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

Courses in the Novitiate: a journey from the head to the heart

by Nicolò Lorenzetto

It is always difficult to recount the daily routine of life in the Novitiate, and especially to render the idea of how very different activities converge toward a single end: the growth in personal relationship with God, inseparable from that in common life and service to others. Not only prayer and participation in the Holy Mass, but also practical work, apostolic experiences, community dialogues, nature walks, sports… At all times we can remain united with the Lord, growing in a spirituality that helps to find Him in all things, to know and love Him more and more.

Readings and courses are no exception, for little by little we discover how even these intellectual activities, if authentically directed toward the goal of relationship with God, can become an important ally in the journey of spiritual life.

We second-year novices have had confirmation of this during the last few weeks: while our first-year companions were living the great experience of the Month of Spiritual Exercises – the real beating heart of the whole Novitiate time! – we remained in Genoa, attending a course on the dynamics of discernment, and courses on introduction to Sacred Scripture, liturgy, the educational apostolate of the Society of Jesus, and integral ecology.

Courses of three days each, without a final exam, or rather with a sui generis exam, never fully completed: the verification of how, step by step, what we have learned helps us to mature in our relationship with the Lord and, inseparably, to open ourselves to the service of our brothers and sisters. Such an inner transformation will take a long time, but I already realize how many insights received in the courses can concretely help us to walk in this direction.

For example, knowing the method of narrative analysis of Sacred Scripture can help us to better prepare the prayer of meditation or contemplation on biblical texts, respecting the objectivity of the Word of God and identifying more faithfully with the attitudes of the different people who encounter Jesus, and which reveal our own attitudes toward the Lord… Studying the structure of the Mass can help us to enter into the deep meaning of all its parts, following its words and silences, and allowing ourselves to be vitally transformed by the liturgical action… Reflecting on integral ecology can help us to grasp with a contemplative gaze the value of the whole work of the Creator, and at the same time to feel for the people who suffer the consequences of the “culture of waste” feelings of genuine compassion: that compassion which is a prelude to effective action in their service…

And the list of examples could go on, showing how the Novitiate fosters a dynamic of conversion of all the different components of our life, including the intellectual one, which rediscovers its essential bond with the living God, and thus takes the step “from the head to the heart.”

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