Some time ago, our rector proposed that we organize a series of evening meetings in which any seminarian could share their passions with the others, presenting on a theme, an author or a part of history that interests them in a particular way. This simple cultural proposal immediately became an opportunity for each of us to be known more deeply, as well as a chance to offer new horizons of beauty to the others.
In one of these appointments, Matteo talked to us about the vision of creation of J.R.R. Tolkein, through a guided reading of a few passages taken from The Silmarillion and from some moving letters written by the author to his son. I was struck by the positivity of Tolkein in front of the presence of evil in the world, evil that he saw firsthand when he was fighting for France in the First World War. The marvelous opening chapters of The Silmarillion depict creation as a concert of heavenly music, freely called into being by God. In this concert, evil enters as dissonance, a voice out of tune, but one that does not have the power to corrupt it deep down. More than a theological tractate, the reading that Matteo did helped me to contemplate the beauty and the goodness of creation.
Another evening, Matthew had us listen to a few songs by the Avett Brothers, an American folk band. It is a group I have known for some time now, but listening to their songs under the impassioned guidance of Matthew, who told us about the impact that the music of the Avett Brothers has had in his life, helped me to rediscover the beauty of the lyrics and to grasp the true meaning of the words that, in the past, I had listened to more superifically. These evenings were an opportunity for me as well to open myself to my brothers. My seminary companions know of my passion for the culture and language of Japan. This interest was born many years ago thanks to an encounter with the cinema and music of that country, but also with the surprising history that Christianity had to pass through there. Overcoming my innate shyness, I proposed to everyone an evening in which I could speak about the Christian history of Japan, from the arrival of St. Francis Xavier, to the persecutions and martyrs, up to modern saints like Dr. Takashi Nagai and the Venerable Satoko Kitahara. Preparing for the presentation, I was able to delve even more deeply into this topic that so fascinates me, discovering also a taste for sharing with the others what is dear to me. Beyond the above mentioned topics, there were some who spoke of the martyrs of the Second World War, of photography, of theater. These “evenings of passion” served to open our gaze, both on reality and on our brothers. Through sharing our interests, we got to know one another better and we were able to glimpse beauty in places that we would not have expected.