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


The first summer as a Jesuit novice: departures and returns.

by Carmine Carano

To leave and to return are two fundamental movements of existence. All of us, all human beings leave and return. They are verbs of experiences we humans have in common. They also describe my life well, but here I want to pause a while on my first summer as a novice. I have lived different departures and returns. I spent eleven days between Roccavignale and Turin on a summer camp with a group of teens from a parish of Genoa, two weeks at the Centro Astalli in Rome, eight days winding through Tuscany and Umbria on the pilgrimage in poverty, and six days in the province of Caserta to visit my family.

A period of much movement, to say the least!

The first word which can describe it is “surprise” or even “novelty”. Before leaving, I did not know what I would discover about myself, about God, about the world. I knew, sometimes however without much detail, activities which I would carry out in that context and with those people, what I would do. But whatever you do, just ‘doing’ is only part of the experience. The other part is the involvement of your interior world, captivated by dynamics and people. But that’s still not all. Every departure was for me a ‘going towards’ my Lord. The places I reached proved to be places where he was present and active. Sometimes a situation, a difficulty, an encounter, a conversation, an activity, an affective movement taught me something unexpected, made me grow as a person and as a Christian (which at the end of the day is the same thing!). I would leave and would learn life lessons. It is not easy to explain this experience in an article. A metaphor comes to mind. The departures were like climbing a mountain. Put one foot after another, step by step, move forward. The higher you go the wider, after hard work and sweat, the horizon becomes. And while the horizon of one’s gaze widens at the same time so does that of your humanity, of your person, of your faith, of your heart. Leaving has a destabilizing and consoling taste. Then you stop to catch your breath between one step and the other, raise your eyes to the sky and you realize that during the climb the Lord was accompanying you and was the source of that wonderful horizon. That was how my summer was. I left, I discovered, I returned, and I took the time to re-read my experiences during prayer with the Lord.

This re-reading in prayer showed me that after every return something had changed in me: I had experienced a beautiful hue both of the face of Christ and of myself.

I remember, just to give a little more concreteness to what was written, the last day of the pilgrimage in poverty. The other novice and I were in one of the last villages of Umbria, the eighth day of walking. My friend was infirm, his foot was giving him trouble. We ask both the nuns and the local priest for hospitality, but neither can host us. Between noon and 1pm we were welcomed by a lay lady, very generous indeed. Thanks to her, we received a place to sleep, a doctor’s visit, and both lunch and dinner, as well as sympathy and affection. It is only one episode picked from the long list of anecdotes that could be told as evidence of the goodness experienced. The very kind friend was for me Azaria, the archangel who accompanies Tobias on his journey. She was a concrete sign of Providence. And her generosity reflected the generosity of the Lord, his love which looks after me. I left that house feeling grateful, and I still thank God for that encounter.

New roots

by Lorenzo Zura

I don’t know if you have ever had to repot a seedling…if you have, your gaze may have fallen on the roots, noticing how they had grown occupying all the possible space, taking the same shape as the vase, as if they were trying in every way and almost spasmodically to absorb as much as possible from that little piece of earth.

In fact, there comes a time when, if we want the plant to continue growing, we need to repot it.

Just as for plants, so it is that for us to grow – after a certain period – separation is necessary. We need to find a new vase, new earth, because the previous one – which was fundamental and essential for us to become what we are – is no longer able to give us nourishment and space. Of course, this can be a bit painful because it requires separation from something that was familiar to us up to that point, but it does not mean denying one’s roots: those we carry along with us and even a little of our native soil remains attached to us.

For me the Novitiate is precisely this new fertile earth that is giving me the sap, nourishment and space to make me grow. A simple list of the various activities and moments we share would be reductive and emptied of much of the meaning, but if I had to choose just one word to describe what we “do”, or better, “live” in the Novitiate, I would say growth … In fact, this period is essentially a time to get to know yourself more and more. It may seem strange, because in the frenzy of my daily routine I often took the knowledge of myself for granted, thinking that there was no one capable of knowing me better than myself. Instead, I’m discovering – and every day is a discovery – how little I actually knew. Thanks to prayer, to the dynamics and relationships that are created in community, and to the accompaniment of Fr. Master I am acquiring ever more an awareness of my abilities, but also of my limits and fragilities, of the conditionings and the false ideas of myself that I have built over time. Therefore I am living this period simply as a “grace”, a gift, in which I have the fortune and the privilege of receiving so much for free.

Finally, there is one last fundamental element which needs to be specified to explain the meaning of this time. In fact, to continue the botanical example, what do you do with a seedling that grows, but then doesn’t bear fruit?

Growth is not an end in itself, it is not to be able to boast or to consider oneself better, but to be always more free to love!

Until recently this expression would have seemed – if not really meaningless – certainly not very significant. I would have said to myself: “How can one not be free to love?”

Now, however, I’m realizing how much my idea of love was romantic and of freedom naïve. I am realizing that being free is not so much an external question, but rather refers to the inner dynamics that guide our thoughts and our actions. That to free oneself from fears, from conditioning, from secondary ends, to be able to really love the other, to want his growth and his good is really difficult, it costs effort and requires sacrifices.

For this reason having a good point of departure and someone who takes care of the personal growth of us novices is really a great help!


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