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Day 4, April 16 - The day of communion

23/04/2015: France - Photo gallery
Mission Assembly- Nairobi 2014

(April 16, 2015) The Assembly of l'Hermitage is coming to an end. Communion, a theme that was present during the Assembly, was highlighted today in a special way. Four groups met together, to implement the ideas of Nairobi, as far as possible. These ideas with a European color have been repeated several times in L'Hermitage. People speak of a European communion to enable us to move forward to "a new beginning". We formed four working groups to reflect on the challenges left to us by the Nairobi Assembly, on communion, in its different aspects: "inter" initiatives; structures to strengthen the vitality in the Institute; vocation work; and new communities in a Marist Europe of communion. The work of each of these groups would still need to be "chewed over" by provinces, always in an effort to reach very specific and concrete elements or initiatives.

I took advantage of this opportunity to exchange some views with Nathalie Faure, of the Province of l'Hermitage and Director of our Elementary School in Bourg-de-Péage. It was a long, interesting and very friendly dialogue. It is impossible to record here all the richness of the dialogue. Here you will find some of her thoughts, especially concerning communion.

"I sensed a great diversity during these three days, as if it had been my group for a long time. Even though as we were separate in the past, I have not been indifferent to the spirit of  friendly embrace and to so many manifestations of friendship that I have experienced during these days. Even the celebration or the social of yesterday with all its humour, joking and fun, had an element of unity; we have been united in work and prayer; we have also been capable of being united in the joy of our social and fun celebrations. What is uniting us is the Marist dimension of our lives, dwelling within us".

Maybe, we have not been speaking so much of communion as we did about prophecy and mysticism. For Nathalie this is not a problem at all. And she seems to say that communion is lived in the experience of life and not in the theories of books. After, she keeps talking, remembering now the dynamics of the equilateral triangle that Martha prepared for us, during the afternoon we spent at La Valla. Martha, of the L’Hermitage community, prepared this dynamic  to introduce us to the richness of the ground floor of the house of La Valla, the floor of mysticism, prayer, and intimacy with God. In the equilateral triangle all vertices are needed by each other; there is among them a balance; I am continuously in relationship with the other. Basically this simple geometric figure is a symbol of communion: I need the other and the other needs me. And Nathalie expresses a fundamental desire: may the Marist people of  Europe be the vertices of many imaginary equilateral triangles, having a great capacity to move ourselves along the triangle lines while looking at the European needs, and not only at our own countries.

However, during the Assembly some more initiatives took place regarding COMMUNION. Nathalie mentions the Emmaus walk; paradoxically, it was an exercise with three people instead of the usual two. Creativity can also be expressed in the interpretation of some evangelical information. These “Emmaus groups” set out in the different paths of the L’Hermitage grounds. We can imagine how much richness was shared in this Emmaus catechesis, now adapted to our encounter in L’Hermitage!  And Nathalie confesses that it was for her a high point that also resulted in a communion of life with a Marist background.

"Fortunately, in my group there were no language barriers and the Emmaus moment was a moment almost of prayer, mysticism and great communion. In my small group, I felt a Marist simplicity that led us to openly share our dreams and even our vulnerabilities. We shared on Galeano’s text: with all the gifts the good Lord has given us, we were a little light on the place where we found ourselves.  We would like this light to enlighten even more both the current projects and the future projects of groups in Marist Europe. Mary and the call of the General Chapter were also very quickly remembered: go in haste to a new land . . . I feel that there is a big difference between the calls of the Chapter and my life. However I'm open: What is the Lord telling me , as He told the Emmaus disciples, so that I may announce it to Marist Europe?".

The testimony of Nathalie continues with other interesting and very personal aspects:

"I feel like a small drop of water, like the small lamp referred to in Galeano’s text. I was struck by Galeano’s text and impassioned by it. With my work and my way of being Marist, I would like to contribute to expand this flame that should shine in the world through my little lamp". Simplicity and Marist humility are at the heart of Nathalie; nevertheless she adds immediately: "I may be a very little light, but I’ll have my brightness; the light and the flame may be very small, but they are not useless at all, unless we put them under the bushel” she says recalling the Gospel text.

Afterwards we keep strolling along the banks of the Gier river and we continue sharing:

"You know, I have great hope for Marist Europe, despite my littleness. The prayer these days touched my heart: the prayer close to the tent; the prayer around the table, the final Eucharist  . . . The words, together with the symbolic strength coming from the pictures and posters, sent us to the real world of the Montagnes of today  . . . Communion helps me to see things differently and inspires me to find new ways of being and staying in the school. In my school I have also difficult children who ask me to find a new way of seeing things. I have to open my heart even more, without forgetting to open my intelligence, to discover my students in a better way. We know how strong the pedagogy of presence is, but still I’m struggling sometimes to get out of my isolation. This Assembly had that wonderful gift of opening horizons and of building a stronger communion among us. I do not want to forget this lesson".

The conversation continued for some time, with great depth. Not everything can be noticed. But the Lord was there, as he was with the disciples of Emmaus. And, as we were coming down from the garden path, to reach the road leading us to the large chapel, Nathalie had time still to say "I will be attentive to what the Lord is telling me, to see better what I can share with both my teachers and my students in my school".

Again I met Nathalie after Mass. She was very enthusiastic about the Mass: the richness of the symbols, the candles (always the light that we are called to be), the apron, which was distributed after communion, a very well-known symbol now in the Marist world, to express service; the prayer of the faithful, some of which reminded us of the NEW TABLES that all Marists are now called to create. I greeted Nathalie at the sign of peace: after our sharing in the afternoon this embrace had a special flavour. The Eucharist had impressed her. She was very touched by both the entrance song, "Around the same table" and the time for giving thanks after communion: it was the time to distribute the apron, a great symbol of service. From the entrance song she underlines the third verse; it has touched her in a special way. In her opinion it was a good summary of many things that she had been living during the Assembly. It is a very meaningful verse, and moreover, very well written from the literary point of view (in the original French): "Let us be attentive to the small ones / let us give birth to hope / let us proclaim Jesus Christ / and give trust, once again / Let us be of service and listening / let us put on the apron / and walk the road / let us give dignity". The apron that was given to all participants would be a good reminder to put into practice the words of this verse.

On the way to the plane I wanted to hear the opinion of the two link-Councillors for Europe from the General Administration. I listened to them on the banks of the Gier, in a very spontaneous and quick way.

Brother Antonio Ramalho said:

"It was an excellent Assembly where Nairobi was always present. There are good grounds to concretize in Europe the main insights of Nairobi.  The participants were people of great quality: we noticed this in their interventions and in their sharing. The Assembly may trigger new winds in the field of prophecy, mysticism and communion. Events like this, with a good number of lay people, can trigger European joint initiatives, to which we will be called in the very near future. We are living in a European Community where barriers fell down. As well as that, I think that in Marist Europe “inter” initiatives will multiply in the future. The 54 participants in this beautiful Assembly may be the best ambassadors of the new Marist Europe".

And Brother Ernesto Sánchez adds:

"The great insights of the Congregation and Nairobi are confirmed in Europe: working with the poorest; development, as we feel the need for it, of Marist spirituality and work with the laity, in a deeper and multiplying way. All this is now not only an irreversible trend, but shared assumptions, which no longer need to be discussed. The Assembly has given great impetus to these issues and is telling us that the Marists of Europe have a future. There is an extraordinary collaborative platform that is taking place on the way towards the bicentenary and beyond the bicentenary. We have to start thinking as if Europe was one big province. I call to mind this sentence: "Think globally and act locally". Almost at the end of our visit to the European provinces and after taking part in this Assembly I can state with great conviction: 'Marist Europe has a future’”.

Mission Assembly- Nairobi 2014

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