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Meeting of combined formation for Brothers and Lay people

11/06/2009: France

At 60 years of age and as a totally blind person, riding escalators, jumping over four foot high walls, and crawling on my hands and knees under live electrical wires, were not the things I dreamed of doing. But that was precisely what I did, during my three weeks stay in St. Paul-Trois-Châteaux. They were obstacles easy to overcome due to the genuinely concerned group of human beings that surrounded me.

When our provincial asked me whether I would like to go to France for a three week seminar on Marist joint formation, I just laughed and said, “Yes,” without giving any serious consideration to the details of the matter. My only companion from Sri Lanka would be a young Marist Brother.

The reality of the situation I was in, hit me properly when we had to go for our visas. I was to be accompanied by Brother Chinthana, whose name I knew but had never met him. I had three things to fear: he was a religious brother; he was very young; he had no experience in moving with blind people.

Anyway, our trips to the visa office went quite smoothly and our visas were processed within four days. Fear of my companion was diminishing by then, and rays of trust and confidence in him were building up within me.

But the social atmosphere in France was still to be confronted. It was clear from the name of the participants that the group consisted of nine brothers, seven lay people – three men and four women including me. It did not sound very encouraging – too many religious, I thought.

Warm breezes of friendship gently blew among us, as some of the participants travelled in a specially arranged coach from the Lyon railway station to SP3C. The warm welcome followed by the two days of integration, successfully drew us closer to each other every hour of the day. My worries and fears soon faded into emptiness, as I realized that everybody around me – brothers and lay – were doing their best to make things easy and comfortable for me, without any signs of effort or strain.

At meals, at prayers, at the sessions, regarding accommodations, my requirements were met without having to ask. I was always special. The understanding of my difficulties and the responses to them were amazingly touching.

During outings and especially the pilgrimages, I experienced the joy of human care and concern. It made me forget my physical fatigue, handicap and age, and walked into any risky unknown, in the child-like glee, surrounded by my caring companions. No obstacle proved to formidable with that community.

The sole reason behind all this was that, I was living in an exclusively Marist community. How wonderful it would be if the whole world turned Marist! Persons with various handicaps, could still enjoy earthly life. And NOBODY would be NOBODY’S CHILD in such a world. The group at SP3C were practically living up to the ideal Marist community living, described in article 110 in Water from the Rock.

I hereby wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Provincial of South Asia and to every person connected with the joint formation program, for being so receptive to the passionate charism of Marcellin, which consequently provided me the opportunity to enjoy this wonderfully rich experience.

As I conclude this little note filled with feelings of gratitude and appreciation, I think it is most appropriate to recall the above mentioned message from Water from the Rock:

As Brothers and Lay Marists, we try to develop a quality of communion that allows families, religious communities and other forms of community living to become homes where the young are helped to mature, where we take care of those aging, and are especially kind to the weak; places where we forgive one another and heal wounds, where we joyfully celebrate the life we share together. (#110)
______________
Kamala Xavier (Sri Lanka)
Participant in the Meeting of combined formation for Brothers and Lay people

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