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://archden.org/religious_order/missionaries-of-charity-m-c/#.XNL7Mo4zbIX

Being a new creation (Gal 6,15)

by Pietro Coppa

22nd April 2019: Genoa Airport, 1.40 pm. The person in charge of checking the documents of the passengers arriving from the flight coming from Tirana, having viewed my identity card, asked me with a smile: “Vacation?” and I : “To be honest, I’m a religious and I’ve been in Albania for an apostolic experience”. Leaving aside the fact that I would have branded as science fiction a similar dialogue with me as the protagonist until a few years ago, I would like to share with you something about the period I spent in the land of the Eagles.

One of the most beautiful memories is the meeting with the Missionaries of Charity, the female religious institute founded by Mother Teresa. During the time I spent in Tirana and Scutari, I did service more than once in their residences. What characterises their charisma is the commitment to serve “the poorest of the poor” and I can assure you that they embody this ideal perfectly. In the structures they manage, they welcome and house in a stable manner people born with serious physical and/or mental disabilities and who are rejected by their parents because of this, as well as several elderly who for reasons of age are no longer self-sufficient and who, without the help of the family, no longer receive any assistance. Every day they provide everything that is necessary to ensure them a dignified life.

But what amazed me was not what they do! What left me astounded me was their angelic appearance. Although they lead a very austere life, characterised by numerous deprivations and a rhythm of work that is difficult to sustain, their face is always radiant, a mask of peace and joy, stuff that would make a Buddhist monk envious. They are very kind and welcoming with guests, always gentle and patient with the people they care of. They are also capable of humour and irony. By spending time in their residences you understand concretely what Paul was talking about when he said that what matters is being “a new creation” (Gal 6:15). Speaking with them, one is then struck by hearing them say that service to the poor, their main occupation, is not the center of their life and that all their commitment originates and takes meaning from a relationship with Jesus, which transforms us and makes us more and more like Him.

This meeting confirmed me in the certainty that serving others and prayer give that fullness to which we aspire deeply and that other recipes are not able to guarantee us. Following the Lord can sometimes seem depersonalizing, but it is precisely in the decentralisation of ourselves and in the death of our egoism and our narcissism that we find what we really desire.

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