I was born in a very traditional Venetian family, and I followed the classic Catholic path, respecting – not always with much conviction – the “mandatory steps”: baptism, communion, confirmation…
Then as a teen I rejected the Christian life I had lived up to that moment, the spirituality of do-this-dont-do-that-or-you-will-go-to-hell.
In Nicaragua at 17, a thought
At 17 – while I was in Nicaragua to help build a basketball court for children – something changed. At the end of a day’s work with the children, I started to feel something that brought me a lot of joy: “how wonderful it would be to dedicate my life to the service of others and of the Lord!”. But then I kept downplaying this moment as a futile moment of temporary exaltation: “why me”?
“Being a priest is not for me”, I ket trying to convince myself for the following years. My ideal of life was the typical TV-commercial winning male prototype: a successful job, blond and smiling wife, educated and loving children.
The search and the encounter
At the age of 29, I felt I had to take my spiritual life into my own hands and not be satisfied with daily contingencies. I needed to fly higher.
I was looking for something more than a faith lived as an accumulation of devotional practices, a shortcut to paradise. A chance encounter with the Jesuits (what a hit was the San Fedele Cinema Forum in Milan) did the rest. I immediately adhered to a way of living the Lord’s word that was authentic and immediate for me, the only true source of that fullness of life to which I aspire.
“What is the best way to live 100%?” I often asked myself. And the possibility of a path to consecrated life became increasingly tangible. Reading St. Augustine’s Confessions also seemed to push me in this direction.
Between desire and fears
But the desire to respond fully was always hindered – and anesthetized – by the contingencies of practical life, work, interests, pastimes, and, above all, adherence to life projects considered perfect for me: a fine role in society as an established professional and family man.
And here is where the much sought-after balance began to materialize: a girlfriend I loved, an exciting job as communications manager in a small multinational company, a stimulating life in a dynamic city like Milan. But that wasn’t enough. At that point it was clear as day: the path to take was another one. So here I am.
It wasn’t exactly easy. Among the most difficult steps, I remember with some tension dropping the news-bomb on family and friends. With my parents, I tried to throw it out lightly during a meal at the table: “what would you think if I became a Jesuit?”. When my father replied, “I would prefer you to become a Franciscan,” I realized that they wouldn’t take me seriously. My choice was for them the classic thing that is only beautiful when it happens to other people’s children. My cousin was completely shocked: “Did Our Lady appear to you?”. And friends, how many embarrassed silences. One evening I bought loads of beer for everyone before I found the courage to step up and talk about it.
To this day I ask myself how it was possible. In the end, all it took was to say “yes”, be brave and realize that there is only one life. If it’s natural to seek the best for yourself, it’s also important to grab it without making too much trouble.
A great adventure
After nearly six years of the typical “Jesuit pilgrimage” between the Novitiate in Genoa, philosophy studies in Rome, and an apostolic experience in Romania, I am increasingly surprised by the Lord’s disarming creativity and sense of humor. Moments of happiness, enthusiasm, truth and authentic beauty, together with struggles, disappointments and hardships have made this journey a great adventure.