Giuseppe Riggio SJ
The thirst to “give back”
I had every reason to be satisfied: I was one step away from realizing the dream of becoming a magistrate, conceived when I was a teenager, after the death of Falcone and Borsellino. Instead I was restless…
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Isaiah 55, 1
This verse has accompanied me through an important period of my life. It was 1999 and I had just finished my law studies in Messina, my hometown. I had every reason to be satisfied: it was an important step as my dream of becoming a magistrate was about to be realized, conceived when I was a teenager, after the death of Falcone and Borsellino.
Restlessness and searching
Instead, I was restless, I felt “thirsty” and that dream of a profession at the service of society suddenly seemed small to me. Slowly I started to become aware, and a question arose in my mind. I was aware that I had received so many gifts in my life, starting from the affection of my family. And then I wondered: how can I share what I have received? Through this question, which drove me to look for something different from what I had been chasing after until then, the journey that led me to the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 2003 began.
During this time of searching that started after my graduation until I joined the Novitiate, I lived in Rome, where I had moved to continue studying and to work. I had so many important human and spiritual experiences during this time in Rome: from missionary work in parishes with the Comboni Missionaries to service with refugees at the Astalli Centre – JRS Italy.
The decisive experience of the Exercises
But one of these experiences was decisive for me: the offer of the Spiritual Exercises in Ordinary Life (EVO) made by the Jesuits of the Chaplaincy of La Sapienza. I had already heard of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and I was curious and at the same time fearful of doing them. Eventually I decided to join the group that was forming at the Chaplaincy and so I began to discover Ignatian spirituality and become more familiar with Scripture. Thanks to the journey of the Spiritual Exercises, I have grown so much, especially in freedom of heart and in listening to the Lord.
A desire began to grow
As the months passed, I realized that the desire to “help my brothers like Jesus” (these were the words I used) became stronger and clearer, and, to my surprise, I felt that the best way to do this was by choosing the path of religious consecration. Asking to become a Jesuit was at that point the natural thing to do, because I wanted to share with others the treasure of Ignatian spirituality that had helped me so much.
The journey of formation as a Jesuit
Several years have now passed since my entry into the novitiate and the memory of each stage is linked to the faces of the people I met, and the experiences shared with them. In the novitiate of Genoa I made some friend that still accompany me to this day. In Padua, while studying philosophy I collaborated with the popoli Insieme association, where I crossed paths again with political refugees: from these people I really learned a lot.
For my Regency I returned to Rome, working at the Jesuit Secretariat for Social Justice. For two years I experienced fully the universal dimension of the Society and had the opportunity of a brief but extremely significant missionary experience in the Brazilian Amazon.
Then I went to Paris to study theology, where what I experienced and what I studied were once more linked together, thanks also to the questions of the young people I met during my apostolate (the animation of a house for young people in discernment and the accompaniment of a biblical group in Saint-Denis).
fter moving continuously from one place to another I settled in Milan for a few years, living first in the community of San Fedele and then in that of Villapizzone. The baggage acquired in the past years had become even richer thanks to what I learned while contributing to the publication of the magazine Aggiornamenti sociali and in pastoral activities with young people.
A deep gratitude
In the last stage of our formation, which I followed in Bolivia during the months of the pandemic, I was able to stop and recall the years that I spent in the Society. The gratitude was great for the Lord. I am grateful because he continues to call me to be with him, to work with him, to rest and trust in him, because I realize that he made himself present in my life where I did not expect him to (or where I resisted), far beyond my expectations. I am grateful because of the unique and precious companions he gave me from all over the world to accompany me during my formation journey.
I joined the Society with the desire to share the good and the gifts I received. During these years I have learnt – and continue to learn – that what I receive is much more than what I give.