Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus


Remove the weeds

08 Jun 2019

The Jesuit novice perceives himself – do not blame him .. it’s his D.N.A- like the super apostle 2.0, a little Paul of Tarsus, a mythological creature able to survive both the liturgies of worldly life and the jungle of the Holy Roman Church. The housework, as we know, serves, among other things, precisely for this: to mitigate the idealism of the novice who, in his naivety, already sees himself as a missionary in the forests of Papua New Guinea.
These manual uses serve to prevent one’s own apostolic whims from burning a vocation still in its infancy. House work inculcates us, with a lot of irony, a very simple concept: We are still young padawans and the road to becoming jedi masters is still long. Brother Paride is one of those who takes care of our training. No lightsaber training or psychokinesis, though! One of the most popular exercises of our trainer responds to the name of a very well known work: “Remove the weeds”.

There is no need for too many paraphrases to clarify what we are talking about: it is about cleaning up the garden, eliminating weeds. Weeds are able to remove light, water and nutrients from the plants. In short, they feed on crops. The task, however, is somewhat frustrating because a few weeks after their removal, new ones regularly grow back. The Jesuit novice however, it is good to remember, is endowed with separate spiritual geniuses, who make him able to do contemplation in action, capable of drawing spiritual insights also from w.c and bidet cleaning. Will it therefore be able to carry out such a task without giving rise to unlikely parallels between rural work and spiritual life? I save you the time to think about it. The answer is no. The comparison with asceticism and spiritual struggle is a must. The inner resonances are the same: What sense does it take to uproot these weeds if in a few weeks they will begin to grow again? ..some of them will not be noticed and will remain in the ground…

Weeds are the disordered affections of our heart, the immaturity of the person, the traps of the enemy. The eyes, the hoe, the sickle, the rake, the hands are the tools we use to track them down, mitigate them, reduce them, eradicate them; they find their counterpart in a long series of spiritual analogues: the contemplation of the life of Christ, the meditation of the Word, prayer of request, acts of charity, the Ignatian examination, confrontation with the spiritual father, self-analysis, asceticism, the exercise of the will. As we said before, there is a risk: in the act of eliminating weed it is easy to uproot even crops. In the same way, we must be careful not to demonize passions, otherwise we risk taking life away from the energy we need to accomplish God’s will with joy.

We must eliminate all that weighs us down and that draws strength to promote our growth towards the High as the weeds must be eliminated to let the plant grow. But the work is tiring. The position that the body assumes during this task is unnatural and in a sense we feel that it is also fighting against the inclinations of the “flesh”. In this the good Paul had seen well (cf. Rom 7: 18-21). Furthermore, it is already a miracle if we succeed in becoming aware of each one of them (see Psalm 18.13). The question that arises is: why all this efforts, if we are destined to start all over again?

This cleaning will, so, allow the cultivated plants to produce vegetables and fruits that we and our our brothers will enjoy. In the same way, our growth will produce spiritual fruits for us and for others. The re-emergence of defects, immaturity, temptations, will warn us against the risk of leading a path of narcissistic purification, it will help us to accept our creatural limit and above all, it will remember that their definitive cancellation does not belong to us but to the Father (Mt 13.24-30).

Pietro Coppa, second year novice

When prayer becomes…preparing breakfast

by Alessandro Di Mauro

During novitiate life it happens, on a rotating basis, that we have to prepare breakfast for everyone before starting individual morning prayer. In such cases, one of us needs to wake up a little earlier than the others to be able to reconcile preparation time and meditation time. I have sometimes wondered if it is really necessary for us to be present when doing this service or if there is a deeper reason for doing it.

For some time now, when the alarm clock rings in the morning, I often feel, in my heart, the desire to meet the Lord during my personal prayer and in the Eucharistic celebration that we live daily. I have, however, realised that even when I have to anticipate the alarm clock for breakfast, the desire does not change and it almost seems to me that this also enters into the dynamic of meeting Him.  A question then arises for me: is it possible that even the act of preparing breakfast for everyone is somehow part of a form of prayer? To answer this question, I immediately ask myself another: what is the meaning of Christian prayer? I believe that prayer is an encounter with the Lord to deepen more and more the communion of life with Him. As St Teresa of Avila used to say, it is the moment when I meet the Beloved. On the other hand, if we read the Gospels, Jesus himself often stopped to pray alone in the intimacy of dialogue with the Father, so much so that it triggered the Apostles’ desire to understand how to pray: ‘Lord teach us how to pray’. What needs prompted them to make this request? Certainly the example of Jesus must have been a driving force: as the Master prays, it is good that we also pray; but I believe, first and foremost, they had the desire to experience the same encounter as Jesus with God the Father. In prayer, therefore, two freedoms meet, that of the believer who seeks the Lord and that of God who has the desire to be heard by those who pray to him. This is also the reason why it is, often, complicated to pray, because on the one hand there is a supernatural dynamic, whereby prayer is a gift from God, for which one’s heart must be prepared; on the other hand it is a human encounter that takes place in ordinary life, a challenge to recognise God’s voice that is often covered by the din of everyday life.

But back to breakfast! What does this have to do with its preparation? Nothing, if one approaches preparation thinking that the purpose is to have some milk, coffee and tea ready on time. But if one lives this operation savouring every single moment of it – from picking up the coffee pots to preparing them, to hearing the whistle of the coffee ready and enjoying the heat that the vapours give off when it is poured into the thermos – thinking that this gesture will be of help to the brethren, to those whom the Lord has placed beside him, something changes. By living the preparation in this way, even these gestures can become an encounter with God the Father, for whom I recognise in the other a brother for whom it is well worth losing half an hour of sleep.


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