Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Love, distance, communion

by Pietro Coppa

Each of us is convinced that it is impossible to love someone without being close to him or her. The lover, by definition, experiences a continuous tension that pushes him to seek the beloved. The Latin poet Tito Lucrezio Caro, in his De rerum natura, sketches this characteristic of love in a masterly way, referring to the carnal union of the two lovers. In the highest expression of physical love, both seek to “lose themselves in the other body with one’s whole body” (RN IV, 1095). A desire for fusion that cannot be fulfilled and therefore is continually reactivated. On the other hand, even the forms of love that do not find expression in the union of bodies, like the affection that is felt towards parents and friends, require a certain proximity to be able to keep alive. This is where one of the most recurrent objections to the religious life undertaken by the novice arises. An objection that is often put forward by parents: “how can you say you love us, if you have chosen to live a life away from us?”. Such a criticism could be put forward also by dearest friends and by the people met during the apostolic experiences that put us in contact with the young and the poor. Our formation needs do not allow us to establish lasting links with them. And yet it is possible to live a form of communion even in distance. Intercessory prayer fills this distance by filling it with love. The request for concrete benefits in favour of those for whom the prayer is intended does not exhaust its significance. What is more vital than anything else in this type of plea is to perceive upon ourselves and others the merciful grace of the Father who with his embrace of love transforms us into one (Jn 17:20). This prayer helps us to regain unity despite living in dispersion and teaches us the mystery of love between God and us, where love, distance and communion co-exist.

https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2018/01/05/02/41/lonely-3062017_960_720.jpg

Safeguarding absence

by Carmine Carano

Departure… is a word that in the life of a Jesuit novice recurs often, sometimes even overcrowding it. Departure… a word that expresses a double movement, or rather two intertwined movements: the ‘other’ who goes away and I who remain with myself and my interior life, or on the contrary, I leave with the baggage of my interior world and the ‘other’ who stays put watching me disappear. I think everyone has had the experience of getting on a train, turning around, glancing at the station from which you left and noticing that he or she is still there watching you go away, watching you as the deaf train inexorably drags you elsewhere.

Departure leaves an open space, a space in which roams free the absence of who is not there, or rather who is not physically present. This absence can provoke and lead to the discovery of a new way of being in relationship, guarding the other beyond the corporal. The child thinks that if he does not see his mother, she is not there and that’s it. Life takes you by the hand and accompanies you one step at a time to mature a different dimension in which to welcome and preserve the presence of the other, it’s the garden of memory. An interior place, vast, where presence is remembered and looked after.

The latest absence the novitiate community is experiencing is that of the first-year novices, who are busy these days in the intense gym of the Spiritual Exercises. I’m not talking about the week, but about the entire Month. We were sixteen at home and now we are in six, plus three formators. The house is emptier and more silent. My second year companions and I decided to react to the absence by realising the possibility of prayer, favoured by the climate of the house that in my opinion seemed to invite us to this choice. It was a time of rereading the past three months, but not only. Our reaction was not just a ‘look at things past’, it was a responsible gaze towards the present, so that it could let itself be rooted in the present. They are there to do the Exercises, and we have decided to accompany them with prayer, to support them in the arduous crossing. The signs chosen come in two. The first. Each of us, on the day of the week assigned to him, dedicates to the ‘retreatant’ novices his hour of morning meditation, and during the community Mass dedicates to them an intention in prayer. The second. On Friday, at 7 pm, we pray the rosary together for the same reason.

These are two experiences of intercession that give new significance to departure and to relative absence. They, those who have left, are not simply absent, but found again in prayer. Closing your eyes, concentrating, breathing slowly, keeping silent or articulating an elaborate intention during that silence or pronuncing the repetitive words of the rosary become the places in which you discover that in God the other – the companions in the Month of Exercises – is found in a new way. They become places where you can experience a different and fertile relationship, of fraternal help. Distant, but in God reunited.

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