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

What the sea makes us call into mind

01 Apr 2020

Six months have passed since I entered the novitiate. From my window I still look with
pleasure and gratitude at the sea. Often I become a spectator of lights and colors spread
on the water by the sun rays. But I look at the sea and the port of Genoa differently than
half a year ago. Things read in the novitiate have entered my memory and have changed
the way I see.
For St. Ignatius the sea in front of Genoa offered great hardship: When in 1524 he took a
ship from Genoa to Barcelona “he ran a serious danger of being caught” (Autobiography
53). There was a war between the Spaniards and the French, and his Spanish ship was
haunted by ships serving France. On his way to Genoa on a ship from Valencia in 1535,
he ran into a storm, and the rudder broke and the passengers thought that “death could
not have been escaped” (Autobiography 33).
Saint José Pignatelli arrived at the port of Genoa in 1768 with 2,500 Spanish
Jesuits expelled from Spain, after a year as refugees in Corsica. For a week they waited
on board the ships without permission to disembark and with great trials. At some point
one of the ships was about to wreck, and they had to abandon it and crowd together on
the other ships. In those days, people came from the novitiate of Genoa with food and
clothes to help the refugees who were suffering.
These facts strike me because they happened beneath my window. They come into my
mind as I watch the ocean. But not only the dramas of the past, also tragedies that happen
today present them self when I see the sea. The images of shipwrecked people, which
were once presented daily by the media, are still in my memory. It remains a mystery to
me that the progress that has increased our dominion over the sea does not prevent
thousands of people, even today, from experiencing moments of great danger on the sea.
Still in the Mediterranean, a little further south from here, many die in an attempt to find a
better future. Little is heard of it now, but it still happens.
What unites us on the sea is above all our fragility. In the midst of such a large and
powerful element, man needs help. We often do not lack the means to help.
I understand the fears that make us doubt how we will manage to welcome all those who
would like to come to Europe. There are problems that certainly need to be discussed and
resolved. But how can we allow our fear to stop ships that are willing to help shipwrecked
refugees? How is it possible that mankind with all the necessary tools to help prefers to
see people die in the middle of the sea?
I see the sea. Its beauty is still there, but it is mixed with a bit of sadness.

Daniel Nørgaard – first year novice

When prayer becomes…preparing breakfast

by Alessandro Di Mauro

During novitiate life it happens, on a rotating basis, that we have to prepare breakfast for everyone before starting individual morning prayer. In such cases, one of us needs to wake up a little earlier than the others to be able to reconcile preparation time and meditation time. I have sometimes wondered if it is really necessary for us to be present when doing this service or if there is a deeper reason for doing it.

For some time now, when the alarm clock rings in the morning, I often feel, in my heart, the desire to meet the Lord during my personal prayer and in the Eucharistic celebration that we live daily. I have, however, realised that even when I have to anticipate the alarm clock for breakfast, the desire does not change and it almost seems to me that this also enters into the dynamic of meeting Him.  A question then arises for me: is it possible that even the act of preparing breakfast for everyone is somehow part of a form of prayer? To answer this question, I immediately ask myself another: what is the meaning of Christian prayer? I believe that prayer is an encounter with the Lord to deepen more and more the communion of life with Him. As St Teresa of Avila used to say, it is the moment when I meet the Beloved. On the other hand, if we read the Gospels, Jesus himself often stopped to pray alone in the intimacy of dialogue with the Father, so much so that it triggered the Apostles’ desire to understand how to pray: ‘Lord teach us how to pray’. What needs prompted them to make this request? Certainly the example of Jesus must have been a driving force: as the Master prays, it is good that we also pray; but I believe, first and foremost, they had the desire to experience the same encounter as Jesus with God the Father. In prayer, therefore, two freedoms meet, that of the believer who seeks the Lord and that of God who has the desire to be heard by those who pray to him. This is also the reason why it is, often, complicated to pray, because on the one hand there is a supernatural dynamic, whereby prayer is a gift from God, for which one’s heart must be prepared; on the other hand it is a human encounter that takes place in ordinary life, a challenge to recognise God’s voice that is often covered by the din of everyday life.

But back to breakfast! What does this have to do with its preparation? Nothing, if one approaches preparation thinking that the purpose is to have some milk, coffee and tea ready on time. But if one lives this operation savouring every single moment of it – from picking up the coffee pots to preparing them, to hearing the whistle of the coffee ready and enjoying the heat that the vapours give off when it is poured into the thermos – thinking that this gesture will be of help to the brethren, to those whom the Lord has placed beside him, something changes. By living the preparation in this way, even these gestures can become an encounter with God the Father, for whom I recognise in the other a brother for whom it is well worth losing half an hour of sleep.

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