personal relationship with Christ and a deep desire to answer His call with love. So much so that, seeing life through the eyes of faith, our diversity is most certainly a strength and a gift to be thankful for, seeing in one another a different face of the love of God.

What to do with a gift like this? Use it! And in fact, our routine gives great importance to this sharing of ideas, opinions, experiences, interior movements, joys, concerns, strengths and weaknesses: whether it be through open discussions during mealtimes, daily evening recreation all together, Thursday outings hiking in the mountains/by the sea/visiting Genova, or discussing our weekly Movie Night or monthly CineForum.

But perhaps the highest expression of this daily diversity is through prayer. For us, prayer is a time to recognise and nurture the desires God has placed in our heart, to listen to Christ’s personal call, to deepen an intimate relationship with Jesus. But it is not a time of isolation: nothing we have and experience is ours alone, and this is true also of the graces received in our daily hour of silent morning prayer. For this reason we share graces, insights, reflections and consolations received during this encounter with God with the whole community during Mass as we present our intercessions.

Vespers, the prayer of the whole Church, is also preceded by a time of silent personal prayer, so that when we raise our hearts to God in unison, our common prayer stands on a deeply personal and individual experience of the Word of God.

Community life isn’t simply about ‘friendliness’, of which there is plenty, but sharing a life which is centered on Christ. And this is what it means «to be friends in the Lord», just like the first companions of the Society of Jesus.

God saw it was very good

by Gianluca Severin

Among the experiences that characterize life in the novitiate are the outings that we experience together every week, walking in the nature surrounding the city.

When we arrive at the summit, under the deepest sky, on suspended peaks, surrounded by the mountains and the sea, our wonder blossoms into praise. The Lord passed through these woods, thoughtfully spreading a thousand graces, and gazing at them along the way, with his face alone, left them covered in beauty. Creatures are a footprint of God’s footsteps, thanks to which we perceive his greatness, power and wisdom. (Saint John of the Cross)

The heart unites us with every creature singing the joy of its existence, that proclaims His infinite creativity, His supreme wisdom, His eternal tenderness. An immense space opens up before us in which everything takes on the measure of infinite, and within us expands so much the desire for heights, for splendor, for freedom.

And here, without having asked, without having deserved, I am here too.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches [Psalm 104:24]

While the ear immerses itself in the silence, and notices the distant roar of a waterfall, the rustling of branches, the screech of a hawk, the sense of the sacred arises in us.

I respect very deeply and, at the same time, I retain the utmost intimacy in which He welcomes me; I am pervaded by an abysmal unworthiness and, at the same time, by the sweetest boldness when He approaches: “Don’t be afraid. It’s me”. Faced with the sublime, I am not afraid but attracted, in love; faced with the unknown I don’t fall silent but I dialogue about the deepest and most sincere things in life; faced with the infinite, I don’t run away but I entrust myself, I let be embraced; faced with mystery, I do not retreat but I open myself to friendship, to communion. And I perceive everything as work of God, myself as work of God, and God at work in life.

The Spirit of the Lord fills the universe, and embracing everything, knows every voice [Wis 1,7]

While we rest together among rocks that reach out to the sky, shaped and enlivened by the shining light, by the blowing wind, by the flowing water, we live not as servants, not as masters but as friends.

We share the journey, punctuated by the slow and persevering climb, and the pauses, the tiredness and the daring, the fatigue and the wonder. We share bread and water, a daily gesture, but which, after a common effort, is more frank and serene, it has a flavor of greater intimacy. We share the stories that everyone has to tell, the past that brought us here, the future that we glimpse on the horizon, the fears and passions, the laughter and the sadness, the doubts and enthusiasms. We share each other’s silent company. And I feel like I’m among brothers.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them [Mt 18:20]

By living these we save ourselves: in the praise, in the sacred, in the friendship of God, our salvation, the fullness of life, is already achieved.

God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose [Principle and foundation of the Spiritual Exercise]


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