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Manziana - Third age renewal 2011

11/01/2012: Italy

There were many stories exchanged as Marianist and Marist pilgrims came together on the Sunday sabbatical day of November 13. Both groups commented on how meaningful was the experience of physically connecting with the origins of their Institutes and how their Founders and early members came alive for them.

Choices of the heart
The Monday saw us gathering in the Common Room to be led in reflection for two days on the topic of “Choices of the Heart” by the gentle Eileen Plunkett, OSF.

The time of the Third Age invites us to foster greater intimacy with God, those around us, our selves and creation. It is a time when we become more comfortable with who we are and have less to prove. We have the chance to be more deliberate in our choices on what becomes our focus as well as what we are prepared to let go.

Health and well-being

Mary Rickard’s arrival from Ireland had been eagerly awaited, given her long years of experience in assisting ageing members of the Jesuit Order. Her style was not to provide too much input but to allow us to surface case studies and questions on matters of physical and mental health and then to provide sound advice on how the situations might best be dealt with. Limiting ourselves to just one match box size of cheese a week was probably one of the hardest bits of advice to accept - given the wonderful array of cheeses that greet us each lunch and dinner.

A new machine to measure blood pressure was unveiled and all invited to have theirs checked - some lining up several times, hoping to improve their reading.

We will take back with us Mary’s catchy bit of advice of “know your numbers” as regards blood pressure, cholesterol and prostate gland.


Marianists today

Marianist Brother Mike McAward gave us a vigorous and compelling presentation on the Marianist charism of today, starting with the vivid image of a large tree being transplanted as a lead in to what faced all religious institutes in responding to the call of Vatican II to go back to their roots.

Marists today
Brother Emili Turú, as the thirteenth successor of Marcellin Champagnat, began by tracking the rise and fall in numbers joining and persevering in the Marist vocation as Brothers.
He then challenged us to come up with three signs of vitality in our respective provinces and, although we didn’t score very well, used the results to demonstrate the need to cultivate new hearts to face the challenges of today: globalisation, caring for the victims of globalisation and assisting young people to quench their thirst for spirituality.
Papal audience
We joined about 7,000 other pilgrims to hear, be acknowledged and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in the vast Paul VI auditorium on Wednesday, November 23.

Pilgrimage to Assisi
Thursday, November 23, saw us board the bus and head north eastwards to the hilly slopes of Assisi, graced by Saints Francis and Clare some 800 years ago.

Our main guided visits were to the Santuario di San Damiano, the Basilica di Santa Chiara, the Basilica di San Francesco and the Basilica di Maria degli Angeli which incorporated the tiny Porziuncola Chapel and Capella del Transito, the site of St Francis’ death on October 3. 1226.

Spates of free time enabled us to explore other significant churches and sites, as well as sample some of the local fare to be found in every nook and cranny of the pedestrian not-so-friendly steep medieval streets.

Our return trip was highlighted by a delicious long-lunch stop-over in Orvieto, beginning with an exciting ride up the funicular to the upper township placed precariously on a craggy cliff made of tufaceous, porous limestone that seems imminently ready to crumble under the weight of the magnificent Gothic cathedral that stunned us with the visual feast of its facade.

The kingdom
After the excitement of the Assisi pilgrimage, and the hospitality of Domus Laetitiae, we settled down to the usual routine of presentations in the competent theological hands of John Fuellenbach SVD

We were joined by a group of mid-life renewal Marist Missionary Sisters who ensured that John’s many humorous asides were greeted with appreciative laughter.

John left us with many catch-phrases and pithy reflections. Two that struck home were his morning credo upon awakening:

(1) I am unconditionally loved by God, exactly as I am ...
(2) I am forgiven completely ...
(3) God is always with me and nothing that happens will be too much for Him or me ...
(4) Now bring on a cup of coffee to get me going.

John’s final challenge to us all:
“You are the only Gospel that many people will read today. Be the face of the Gospel.”
Walking with Mary
The opening two days of December saw Brother Emili’s personal secretary, Jose Maria Ferre bustle in with great energy and passion to present four sessions of visually stunning power points in capturing the spirit of recent General Chapters on Mary.
Jose Maria spoke from the heart, illustrating many of the points highlighted with challenges he had faced in his own life-journey as a Marist Brother.
Community outing
Monday December 5 saw us boarding the bus for our final community outing, under drizzle and somewhat threatening skies. It was to be a trip down memory lane for some who had spent their mid-life renewal time at Nemi.
For all, it was a taste of the famed area of Castelli Romani and a brief chance to explore Frascati on the way and a quick sampling of their famed white wine.
After a brief stroll through Nemi, admiring the medieval streets and stunning views of the Caldera lake and adjacent fertile fields, it was back into the bus with Antonio to be taken to a company-chosen restaurant for the longest of long lunches.
Upon returning to Manziana, the wise decision was made to postpone team member Anthony Hunt’s lavish and lovingly prepared 70th birthday celebrations to the next day. The troops were not quite up to it that evening.
Retreat: December 6 – 8
Irish Jesuit, Fr Michael Drennan, arrived to facilitate our three day retreat. His reflections focused on the three sacraments in turn: Reconciliation, Anointing and Eucharist. Mike’s input has been wise, gentle and reassuring.


Closure process

The closure process, and business of packing up, saying farewells and then journeying back to familiar or new appointments, awaits us. We will go back to our community lives and ministries refreshed, revitalised and energised. The program has been varied, interesting, challenging and lovingly guided by the Team. We take much to ruminate on as we continue our Third Age journeys in familiar surroundings but with new insights and understandings.
Our thanks and appreciation to those who have made this possible is unbounded. In God’s eyes, this wonderful opportunity is part of the hundred fold to be enjoyed in this world by those who commit themselves to His service. Deo gratias.

Brother Terry Orrell fms
Communications Team.

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