The novitiate, as well as a place, is the time in which those who feel called to follow in the footsteps of Christ in the Society of Jesus have the opportunity to verify that call. In particular, it is about two years, during which the life of prayer, the community life and the various experiences of pastoral and apostolic service, help the novice to learn what it means to give one’s life for others, just as Jesus Christ did in his earthly existence.
The absolute priority is given to building a personal relationship with Jesus. The Spiritual Exercises are the main and fundamental experience of this relationship, which originates from the love of Christ for all and for each one in particular. The novice discovers that he is a loved sinner; he plunges in meditation/contemplation of Jesus’ life, his passion, death and resurrection and grows in the ability to find the presence of God in everyday life. At the same time, such an itinerary helps to develop a greater self-knowledge, a better understanding of everyone’s aspirations, desires, personal talents and also limits or blocks that might prevent the novice from saying “yes” to the full gift of self.
Together with the life of prayer, in the course of two years the novices are introduced to a knowledge of the charism and the way of proceeding of the Society, through the reading of the founding documents: The Autobiography of St. Ignatius, the Constitutions, the Complementary Norms and the General Congregations. Together with this, there are courses and workshops, which help to deepen some central aspects of our spirituality and cross-cutting issues, as well as moments of periodic re-reading of the experiences in community and apostolic life.
We can not forget two important aspects: the contact with the poor and the ecclesial dimension. The contact and the proximity to the various realities of poverty and marginalization helps the novice to grow the preferential love for the poor, the very special friends of God as the Scripture shows us and Jesus witnesses with his own life.
The mission of the Society is part of the larger mission of the Church in the world. Therefore it is important that the novice is guided to accept and love the real Church, to feel part of it and to understand his role as a collaborator in the work of evangelization in today’s human society.
The daily community life, the apostolic activities (collaboration with parishes; groups of Ignatian inspiration movements; social projects) and the so-called experiments complete the training framework.
The journey is accompanied by the master of novices, who represents the company that guides those taking their first steps at various levels: life of prayer; listening; formation to discernment; attention to the personal journey of each novice and of the community; training on availability, as the ability to respond generously to what is required and future missions.
Next to the teacher, the socius (assistant) assists in the formation of the novices. The education community can also be made for other figures, such as brothers or other fathers, who help to give the novices a witness of the life, the charisma and the way of proceeding of the Society.