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

The Novitiate is a mountaineering mission

by Miklós Forián-Szabó

A very dear religious brother of mine described his novitiate with this image. A few months after the beginning of my novitiate, I will explain why I also find this image very true.

We, children of God, are all mountaineers. The mountain is a place of encounter with God, which we all deeply desire. As mountaineers, our goal is to climb to the top as many times as possible in our lives. Why is it good to be a mountaineer? Because the view from the summit is unparalleled. Something that cannot be experienced anywhere else. It is good for us to be on the mountain (cf. Mk 9:5). The summit is not visible from the base of the mountain. At the beginning of the journey, we do not know exactly what it will be like up there. We can make plans, look for footholds, but the mountain must really be climbed, otherwise there is no way up. You can read the account of the climb, but it is very different from seeing the summit in person. Anyone who has been to the real mountains really wants to go back. It is up to us to decide whether we want to climb again, but the motivation is already within us: we have wanted the mountain since the day we were conceived.

Climbing is a strenuous activity. There are also many traps and dangers, it is not just a hobby, it takes real dedication. It is enough to stay in the present and concentrate on the next step. We can feel the character Donkey from the movie Shrek close to us, because even when we are climbing the mountain, we always ask ourselves: are we there yet? But if I keep my eyes on the next step and don’t let the distance scare me, I realize how beautiful the view is as we climb. Sometimes we remember the view from the ascent better than the view from the summit, but both were on the mountain.

The Novitiate is a mountaineering mission. We are already moving from the city to base camp. From the city, the environment at base camp seems rather strange. Mountaineers do not have their own phone, they are far from friends and family, they leave behind well-paid jobs, a girlfriend, a flat and, out of obedience to their superiors, cannot even decide what to do for most of the day. In short, base camp allows nothing of what city dwellers seek for their safety and happiness. Anyone who has been to the mountains knows that climbing does not require the things that city dwellers consider important. The goal of base camp is to become as proficient as possible in climbing. We are assisted by qualified mountaineers who can authentically demonstrate that mountaineering is truly an adventure of a lifetime. Every aspect of base camp helps us, personally and collectively, to become better mountaineers. There are many ways to climb mountains, varying from period to period and from person to person. With the help of experienced guides, we become more skilled mountaineers, trying new routes and methods, but preferably finding and following that path through which I have the most beautiful view.

After the initial abrupt change, one can get used to the environment at base camp. One can almost feel comfortable. But base camp only lasts for a limited time, two years for the Jesuits. Then they return to the city to continue the climb, inviting as many mountaineers as possible to join them on this adventure that we all deeply desire.

Miklós Forián-Szabó

Daily Examen – What are you waiting for to do it?

by Giacomo Mottola

The examination of a day is one of the characteristic prayers of the Jesuites; indeed we could say that it constitutes for us what the choir  is for the monks. It is not just a vocal prayer and its effects are long lasting. Over time the review of the day becomes a real way of life, an Ignatian way of life.

Certainly it was not Saint Ignatius who invented this prayer exercise which was present in the church from the first centuries. No, it’s a bit like the history of America: it was discovered by Columbus but not having yet understood the importance of what he had discovered, for his sake, it was Amerigo Vespucci who gave it the name. Thus Ignatius, inspired by previous experiences, composed the examination of him. Thanks to the spread of the Jesuits throughout the world, it has become the model of examination of “conscience” par excellence. I put conscience in quotation marks because that of Ignatius, as we will see, is not just one of those exams that are needed to confess but much more.

But what is it for?

it is difficult to make a list of “benefits” of this prayer due to simple fact that, being something spiritual, its effect also go beyond what we can know and prove, but limiting myself to those that are more immediately perceptible, I will try to illustrate someone that until now I have been able to experience.

First of all, the exam begins by reviewing the reasons for thanking god in the day (or Half a day if you do it two times a day). Not only thanking him for what happened but we can briefly extend thanks for the creation, for its colors, for life… every day it is possible to find something new! We can give thanks for the salvation worked and for those moments of the day in which we recognize God’s presence… Thus with eyes filled with resurrection we learn life in gratitude. This on sad days is like a ride on a carousel and in an instant the sun returns. Living as a grateful person is the first long-term effect of the exam.

Then we continue with the request of the Holy Spirit to be able to look at one’s life with the eyes of God, which are the eyes of mercy. Looking at one’s life as God sees it is the only way to look correctly at oneself by understanding oneself as a beloved child. This is another long-term effect of the exam.

The third point is to examine one’s day and say to oneself: well, in the face of all this love, how did I respond?

Here is that faults and sins are not centered on our conduct but on the breaking of the relationship with the one who loves us. Decentralizing ourselves, putting Jesus at the center is one of the most liberating effects of this exercise.

Here comes the time to distance ourselves from evil and sin, proposing not only not to commit it again in the future but also trying to find a way to prevent future falls. This is a bit like keeping your guard up knowing that life is a fight against the power of darkness.

The exam helps us to have a strategy to win.

Finally we can say our love to God, asking the Father for forgiveness for any shortcomings and re-establish our alliance with Him in the name of Jesus.

Here is the exam that puts us on our feet and puts us back in the Father’s arms for the next piece of the road, but it’s not over! Over time, in fact, examination after examination, a constant vigilance develops over one’s actions and relationship with God and to watch in anticipation of Chist’s return.

What are you waiting for to do it?


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