On the 16th of February, the Novitiate experienced the departure of six people. The six novices of the second year left, going to different Jesuit communities (Milan, Naples, Palermo, Albania), for the so-called Lent experiment. And we of the first year remained as missionaries in Genoa. The house is entrusted to us. We live here together with the permanent community, Fr Agostino, Fr. Ray, Br. Paride and Fr. Ignazio.
The first week, just back from the Month of Spiritual Exercises, we skipped our regular courses in Greek and various foreign languages. We needed some time to – with calm and in a new way – take the first steps in the daily life of the novitiate. Coming back was not easy. In the space of a few hours, we went from the rhythms of the Month to the everyday ones of work, prayer and community at Number 3, Via Domenico Chiodo.
But after a few days Lent began and we asked ourselves whether we should choose a sign for this particular time. Putting together six heads with different perspectives required more meetings. Everyone put forward one or more proposals. We identified three of them, and we presented them to the Novice Master. He then gave us his reflections. And at the end of a long process in community, a shared sign emerged: community evaluation. It is a form of fraternal correction, but positive. The objective of the exercise – which is weekly – does not consist in identifying a weak point or a fragility or a defect – call it what you want, but you get the gist – of the other so he can mature in this aspect. The goal is another: to appreciate and value, that is to identify in each a reflection of beauty, a luminous trace to underline. Every novice is committed to looking at what is beautiful about the other and tell him so. It is a mark of conversion that demands openness and availability. We try!
After all, Lent is a time of change. It is an opportunity to change the direction of one’s gaze. We do not deny the difficulties, but we note both the wheat and the darnel, and lean in favour of the growth of the former rather than the latter. It is a time to give voice and oxygen to the gifts that God has given us and to the gifts he is making of us.