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.

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The Jesus Prayer

by Marco Garbari

What is “The Jesus Prayer”?
It is a Christian prayer that has very ancient origins. The first reliable sources date back to the Desert
Fathers of the 3rd-4th century AD and it consists in the continuous repetition of a short prayer with the
name of Jesus, that is inserted into the rhythm of one’s breath.
I heard the call to this prayer a few years ago, learning the technique and starting to experiment with the
“Ricostruttori nella preghiera” (eng. Reconstructors in prayer), a Catholic movement that deals with it’s
spreading.

In what way can this prayer help and give benefits in concrete life?
The meeting with the Jesus Prayer changed my life. Through it the Lord gave me a transformation starting
from the approach to the little things.
Washing the dishes, working in the garden or washing the stairs might seem boring, but accompanied by
recitation of the name of Jesus, they can acquire a different taste.
In fact, the prayer of the heart helps us to fully experience all the activities we do, even the most ordinary
ones. It invites us to rediscover the beauty of small and simple things, like the nature around us. Through
this fullness and wonder we are helped by the High to live the present with greater presence and
involvement. It is therefore easier to carry out an action with real joy and gratitude and not with the
anxiety of having to finish it.

Before embarking on the path of the experience of the Jesus Prayer, I remember that my mind was
restless when I had half an hour left in my daily schedule or I had to wait for a bus’s coincidence. Now
things have changed, my attitude has changed as well: I entrust myself, I abandon myself trustfuly to God,
reminding me, thanks to this prayer, that everything depends on Him.
Even in the life of the novitiate there are innumerable occasions in which i can experience this: going to
the apostolate, working, laying out, walking, etc.
The prayer of the name of Jesus helps to live things in depth by praying in the heart. There are numerous
biblical verses that refer to this perpetual prayer, such as “praying incessantly” (1Thes 5, 17), “give thanks
in all things” (1Ts 5, 18), “knock and it will be opened to you” (Lk 11, 10), “I will take away from their
chest the heart of stone and I will give them a heart of flesh” (Ez 11, 19) and many others.
A further benefit that the recitation of the brief invocation gives us is to pay attention to something that
we often overlook, that is the breath. Learning this prayer allows us to re-explore the use of breath and
thus to rediscover a deep and diaphragmatic breathing, the natural one. Instead, we breathe in a breathless
way and this hinders us from preparing ourselves to be calm. For these reasons and for those that are more
strictly spiritual, the initiation into this type of prayer by an expert guide is in fact recommended.
It is curious to note how this practice seems to respond optimally to the needs of the modern world today.
I think it’s a wonderful medium, useful to counter the rhythms of an anxious and frenetic society. In the
last few decades we are witnessing a spread of this prayer in the West, even in the lay world. I have met
several people who testify how this practice transformed their lives, bringing them closer to the faith,
converting them to Christ and making them fall in love with the prayer. Spiritual thirst, present in people
in a more or less conscious way, could be satisfied in this way.
We must consider that, as St. Ignatius tells us, not every means of prayer is for everyone. But I wish to all
the people, who are unconsciously trying to find it, to encounter it and fall in love with it!

Marco Garbari, novice of the first year

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