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Discernment with many voices

10 Jul 2018

On Tuesday, May 29th, I and the other members of the novitiate community lived a day of silence, prayer and sharing.

The day began at 8 with Lauds. At 9:15 am we received indications on how to live the first part of the experience: an hour of individual prayer, sharing in groups, and finally community sharing. We divided into three groups: first year, second year and the formation team. The aim was to identify consolations and desolations, the beautiful and arid moments, the joys and difficulties which the community experienced during the last year. Such as Moses saw the Lord behind him after his passage, so did we reread the year to understand where and when God had given something of himself.

First individually, then as a group. This moment allowed us to notice points in common, and to identify important elements that one group had underlined and the other not. It was enriching.

After lunch the same method: individual prayer, sharing in groups, then sharing all together. But the purpose was different. We did not reread the year, but with what had emerged in the morning review we searched for decisions to recommend. Here too we found convergent points and others less so. Each gave his own contribution, aware of being in search of the common and shared good.

It was something new for me. Prayer and sharing not simply for my journey, but with an attentive gaze upon the experiences of the community and listening to what the Lord wanted to tell me for the best of the community.

There is still a third step: to entrust everything to the prayer of the Novice Master so that the Lord shows us the way to go. This discernment does not want to arrive at concrete decisions by summing up the contributions of individual novices or formators. The exercise aims to identify, with the help of the Lord, recommendations which are deeply shared and community oriented that can show on which steps already made to insist or what new steps to take. The superior then collected and noted the consolations and desolations that had emerged, the proposed recommendations, and now brings them before the Lord with this intention.

The exercise shows the steps of the Ignatian way of proceeding: prayer, sharing, individuals’ proposals; trust in the superior, who receives all this, in turn prays and reflects, and finally decides.

We ended the day with the Eucharist. There Jesus listens and gathers in his embrace the fragility and the resources, the struggles and the strengths of the whole community.

With a little bit of creativity…

by Pasquale Landolfi

It’s certainly not easy to talk about the Novitiate in the days of the Coronavirus. As for the rest of the population, the programs have been skipped, the experiences postponed, the meetings procrastinated. Contemplating the work of the Lord in this time becomes a delicate exercise because of the monotony of everyday life.

It takes a careful eye and the grace of discernment to discover the hidden beauty within the community. Lately we are allowing ourselves to be enriched by the possibilities of common life. A novice has proposed that each of us shares a topic that he cares about or that he considers useful for common edification. As in every community the most diverse ideas and comments arise.

Inspired by Ignatian spirituality, Daniel N. and I began debates on two very contemporary topics that generated what Pope Francis calls a “healthy restlessness” in our companions followed by a small exercise of community discernment.

The titles of the debates are “Evangelizing the nones”, a category of people who, while feeling a call for spirituality, do not feel that they can recognize themselves in a codified religion, and “Instagram and apostolic mission: is it possible?” in order to evaluate the communicative possibilities of the social media in an apostolic discourse and to deepen the sociological dynamics they involve.

With the creativity that the Holy Father asks of us, everyone has put themselves at stake with mutual respect and open dialogue, an exercise that helps to know each other more, appreciate the other and see ourselves more and more as a community that proposes, thinks, discusses and walks together, in dialogue not only among ourselves but with the world in which we are called to be part.

Pasquale Landolfi, first years novice

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