At the end of September the experience of the novitiate in the Society of Jesus began for me and for eight other boys. From different parts of Italy and Europe we arrived in Genoa, at Villa Sant’Ignazio. I, for the truth, due to bad weather, I landed in Turin and I had to face a small odyssey to get to Genoa. But that’s another story…
Returning to the first-year group, for the Euro-Mediterranean province, we are four Italians and two Romanians. Two Hungarians and one Danish come from other provinces. A decidedly heterogeneous, European and different group. The age: ranging from 22 years of the youngest among us, to 46 of the oldest, even if he prefers “differently young”. There are engineers, graduates in literature, religious sciences and international relations. In order not to let us miss anything, we also have two priests on the team.
For all, at the end of September the first probationary journey started (first adaptation), ending with the spiritual retreat on 11-14 October. In the Holy Mass celebrated on Monday 14th, the novices of the first year were given the text of the writings of St. Ignatius. Then, each of us has transcribed in the novitiate register the formula with which he commits himself to walk in the Company and with the Company, thus sanctioning entry into second probation, or into the actual path of formation.
On October 17th, with the whole community, we went on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia in Genoa. A rather “apocalyptic” and unforgettable experience! We started with the sun but, once we started the journey and after about ten kilometers, on foot, the sky darkened on us. In short, in the middle of the journey, more or less, so much rain came down that you could not believe. So, drenched like sponges, we arrived almost exhausted at the Sanctuary which, to tell the truth, could hardly be seen because of the haze! There we celebrated the Mass of thanksgiving to Mary, to whom we entrusted our journey as novices and pilgrims.
In short, let’s go! For us, this adventure has begun that will see us walking in search of confirmations, in this choice of consecration to religious life, following the way of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The journey is long and we do not know what the future, life and Providence will reserve us, but we know that this is a propitiate time to discerne and decide. Consoled by the experience of those who have passed this way before us, we walk.
Now, at the end of this article, it is legitimate to ask what is the meaning of a choice like that of the novitiate today. Dare an answer to this question is, perhaps, a too arduous undertaking. So I thought of simply telling you a story I heard from a missionary priest in Brazil. While visiting a small Amazon village, he was welcomed into a rather small and rather poor house, far from any other house or village. At the end of the visit, when it ended, a gift was offered that he tried in vain to refuse. The landlady told him: “The little we have with God is very much, the very without God is nothing, the little shared is abundantly blessed“.