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


Exercises in trust

26 Feb 2018

Once I happened to go for a walk in a field in the mountains in the middle of the night, with a full moon dominating the sky. It was early October after the asphyxiating heat of the hours of sunshine. In that beautiful landscape of illuminated trees and meadows you could see almost as if it were daytime. Walking at that time of night, avoiding the heat of the day, made things less tiring. It was definitely a strange yet special moment: it was better at night than during the day. This image is a good metaphor for some aspects of the month of Spiritual Exercises of us novices of the first year at Camaldoli. A period of great richness and complexity, but above all of prayer and silence. And usually prayer and silence frighten us, like the night. They also seem a little unnatural, we must admit. But sometimes it is necessary to be in a different state than usual to be content, to see further. So we too began our month in the silence of the evening, after sharing our fears, followed by the words of Father Agostino: “Entrust your way into the hand of the Lord, He will do the rest”. These were the first words in my copybook, the starting point. Looking at them now I realise they were also the words at the core of all this experience. In fact, one way to reread the rich experience of the Exercises is through this sentence. Every morning, waking up to the sound of the bell that Nicholas would ring, I wouldn’t know where prayer would lead me that day, if I would lose myself in my thoughts or in the monotony of silence or if I would go irreversibly crazy. After a few days that much feared silence was filled, each time in a different way, with memories, emotions and words. And the walks every day to the forts that overlooked our house became an opportunity to perceive what I never notice: The flight of a bird. The imposing height of an oak, the trickling of the water over the rocks. The sound of the wind passing through the reeds. The immense clouds that stand out over the rough sea of Genoa. Every time there was some sound, some glimpse that reminded me of something, a distant memory in my life or my routine as a university student in a chaotic city like Rome. So I journeyed through the exercises, involving myself ever more strongly. Day after day, hour after hour, trying to entrust what I found. In an ever deeper knowledge of that Jesus who had called me there. With great wonder, everything I saw outside in my walks and memories would come back and make my prayer come alive. So I can say that the long hours of contemplation, as St. Ignatius calls that type of prayer which employs a great use of imagination and affect, became vivid. In this way, as St. Ignatius suggests, Jesus becomes a friend to talk with. Jesus who once walked with his disciples, a man among men, like me. Jesus who had laughed and cried and had asked the Father to do his will. Today he is a Jesus to follow and to look for. Looking at this month today it seems to me that this was in fact a long journey without knowing where to go because it was the Lord who led it. From a certain moment onwards I also started to have doubts about what I thought I was. And so every day became a surprise. Those days of calm, silence and prayer became some of the most intense days of my short life. A long work in silence. So intense that it will take a long time to reap the full harvest. Incredible, I myself would not have believed such a thing three years ago. In fact, now begins that important time to descend from the mountain. And reflect upon what happened, to draw some fruit. Another gift from St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises. But what a journey it could be if you let yourself be guided!

What do you care? You follow me!

by Benedek Rácz

War. Just over 1,000 kilometers away from me. In the neighborhood of my homeland. While I stand here in Genoa, in the chapel and pray for peace, I plead for lives. My desires would lead me to help concretely where the pain rages. “Lord, you would do this too, wouldn’t you? You would go there and sit here doing nothing?”. But no. It is not that simple. Jesus in his earthly life was not a problem-solving machine. Only after allowing a few days to pass did he leave to heal – by then already to raise – Lazarus (Jn 11:6) and he did not run to save the men who had been crushed by the tower of Siloe, although he was aware of what had happened (Lk 13:4). Jesus often acts in a way that makes no human sense. His actions were pleasing not to men, but always to the Father. “Only” this is my duty, that I may hear, and that I may be ready and diligent to fulfill his will. (cf. Spiritual Exercises 91)

By praying day after day I am more and more certain that I am a Jesuit religious in the Father’s dream. His will is that I be formed here in Genoa in the Novitiate. As high as the heavens are above the earth, and as high as his ways above our ways and his thoughts above our thoughts, so much must I trust the Father, believing that my prayers are the best and the most I can do for peace (cf. Is 55:9). It is a shattering experience to put my whole being in his hands every day, accepting that his will now is that I do nothing humanly concrete, and being ready if tomorrow he calls me to get up, leave the novitiate and go help under the bombs. It is a shocking experience, but anyone who has already experienced the power of this relationship and met the attractive figure of Jesus knows that this is how it is.

So every day I accept all my weaknesses, my powerlessness, and every day I rejoice when I can see how God has used me as an instrument of his love, that is, how this little reality that I am has become enough and a gift.

Benedek Rácz


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