What must a novice (of the Society of Jesus) or a seminarian do in the novitiate/seminary? I think it is quite clear that he must learn to be a man faithful to God both in the case of living in a particular religious order or in the case of a diocesan priest. He also has to find out if this kind of life is really a kind of life for him or no. Knowing this I entered the novitiate of the Jesuits.
However I encountered difficulties.
I already have some knowledge of myself and the world. I already have some experience in working with the youth, a certain experience of living in faith, an experience of another form of community, some knowledge of God, that I would like to share or teach others. And right now, one of the most important things for me is to learn and study. I’m not talking about studying and learning in the intellectual sense, like studying philosophy or science or other things.
I have to learn how to learn well from the experience, knowledge and example of others. I also have to learn to search for help when I encounter difficulties or I have certain doubts or am uncertain. I have to be open because only this way God can change me into a person, that can become a good Jesuit.
I am only twenty-eight years old but even for me it isn’t easy and it happens, that I rebel. I can’t imagine how this must be for those, who have more than forty years (yes, we also have novices who are more mature)! Obviously our experiences and knowledge from the past aren’t irrelevant. But we don’t only use them, we have to learn how use them well: we have to enhance our knowledge and evolve the way we relate to others.
The novitiate is in reality more than this, but still, learning is very important. It is also one of the rare opportunities in which a person can really learn a new way of life in relative tranquility.
Why do I write about this? Because, if you ask me, this isn’t of importance only for me or for novices, to me it seems like one of the basic components of christian life. This isn’t my discovery, as I already heard it from the lips of other people, but still, as it is strongly present in my way of life right now, I wanted to share it with you.
Whatever we do, doesn’t matter if we are catechists, or animators, or cooperators in parishes, or managers, or engineers, or parents, or workers, or experts of something, it is good to always be open to new possibilities, to the wonder that can show us a new way to do whatever we do and to improve our individual way of doing what God wants from us. But surely we also have to have a certain stability and solidness so that learning doesn’t become too heavy a burden, otherwise the search for new things in continuity can lead us into a great collapse, and away from good.
It is this necessity of being at the same time solid and elastic, sometimes plastic (a plastic object retains the form in which it is changed) that makes this type of learning so difficult.
For this to happen, it takes a job that we can’t do alone. We don’t see ourselves well enough, we don’t know enough to teach ourselves or to lead ourselves alone. Also uncle Google, Youtube and all the books in the world, in my opinion aren’t enough to ensure profound changes. It takes wise persons to put all these new things in their proper place.
Above all we believers have to put our trust in God (the wisest person or “persons” in existence), that is, getting closer to Him more and more because he leads everything in the best way possible, using different techniques, often employing wise people as his tool of choice.
“If you see a man of understanding, visit him early, let your feet wear out his doorstep.” (Sir 6, 36)
Even if we have great faith in God, it doesn’t hurt if we listen or imitate people who are wiser than us. We are like that: fragile, we have to help each other! Nobody was born learned. Even Jesus, while he lived on this Earth, accepted a process of education and growth even if He was God.
In my current period I’m fortunate and blessed to have our master of novices that accompanies us in our personal and spiritual journey together with other expert people. Then, there are also other novices, who are of great help to me, mostly through the things I can learn from them and through our relationships in which we “smooth” a little the “edges” of each other (it happens to me or someone else that something doesn’t seem right at first but through time we can understand each other). Then there are also my parents that are still in grade to give me a good advice, even if they are 570 km away from me.
During this process though we mustn’t forget that God’s mercy is unending and that we can never evade mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes, even the people who don’t want to become more active in their lives, who remain passive and these in my opinion, are making the greatest mistake.
Urban Gartner, novice of the first year