Naples (Italy) In the face of the threat of the coronavirus that brought about the annulment of may appointments, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Southern Province Our Lady of Good Council (IMR) and the Salesians of Don Bosco of South Italy and Albania, decided not to cancel the usual experience of the spiritual exercises for the young people, but to propose that from 3 to 5 April 2020, do them through the means of communication online, something unheard of.
The proposal made to the Italian young people from 18 to 30 years of age and for Albania and Kosovo, opened also to teenagers, received the adhesion of about 150 young people. The common theme was ‘the healing worked by Jesus’, so very appropriate in this time of ‘illness’.
The experience is recounted directly by the young people who participated:
“In a ‘normal’ situation there would not have been a ‘Live Lent online’ and it is also a month in which the world is no longer living a ‘normal’ situation, but it is from the ‘extraordinary’ events that are often born the most beautiful and meaningful experiences. The version of the Live Lent of this year shows this.
Sincerely, the idea of being able to live the experience of the spiritual exercises before the computer screen, at the beginning seemed a bit strange to everyone, above all for those who are having an experience of this kind for the first time. In reality, after the first connection, everything seemed ‘normal’ and we immediately understood the seriousness and the depth of that strange experience we had decided to live together although remaining in our own room. We were distant with our body but close with our soul.
Of course, we were used to meet, to embrace each other, to smile at each other, and to pray together physically, but even though each of us was in his/her own house hundreds of kilometers from each other, these things were not lacking, indeed, perhaps this year we managed to appreciate them again more with the distance.
It is difficult to explain what this Live Lent meant to us young people to those who have not lived it personally. We gathered four times a day before a screen in order to be present at the appointments that Someone had made for each of us who knows from how long ago.
The time of sharing was certainly very special among all of them. We found ourselves facing themes that were both important and powerful. We were called to put our interior disorder in order and share with others our problems, thoughts, fears. This was not easy, above all if on the other side of the screen there are people we did not know at all, and never had the fortune of looking into their eyes. And yet, in those evenings it was so natural to open one’s heart to another who was ready to simply listen.
In Matthew Chapter 6 Jesus says, “When you pray, enter into your room, close the door, address your prayer to Your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will answer you.” No other passage from the Gospel better expresses what happened in Live Lent: Jesus passed among us, entered our homes, knocked on the door of the our room, sat next to us, and has been with us all the time. That was our greatest reward: knowing and feeling that in difficult moments, wherever we are, He is always with us to support and encourage us.
One of the most beautiful teachings of Live Lent was probably given to us by Fr. Gianpaolo and Sister Giuliana who, together with the other priests and FMA, showed us how we can do something when there is a will to do it despite a thousand impediments. They had already organized everything months ago, but they got back into the game and, in a short time, they had to reinvent everything: new topics, new meditations that had to reflect the reality that we are experiencing and above all, an entirely new way to enter our homes. In the end we really felt pampered by their attention, availability, and flawless organization.
In these three days we realized that being a Salesian is truly fortunate! It was so beautiful to breathe in the kindness and profound spirituality with which Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, in the course of their lives, had to fight disease both as ill themselves and as nursing others. To know that they too, went through difficult times like we are experiencing because of the coronavirus, brought them so close to our reality and gave us something extra so that we feel less alone. The truth is that these two great saints always reveal themselves actual in time and in eternity, and this will never cease to amaze and excite us.
The experience just ended was a real experience of sharing, comparison, and Living knowledge, even if remote; it helped us to grow and enrich ourselves internally. It has been capable of lighting a fire inside and making us see at the end of the tunnel of these days, a blinding and ever-present light, that of faith.
Probably not everyone will have immediately sensed all these positive feelings, but, even if an experience does not immediately leave its mark, this does not mean that it was useless, perhaps it touched the depth of the heart and just needs some time to come out. In practice, it is as if Live Lent had planted a seed in each of us which, sooner or later, will bear its beautiful fruit.
Now our task is to teach those close to us in this difficult period to smile with your eyes; you have to learn to look with your heart because you can be close even if far away”. Desiré Schiavone – Fragagnano (TA)
“An unheard of experience was the one that involved the youth of South Italy and the 10 members of the SDB and FMA team, united by the desire to share among themselves and with the Word of God.
A ‘live Lent’ which in the special historical context we are passing and in the impossibility of carrying it out as usual at Grumento, took the opportunity of putting into action the pastoral theme of this year, “You can be a saint where you are”. About a hundred young people of the Oratory of the FMA and SDB of the Southern Province found themselves completely immersed, each in their own home, ‘where they were’, in an experience that has enriched knowledge and allowed everyone to open not only their eyes but also their heart to the depth of the message that the Word left us.
The young people, accompanied by the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in a completely new style, on an online platform, distant but united with heart and prayer, had the opportunity to ‘Unplug’ from everyday life while being in our own home, to let ourselves be guided in a Lenten journey and prepare for Easter, for the resurrection of Jesus who took our frailties, healed our wounds, as only a good doctor can do.
Intense days that were lived from 3 to 5 April, thanks to moments of listening, personal reflection, and sharing. A path designed starting from the experience everyone is living in the particular historical context of the pandemic during which we are realizing that “it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.” So between the various moments, it was possible to meet the Lord and recognize Him as the one who can heal wounds and save lives.
To understand the unrest, the fragility that everyone experiences in everyday life, the figure of Matthew was presented at the time of the call. A tax collector, attached to his own ideas, to his disorder, which he did not want to give up. But following that call, he looks up, feels amazement, is reborn, rediscovers his initial order.
The figure of the Samaritan woman was subsequently presented. Also closed within her walls, there is a relational disorder. The Lord breaks the barriers, speaks with the woman, asks her for a drink, is ‘thirsty’ to relate with her. He wants to heal her, He wants to bring order to that inner disorder. Thanks to the meeting with this man, the Samaritan woman finds her balance and is ready to go out to meet others, to give herself. A God who enters into relationship with humanity, a God who chooses us as His interlocutors to heal our inner disorder, our attachment to things and ideas.
The comparison with the Salesian experience was certainly of great importance. The two pillars of this great family were taken into consideration, the ‘stars in the middle of the night’: Maìn (Mary Domenica Mazzarello) and Don Bosco. Both experienced disease, fragility, and limitation. But from accepting the suffering, they are reborn. They lived their illness with serenity, trusting a special friend, a father, the Lord who had new plans for them. A true friendship, which helped them to identify the steps for their lives, to identify the right path that Someone had reserved for them.
So, in the silence of our rooms, we dedicated time for reflection: “Enter your room and, once the door is closed, pray to your Father in secret” (Mt 6 : 6). We tried to feel a little sick, in need of help, to experience the sweetness of a doctor who heals the wounds, who puts our disorders in order, who in the moments that can draw a limit, indicates the path He has always reserved for each of us.
When you are afraid, you become vulnerable. In this fragility it is difficult to trust oneself. Often you voluntarily raise a wall, close yourself in the disorder of your heart. It is too great a challenge to look up and look our frailty in the eye, the deepest part, the one we feel ashamed of, the one that frightens us.
But luckily, there is that friend who is ‘thirsty’ to relate to us, that doctor “who does not cure the healthy, but the sick”. He is ready to reach out to us, to welcome us, to love us for who we are. In the face of so many certainties that crumble, the sense of abandonment that squeezes the heart, there is a voice that says: “Courage, open your heart to me”. It is the voice of a Father who brings order to our disorder, who gives life to our existence.
This “Lent alive” has certainly left a mark, both for the completely innovative way and for the depth of the message sown in everyone’s heart”. Lorenza Di Bitonto – Ruvo di Puglia