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Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Who really remains?

11 Oct 2018

In Spielberg’s movie “The Terminal”, the protagonist is stuck in an airport terminal due a problem with documentation and he cannot return home nor leave the airport. He is forced to live for a certain period in the terminal. He finds himself dealing with people who frequent the place just for a few hours, or who only work there, but don’t live there like him. He will get used to finding friendships and his normality in a place like that. Apart from the surreal situation of the film, in these past weeks even our tranquil novitiate seemed to me a place of passage. Certainly not like a terminal, but it has become a place of passage for different languages, cultures and stories. After the first vows of our companions and their departure, part of the novitiate left for Rome. With them there have been laughs, difficulties and friendships born in the past two years. At the time of farewell by the van loaded with their luggage I realized that the novitiate is also a place of important departures. Not just because of the large number of suitcases which took up all the available space. I mean because of the quantity of experiences lived. Our companions who left for Rome had two very rich years behind them.

A week later we found ourselves with the novices of the new year gazing upon the port of Genoa in the October sun. It was a clear day, and we could see the whole coastline from our seats. At that moment I saw the novitiate in a different way to usual, as it had not happened to me for a while. A place of new experiences, a new home, a harbour in which to dock. These days make me reflect on the novitiate as the land of those who leave and those who arrive. The place where you land and take off. In fact, there are those who leave and those who remain. In the light of that sun I looked at my companions, now novices of the second year, we who remain. Then I looked at our new brothers. I thought that the exchange begins like this, on the one hand the new energies and life stories that come from outside, on the other our small but significant experience of the novitiate to be passed on. In this way, even we who remain are transformed.

However, something is missing from the novitiate. In fact, a few days ago, looking at the table with all the new community gathered, I wondered: it is true that we remained, but in the end who really remains in the novitiate? The answer was clear. Our formators, each with his own role, each with his own story. A bit like the character of the film, they live in a place that would seem to be only one of passage. They are those who in this precious time help us to shape our life. I think back to how many times each one has added their own contribution to the novitiate, from the chaos of the kitchen to the silence of the month of spiritual exercises. It is they who try to give consistency to every new beginning in this house. If I look at our changes this year, I recognize it. Even with their life spent here in the novitiate they give us witness to something. This seemed to me a more than valid reason for which to be grateful. To be grateful for those who remain to allow others to leave.

Summer is over… and so is the novitiate!

29 Sep 2020

Genoa, Monday 21st September 2020.

It’s night. It’s late. It’s not just any night. It’s the last night before leaving for Rome for San Saba. I’ve emptied the wardrobe of all my clothes. The suitcases have been ready for a few hours now. And the room is so quiet. As usual, at these hours.

Mentally I retrace the days I spent here. I return to the first night spent here in Genoa. Exactly seven hundred twenty-two days have passed. I think back to how bewildered I felt and, in some ways, so out of place when I arrived here.

Today I find myself here and I feel like I have never really lived anywhere else. Maybe physically I have. But not with my heart. Definitely not!

I think back to the people I have met in these seven hundred twenty-two days: trainers, companions of yesterday and today, the young people of the apostolate of Sestri Ponente, and all the others I have met in the various experiments. I see their faces, their smiles. It almost seems to me that I can hear their voices.

The REM sang that leaving New York is never easy… You can see that they never had the novitiate experience!

It’s so strange to leave a place where you feel at home. And yet, deep in my heart, I feel a great peace. Despite all the possible fears about my future, I feel peaceful.

Just over a week after my first vows, I feel the importance of moving forward. I recognise the need to start walking on this new road.

The temptation to take everything with me, people, friendships and places, is there. However, I recognise what it would be like to want to take over something that has been given to me for free and that does not belong to me, it cannot belong to me so beautiful it is!

“You have given it to me, to you, Lord, I laugh at it;
  everything is yours, everything you have”

I recognise, therefore, how within each of these seven hundred twenty-two days the Lord has been with me. And I am grateful because He has taken care of me every single day.

Giovanni Barbone, jesuit scholastic

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