My first summer in the Novitiate was filled with gifts from the Lord. Surface feelings may have varied over time, but the joy of knowing I was sent and at the same time accompanied by Him remained alive in the depths of my heart throughout the different summer experiences, from the service in Bassano del Grappa to the Catholic Action Youth camp in the Piedmont valleys, from the week of visiting my family to the great meeting with the guests of the Emmanuel Community in Puglia.
Compared to the geographical mobility and the apostolic richness of the summer months, the rest of the ‘hidden life’ in Genoa might seem less exciting. But the very idea of returning to the house of the novitiate was for me a source of new joy, when in early September I traveled through the Italian Peninsula by train, hopping from the Taranto trulli to Salerno, and from there along the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ligurian capital.
I was happy at the thought of seeing the other novices again, the companions with whom I had shared a year of life and experiences, happy to be able to hear what the Lord had given each of them in their respective summer itineraries. And I was eager to meet our new companions, who would arrive a few weeks later, making the community even more varied in terms of languages and cultures of origin: our group, initially Italian-Hungarian, would also welcome Slovenian, Romanian and Maltese novices at once!
This form of ‘intercultural novitiate’ can allow us to touch with our own hands, from the very beginning of religious life, the multiform richness and universality of the Society of Jesus, which already at its foundation brought together men from different territories. Were not the first ten companions Basques and Castilians, Portuguese and French? And were they not also very different from each other, not only in language and culture, but also in age, life stories, character dispositions? Young men in their early twenties together with mature men, spirits of great calm and gentleness together with restless souls ready to ‘set the world on fire’, once they let themselves be set on fire by the love of the Lord… An apparently irreducible human plurality, which nevertheless found profound unity starting from that common faith, and that common desire to consecrate every effort to the service of the Lord and the “greater good of the souls”, which bound the first companions together.
We novices of today, too, despite all our mediocrity, know that the Lord wanted to unite us in his love, and that faith and the desire for service allow a strong bond to form between us, a bond stronger than the disintegrating tendencies and conflicts that every very diverse human group inevitably experiences within itself. Thus, at the beginning of this new novitiate year, as my gaze embraces both the five companions with whom I have already shared a year’s journey, and the ten new companions who arrived just three weeks ago, I feel renewed in my heart the feeling most characteristic of disciples: the joy of being friends in the Lord.