Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by the image of the crucified Christ with the King’ crown and the white tunic of the Risen One. During the first years of university, I became seriously interested in the lifestyle of the members of the Secular Institute “Cristo Re”, founded by Giuseppe Lazzati, before arriving at the Society.
Those Jesuits by hearsay
Until the age of 28, the age at which I entered the Novitiate, I lived in Cassano Magnago, a small town near Gallarate. I come from a Catholic-practicing family and have always attended the parish in my neighborhood. As a boy and as an adolescent, I knew the Society through the fame of the Aloisianum in Gallarate and through the catchphrases of my older fellow citizens: “The Jesuits are those who study…”, “The Jesuits are never ‘fooled’ (in a dispute)…”, “The Jesuits have devotion to the Sacred Heart”… and other similar “apophthegms”, which, in my dialect, are much more colorful. To tell the truth, I also heard about the Jesuits from my father who, for a while, wrote for some magazines collaborating with Jesuits involved in the world of culture and communication. In short, however, I had no direct knowledge of the Society.
Martini and Fumagalli
The first Jesuit who really made an impact on my life was Cardinal Martini. Martini: his pastoral care in promoting an encounter with the Word of God, the “Lectio” and discernment, gave me the tools I needed to make serious progress in faith and to address the vocational question. Then, again, the eclectic Fr Mosè Fumagalli, “apostle” of the Technical Institute in Gallarate, whom I had as a professor of religion. Any adjective to describe him would not render the idea, and those who knew him can confirm this. Despite the esteem and good relationship I had with him, I did not keep in touch, immediately after graduating. I continued my life in the parish, with Catholic Action group and with diocesan activities, while I attended the Faculty of Biology at the University in Milan.
The vocational “problem”
The question of vocation presented itself to me in a striking way after a course of Spiritual Exercises, that I attended near Erba, Como. The theme was proposed, on that occasion, by a group of consecrated lay people. I remember that their commitment to accompany Exercises and retreats was not aimed at procuring vocations for their Institute, but on the contrary, it was a way to serve the Diocese and to help young people in their discernment. As a result of this experience, I began to see consecrated life, and in particular life as a consecrated layperson, as a possible choice. In the months that followed, I had to overcome many fears, resistances, and senses of inadequacy that kept me from truly facing a more serious discernment. When, however, the joy of considering consecration overcame the fear, at the same time I felt that my interest in consecrated laity diminished and my interest in religious life grew.
The encounter with the Villapizzone community
Who could help me get clear? I went back to Father Mosè and, through him, I got to know the Villapizzone community. After graduating, I did my civil service there and took advantage of it to do Thirty Days Retreat in Ordinary Life. Confirmation towards the Society came, not only, “positively” from prayer, from the lifestyle of the Jesuits with whom I was in contact and from the spirituality of the Society, but, also, “negatively” from the splendid example I received from the families of Villapizzone. In fact, when I saw families that were so open, so willing to get involved, so socially and Christianly committed, I felt that the vocation to marriage, while wonderful in itself and “naturally” attractive, was not one in which I felt the most consolation.
The path of formation
Once in the Society, I followed the common path: Novitiate in Genoa, Philosophy in Padua and Theology in Naples. For Regency I was assigned to Sant’Agata Li Battiati (CT). The experience was very formative, not only for the possibility of living in Sicily – whose culture has always fascinated me – in addition to having read Pirandello, Sciascia and Capuana, as a child I never missed a film of Franco and Ciccio and I have seen at least three times the screenplay “La Baronessa di Carini” – but, above all, for the variety of work that I was able to experience: youth ministry in our parish of Martiri Inglesi, and to a lesser extent, collaboration with the Centro Astalli in Catania and some experience in accompanying Spiritual Exercises for young people. In all these stages there have been Brothers who have helped and supported me effectively.
The joys and dramas of people
After completing my Theology studies in Madrid and being ordained a priest, I was sent for three years – as assistant priest – to one of our parishes in the center of Catania. Returning as a priest allowed me to gain a lot of experience; besides the joy and responsibility of understanding and knowing more deeply the joys and dramas of people, I found very important the encounter with people’s devotion.
Among prisoners and campesinos
I spent Tertianship – the concluding stage of formation that prepares for Final Vows – in Mexico, with a group of Brothers from all over the world. The most moving experiences were the month spent on a prison island, which I reached aboard a navy ship, and the month spent visiting villages of “campesinos”, belonging to a parish run by the Jesuits. Although sociological and cultural poverty can also lead to mean, utilitarian behavior, it is even more true that the poor teach trust in Providence, are more open to the Gospel, and are sincere in welcoming and sharing what they have.
At the service of the Word
For some years now, I have been working mainly in a house, in Bologna, for Spiritual Exercises. In this ministry, it fills me with joy to see people’s thirst for God, to see how the Word of God – prayed with commitment and seriousness – brings much light into one’s life, heals many wounds, enables one to experience salvation and thus leads to follow the Lord in a more radical and sincere way.