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Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Where are the tools?

20 Oct 2019

Where are the tools is the most frequent question in the first weeks here in the Novitiate.
For the new entries the orientation in the house is the first big challenge. To face it we need some tools, which are useful for the work that is needed to do.
It is the same experience that we live in becoming familiar, even and especially in spiritual life, with the way of proceeding of Company of Jesus. Which are the tools to grow?
Whether it is a garden or a person, they are in the relationship, with yourself, with others and with God, and you learn to live this relationship in everyday life.

Where are the tools?
Everything in its own time, like for the time for pruning you need scissors, to clean the garden from leaves the broom, to hoe the ground the hoe, as for the diverse moment of the day there are different manners and ways to “live” a relationship. It’s the life that you go through in the community, that you try to live in the most appropriate manner possible to the way of proceeding of the Company, as the ignatian sources, the constitutions and the recommendations of the general congregation teach us, under the direction of our superiors.
All in good time, at each time of the day his sense and his work.
And how do you use it?
We must look at each other, share experiences, see how the community moves to discern what is the orientation of our life.
Ask and give your availability.
Asking teaches to understand the possibilities offered by the other and the need to reach out to him to grow-up. Give your availability in a listening without judgment, careful to receive, in the disposition to welcome, learning how make space and understanding the things that really are worth. “Having dismissed all judgment, we must keep our minds ready and willing” as St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual exercises.

But there are different tools, although similar ones, what can I use them for and when?
Everything has a time, sometimes the rush to understand can be a bad counselor, curiosity brings fruit if shared freely and the answers can be various: from understanding to suspension. It is not always necessary to have everything clear if you don’t have the strength or the experience to use a certain instrument.
In this way for example we prepare ourselves for the month of Ignatian Exercises , you can be interested, you can ask, but then there are things that must be lived, and the suspension helps to include also the desire that you have of that thing … “Not so much to know sated, but to feel and taste things internally”, to experience them as St. Ignatius says.

And then once done?
Review the effort made, see the work done, repeat it if necessary to deepen it.
Thus a form of gratitude born for the time received that gives energy and strengthens for the new effort that comes with the new day. And at the same time experience is accumulated, which helps to sharpen the gaze, to be more receptive and to growup in “discernment”.
And then where do I put them?
Everything in its place.
The great art of discernment serves precisely to learn to put in order, in the inner life as into the external life.

In fact, as cardinal Martini said: “Without our realizing it, life is disturbed, fragmented, worn out. So it need to put back in order the pieces of our time, of our body, of our heart. We all need it, and we all have to do it, not just once in a lifetime, but every day”.
Just as it is done in everyday life, once everything is tidied up, you discover that there is always a new job to be done and then you have to go back to the tools, and then put them back, with a wealth of experience always renewed.

Filippo Carlomagno, novice of second year

My right foot

by Daniel Nørgaard

It has become a tradition that those who come from Northern Europe to make their novitiate in Italy encounter hard trials and agonies. Just think of St Stanislaus Kostka from my own province, North Poland, who died in the novitiate in Rome in 1568 after a painful illness. I am also reminded of Saints Henry Walpole and Robert Southwell, who after formation in the same novitiate were sent to England where they suffered excruciating martyrdom in 1595.

It was therefore obvious that I, after a year already marked by covid19 and family bereavement, was destined for further suffering.

When at the end of October I fell victim to this cruel fate of mine on our football field with a sprained ankle, I managed to think “take and receive, Lord, this too”. I had the clear awareness that I was far from the level of holiness of the Jesuits from Northern Europe who had preceded me. But I soon saw an opportunity to imitate them better. Taken to my room and made to lie on the bed, the mixture of my religious fanaticism and the effect of adrenalin surging through my body after the painful impact caused me to expect a mystical ecstasy. I imagined that if I could fully surrender myself to the Lord in this poverty of mine and unite myself to the sufferings of Christ, I would be elevated to a state of union with God that I had only dreamed of until then. It could become my Pamplona, like St Ignatius! I already saw how future iconography would depict me in bed with a crucifix in one arm and a football in the other.

There then followed days in which I tried to turn my accident into a religious experience to lift my soul to God, but I did not succeed. I did not experience consoling enlightenment, nor did I feel God’s closeness. My spiritual life became a continuous distraction of thoughts about how I could have avoided the accident and feelings of self-pity and anger.

The pious part of me still wanted to offer itself to God, but the human part of me could not free itself from all these natural thoughts and feelings. On that bed of pain lay not a saint, but a man imprisoned by his ego. What a desolation! And God continued to be absent.

I seemed to myself a pagan, and began to doubt my choice of religious life, when suddenly a thought occurred to me: But He has chosen you! He knows all your faults, and yet he has chosen you to follow him as you are.

My distorted fantasy of a saint with a heroic smile touched by pain was not a pleasing offering to God, He had in fact ignored it. He wanted me, just as I am with my wounded humanity, with a sore foot that causes discontent.

My right foot has not provided me with mystical experiences, nor have I managed to achieve heroic virtues through my illness. But it did make me remember that I am human, and that the Lord calls me so. Consoled, I decided to follow Him thus, limping.

2021-01-02 Daniel Nørgaard – second-year novice.

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