GESUITI noviziato
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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My right foot

by Daniel Nørgaard

It has become a tradition that those who come from Northern Europe to make their novitiate in Italy encounter hard trials and agonies. Just think of St Stanislaus Kostka from my own province, North Poland, who died in the novitiate in Rome in 1568 after a painful illness. I am also reminded of Saints Henry Walpole and Robert Southwell, who after formation in the same novitiate were sent to England where they suffered excruciating martyrdom in 1595.

It was therefore obvious that I, after a year already marked by covid19 and family bereavement, was destined for further suffering.

When at the end of October I fell victim to this cruel fate of mine on our football field with a sprained ankle, I managed to think “take and receive, Lord, this too”. I had the clear awareness that I was far from the level of holiness of the Jesuits from Northern Europe who had preceded me. But I soon saw an opportunity to imitate them better. Taken to my room and made to lie on the bed, the mixture of my religious fanaticism and the effect of adrenalin surging through my body after the painful impact caused me to expect a mystical ecstasy. I imagined that if I could fully surrender myself to the Lord in this poverty of mine and unite myself to the sufferings of Christ, I would be elevated to a state of union with God that I had only dreamed of until then. It could become my Pamplona, like St Ignatius! I already saw how future iconography would depict me in bed with a crucifix in one arm and a football in the other.

There then followed days in which I tried to turn my accident into a religious experience to lift my soul to God, but I did not succeed. I did not experience consoling enlightenment, nor did I feel God’s closeness. My spiritual life became a continuous distraction of thoughts about how I could have avoided the accident and feelings of self-pity and anger.

The pious part of me still wanted to offer itself to God, but the human part of me could not free itself from all these natural thoughts and feelings. On that bed of pain lay not a saint, but a man imprisoned by his ego. What a desolation! And God continued to be absent.

I seemed to myself a pagan, and began to doubt my choice of religious life, when suddenly a thought occurred to me: But He has chosen you! He knows all your faults, and yet he has chosen you to follow him as you are.

My distorted fantasy of a saint with a heroic smile touched by pain was not a pleasing offering to God, He had in fact ignored it. He wanted me, just as I am with my wounded humanity, with a sore foot that causes discontent.

My right foot has not provided me with mystical experiences, nor have I managed to achieve heroic virtues through my illness. But it did make me remember that I am human, and that the Lord calls me so. Consoled, I decided to follow Him thus, limping.

2021-01-02 Daniel Nørgaard – second-year novice.

Interview with Maria Stella Rollandi, Italian teacher

16 Feb 2021

The foreign novices use part of their time in the novitiate to improve their Italian. Once a week they have Italian lessons with Maria Stella Rollandi. She was a professor of history of economics at the University of Genoa.

How did you meet the Jesuits?
I met Father Lorenzo Giordano, a friend of my parents, who baptised my two children. Since then I have followed the history of the Society more closely and this led me to enrol my children, Giovanni and Elena, at Istituto Arecco (the Jesuit school of Genoa). I have had the opportunity to get to know many different Jesuits. From Father Giovanni Bosco Dalle Lucche, Latinist and attentive to the problems of young people, to Father Vincenzo De Mari, who gave seminars on biblical exegesis, to listening to Father Kolvenbach (editor’s note: general of the order 1983-2008) when he came to Genoa. From each meeting I drew richness and support for my own life path.

Is there an aspect of the Society of Jesus that you particularly appreciate?
I greatly appreciate the international approach and the respect for other cultures, for different languages. It is a characteristic that has always struck me and encouraged me to study it. Certainly the history of the Society is very composite, and over the centuries it has also taken on policies of great intolerance that have perhaps favoured the spread of a feeling of mistrust towards it. A Jesuit father one day, with a bit of irony, commented on some points of the entry “Jesuit” and “Jesuitism” in the Zingarelli dictionary. However, I do believe that the international outlook, the world view of Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier have also allowed the Society to renew itself internally and to effectively maintain an openness to the other.

What do you wish the novices for their future in the Society?
I am struck by the heterogeneity of their personal paths and, at the same time, by the seriousness and dedication with which they face their call. I have a deep respect for these people.
I wish them to keep their vocation pure and their search constant.

Can you share with us a desolation you have received recently?
My two children live far away and, also because of covid19, I have to overcome great loneliness and the impossibility of giving them support. After so many years of teaching in a stimulating and lively department such as Economics, the lack of activity and less contact with young people make the last segment of my life more difficult.

Can you share with us one consolation you have received in this last period?
Being in good health and being able to continue on a path of research.

2021-02-16

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