On 29 September in the year 3021 of the Third Age the great elves Galadriel and Elrond with Gandalf the White and the two hobbits Bilbo and Frodo arrived at the seaport Mithlond, also called the Grey Havens. This is what J.R.R. Tolkien tells in The Lord of the Rings.
On 29 September 2019 A.D. ten novices of different nationalities arrived in the city of Genoa.
Mithlond was at the far west of Middle-earth, and Genoa, with its grey port, is at the far west of the Italian peninsula. The companions of Tolkien’s story that reached the Grey Havens boarded a ship built by the elf Círdan the Shipwright to take them to the eternal dwellings of Valinor in the Uttermost West, where the Divine resides. We novices “embarked” on the Society founded by St. Ignatius and his companions, “which is a way to reach God”.* With the departure of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings, the Third Age ended and the Fourth Age began. With our arrival in the Ligurian port city a new era of our life began.
Almost two months after entering the novitiate, it is clear to me that I am not part of a fairy tale. I am not seeing myself in a parallel world, and the purpose of the novitiate is not to leave this world. My departure for Valinor or for the heavenly Jerusalem is probably not scheduled for September 2021, when, God willing, we novices will make our first vows and leave Genoa. We are here to spend time with Jesus for later on to serve him in the world.
But the image of Grey Havens as described by Tolkien helps me live the novitiate in a fruitful way. Tolkien has placed in the hearts of his characters a yearning for the blessed Realms of the Uttermost West. During my daily prayer from the window of my room I have the good fortune to contemplate the sea that expands towards the west and seems to open endless and unknown horizons that carry within them a promise of a greater reality.
I cultivate in myself this yearning for more, towards that existence to which all human beings are called. And I hope one day to be able to help building ships. Ships to bring people to the extreme west, to the coasts of Valinor, to the God who satisfies all our desire.
Daniel Nørgaard, novice of the first year
* This is written in the Formula of the Institute of the Society of Jesus, with which the pope recognised the order of the Jesuits in 1540.