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

04 Feb 2019

Departure… is a word that in the life of a Jesuit novice recurs often, sometimes even overcrowding it. Departure… a word that expresses a double movement, or rather two intertwined movements: the ‘other’ who goes away and I who remain with myself and my interior life, or on the contrary, I leave with the baggage of my interior world and the ‘other’ who stays put watching me disappear. I think everyone has had the experience of getting on a train, turning around, glancing at the station from which you left and noticing that he or she is still there watching you go away, watching you as the deaf train inexorably drags you elsewhere.

Departure leaves an open space, a space in which roams free the absence of who is not there, or rather who is not physically present. This absence can provoke and lead to the discovery of a new way of being in relationship, guarding the other beyond the corporal. The child thinks that if he does not see his mother, she is not there and that’s it. Life takes you by the hand and accompanies you one step at a time to mature a different dimension in which to welcome and preserve the presence of the other, it’s the garden of memory. An interior place, vast, where presence is remembered and looked after.

The latest absence the novitiate community is experiencing is that of the first-year novices, who are busy these days in the intense gym of the Spiritual Exercises. I’m not talking about the week, but about the entire Month. We were sixteen at home and now we are in six, plus three formators. The house is emptier and more silent. My second year companions and I decided to react to the absence by realising the possibility of prayer, favoured by the climate of the house that in my opinion seemed to invite us to this choice. It was a time of rereading the past three months, but not only. Our reaction was not just a ‘look at things past’, it was a responsible gaze towards the present, so that it could let itself be rooted in the present. They are there to do the Exercises, and we have decided to accompany them with prayer, to support them in the arduous crossing. The signs chosen come in two. The first. Each of us, on the day of the week assigned to him, dedicates to the ‘retreatant’ novices his hour of morning meditation, and during the community Mass dedicates to them an intention in prayer. The second. On Friday, at 7 pm, we pray the rosary together for the same reason.

These are two experiences of intercession that give new significance to departure and to relative absence. They, those who have left, are not simply absent, but found again in prayer. Closing your eyes, concentrating, breathing slowly, keeping silent or articulating an elaborate intention during that silence or pronuncing the repetitive words of the rosary become the places in which you discover that in God the other – the companions in the Month of Exercises – is found in a new way. They become places where you can experience a different and fertile relationship, of fraternal help. Distant, but in God reunited.

Contemplatives in action

by Gianluca Severin

The Jesuits preach the Word and lead exercises, celebrate the Eucharist and reconcile those who repent, walk with the least and the excluded, repair relationships, accompany young people, protect the creation, work in schools, prisons, hospitals, compose songs, they study the universe, they carry out all the works that seem useful to the glory of God and the common good… and, in doing so, they pray.
It is not easy: in the flow of events we struggle to grasp their spiritual meaning, immersed in work and relationships we rarely preserve the interior silence of eternal light in which God lives. This is why we begin the journey along the ways of the world in the quiet of the novitiate.

God called us, in a murmur of light breeze (1 Kings 19.12), to speak to our hearts.
Here the Father welcomes us and guards us, He embraces us, we whisper “Abba…”. The closer and united we become to the Creator, the more we receive His love and grace.
Here the Son saves us from the cold and gloomy boredom of an existence spent on myself, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2.20), He unites us intimately to the desire to save every creature, to be sent into the world with a meek and humble heart, free and generous for every lost brother and sister.
Here the Spirit gives us faith, hope and love, in us flourish both the adoration and the commitment to the world.
Here we enter the mystery, in the intimacy with the Person. Whoever listens to His Word can also perceive His silence, so as to act through His Word and be recognized through His silence; our heart becomes altar of an incessant prayer, our life a living, holy, pleasing offering to God (Rom 12.1).
In the whirlwind of the days this interior silence allows us to remain in His presence and to see Him in all things.

Now the life that blooms, the radiant sun on our skin, the purity of the water between our fingers, the vigorous wind on our face resonate in us in praise.
The rejoicing with those who are in joy, the sadness with those who are in tears (Rom 12.15), the listening and welcoming, living and concrete love for each person, for the whole person resonate in us in serving.
Participating in the hopes and struggles of humankind, we live the desire for His Kingdom to come, for His will to be done.
For every gesture of kindness, for the beauty of every smile, for every glimpse of truth, for every free choice we can give thanks.
For every brother and sister, for those we meet, for those we help, for those who help us, for those who oppose us we can intercede.
For every selfishness, for every indifference, for every closure we can repent.
In the reality that challenges us we can listen and discern, ready and available to the signs of the Spirit.
What previously averted and distracted us is now the horizon in which we can seek and find God: our monastery is the world.

(Whoever wants to join the Company) Also make sure to have God before his eyes as long as he live, before anything else [Formula Instituti]

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