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Madrid 2011



Coincidence of views… during the World Youth Day

08/09/2011: General House

It was a great joy for me to participate in the Marist International Festival and in the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. It was, above all, a great grace from God. The Marist festival came to a close on August 15th, the day I was celebrating 45 years of religious life. This is another great grace too, calling for a prayer of continuous thanksgiving to the Lord. I was asked to give my testimony during the homily at the Mass for the hundreds of young people attending the Festival. I was given 5 minutes to do so. I think I did not use the 5 minutes. I had to give an answer to the question: "Have you lived during these 45 years of grace the feeling and the certainty of having gone to ‘new lands’ as the Chapter is asking us?" I mentioned just two experiences and I said yes. In addition, these experiences revealed an interesting coincidence of views with other people who had spoken in the context of the World Youth Day.

First experience: "I’d like to discover new worlds." Back in the 80’s, I asked my Provincial, a man of great openness of mind and great generosity of heart, to give me the permission to attend courses of theology at a Protestant  University. He was a little surprised and asked me, why? I’d like to discover "new worlds". Today we use the term "new lands", but it's all the same. I had the intuition that there is a different way of doing theology other than the Catholic way. I felt the Lord was asking me to move to this new land. And it was worth it. Not only for giving me the possibility to initiate many of our young Brothers into the "Ecumenical Issues" (title of a course I used to give in Nairobi) and into the "Ecumenical Festivals" (the pastoral dimension of what I was teaching in class), but for giving me also a spirit of openness, of welcoming and dialogue with people from other confessions.

In this sense I voiced a suggestion that the Marist festivals that start making history should be opened also to youth coming from the Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist and Shinto worlds. And this, for a very simple reason: we have many young people, in some of our schools, coming from the Protestant, the Muslim, the Buddhist and the Shinto worlds. I thought it was a revolutionary proposal. Not at all. I was surprised to read a few days later, the message of Benedict XVI for the XXVI World Youth Day. He states that these WYD should be even open to non believers: "I invite you all to this important event for both the Church in Europe and the universal Church. All young people, those who share our faith as those who are wavering, doubting or non believers at all, can live this experience which can be decisive in their lives. " Great Benedict XVI! He is absolutely right.

Second experience: The youth festivals, a source of excellent Christian vocations. I shared also with the young people an experience I had lived in Nairobi. In a Festival we were holding on Christian vocations, two young Italian missionaries (a sister and a priest) working then in Kenya told me: "Do you know where our missionary vocation was born?" "I have no idea, could you tell me?” And they replied: "Our missionary vocation was born in the youth meetings that Cardinal Martini used to promote in his diocese."  I came to think, then, that these youth meetings may become a good ground to sow and to proclaim the idea of ​​"excellence" of all Christian vocations. I told the young Marist people of Madrid: "I am absolutely convinced that from these meetings will spring in the future, Christian couples which will be an excellent testimony of Christian life, both in the Church and in the world; I am also convinced that some of you may feel called to religious life, to priestly life or to missionary life.” And I added, with a little sense of humor: "If any of you feel called to the Marist missionary life I'll welcome you with an open heart to our missionary Project called Ad Gentes."

It was a great surprise (not really so great, because it is normal to experience so!) when next day, in his homily during the official opening of the World Youth Day, the Cardinal of Madrid,  in the famous Plaza de Cibeles, stressed this same idea. He referred, as well, to the idea of opening   these youth events to non-Catholics. But it is better that I quote the Cardinal’s exact words: "Since that first call of the World Youth Day in 1985 in Rome to the World Youth Day in Madrid, these youth events have been building a beautiful story of faith, hope and love in three generations of young Catholics and non Catholics, as well; young people have seen how their life was transformed in Christ; among them, we could noticed innumerable vocations to priesthood, consecrated life, Christian marriage and apostolate.

Who could still doubt that these days constitute an excellent framework to develop both,  the mind and in the heart of the young people; I repeat again, the "excellence" of every Christian vocation? Therefore, I was very glad too, to discover the extraordinary work done by the brothers in charge of youth ministry in Europe, together with the novitiate of Seville: they have organized a beautiful and meaningful “Marist Vocation Expo" in our School of Chamberí. May all this work bear abundant fruits of life and Marist vocations.

Br. Teófilo Minga
Coordinator  of Ad Gentes Project
Madrid, 20th August 2011

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