Luc Garnier, 22 years old, a seminarian from the Diocese of Lyon, France, has been attending the IUS from September 2012. Sophia can hold in store some nice surprises even for a seminarian studying along with students at the Institute who come from very diverse places and cultural itineraries. We asked him three questions so as to get to know his experience from up close.
By what road did you arrive at the IUS?
My Bishop proposed that I come here. At the time, I was facing a fork in the road: after having studied philosophy at the diocesan Seminary, I had asked the Bishop if I could have a year’s leave. I was the youngest among the seminarians and it seemed necessary for me to have a few more months in order to better understand the vocation I wanted to follow. I had no clear idea of what I would have done, but I had two desires: one was to continue my studies, and I especially wished that it could be a year of communitarian living. My experience in the Seminary, in fact, had helped me understand that the fraternal dimension was an important one for me. In the meantime, my Bishop had met with the rector of the IUS and according to my Bishop, it was at the IUS that my expectations could be met.
How do you find it? How would you describe the experience of studying at the IUS?
The university is based on the two pillars of study and life lived, therefore I feel that this experience co-responds very well with what I was looking for. I am attending the lessons on Trinitarian Ontology and at the end of the year I will have the annual diploma. The topics are not new ones for me, but what is new, is the perspective and the key for reading the different subjects, which will certainly be useful to me in the future. The novelty has been to understand how mutual love can be a light for study, for thought itself.
And then, there is the life of the community: it is the best of experiences at Sophia. I live in an apartment with six other young people who come from Africa, Latin America and Italy. Clearly, I had already experienced the beauty of fraternity on other occasions, in my family, in the Seminary, but what is original here is to share this choice with other young men who are not preparing to enter the priesthood...
I was able to confront other thoughts, other ecclesial paths, as also other points of view: every day I find myself opening my mind and my heart to other spiritual and cultural experiences equally beautiful. Furthermore, it was a new thing for me to share many things not only with young men, but also with the young women who are studying at Sophia: my relationship with them has allowed me to mature as a man, and to feel a deepened calling to consecrated celibacy. Now I am able to say my ‘Yes’ anew to the Lord.
Can you share with us an episode you have lived during these past months?
A very important experience that I had a few weeks ago: I was at La Verna, the Franciscan Hermitage in the Casentino forest, for a spiritual retreat. The sanctuary is the place where Francis of Assisi received the stigmata and experienced the apex of his union with Jesus Crucified. I had wanted to stay on the mountain for a while to find the necessary silence in order to listen to God’s voice. I obviously found that silence, the spirit of fervid prayer, together with the simplicity proper of the Franciscan charism. But I discovered another dimension as well. The silence was not total, we spoke with the monks mostly during meals and between us there was a deep fraternity: I understood that the place for the presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of the world is communion lived in God. It is the very thing that we try to live at Sophia.
There is also another dimension typical of the IUS which I found at La Verna: it is that of the union between study and life lived. It was very beautiful to understand how every dimension of our life (the faculties of the soul, but also those of our intelligence) must be unified and all find their place in the journey toward God.
Certainly, Sophia and La Verna are two different places, one being a university and the other a convent… Yet for me they had a very close relationship! My year of study at the IUS is close to its conclusion and, in a way yet different, I hope to continue to live all of this in my future, when I will be serving my parish.
Text by: Melchior Nsavyimana