My first and last (up until two weeks ago) visit to Italy was as a thirteen year-old on a school trip: I was more interested in the girls who were with us than in the ‘cultural experience’ my teachers tried to give me. Who could have guessed that I’d next set foot in Italy almost thirteen years later, and to become a Jesuit novice!
I’ll never forget that day, the last of September. The weather was typical for Malta at the end of summer: I was melting like butter in fire –I’ll never miss that merciless sun! More difficult to leave behind were my family and relatives, who were crying and hugging me as if they’d never see me again. But within myself I felt a great joy and the certainty that this choice, after a journey of almost four years, resonated with my deepest desires.
Despite this, I must admit it seemed strange boarding a plane without a mobile phone and in the knowledge that on this flight I would be leaving my past behind.
One, two three, go!
In no time, Malta disappeared.
A few hours later, we arrived in Bergamo. The weather was cool and grey – to tell the truth, a relief from the oven that was Malta. A short bus ride later I arrived at the Central Station in Milan, from where I caught a train to Genoa.
During this last leg of the journey, I had lots of time to think and reflect. The reality of this decision and the travel fatigue started to take their toll, and doubts began to form… However, I remembered the love of Jesus, the discernment made, the lights and consolations received: these pushed me on and encouraged me.
Daniel, the Maltese novice from the second year, welcomed me at the station in Genoa in a turquoise Fiat Panda which was probably older than me. That said, this tin can surprised me, navigating Genoa’s notoriously steep roads with ease.
On my arrival at the novitiate, I was received warmly with a cup of coffee by the Novice Master and other novices from the second year. Coffee break over, I went up to my new room: simple but comfortable…and already with a personal touch! There I found a greeting card signed by all the second-year novices, a Maltese flag, a CD of Maltese hymns, books in English and Maltese, and an English translation of the Formula of the Society of Jesus – the spiritual horizon to which, with God’s grace, I’ll strain forwards for the rest of my life.
I felt at home.