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Encounter of Brothers & Laity of the network of Europe’s communities

18/08/2015: Spain - Photo gallery

From the 8th to the 11th of August, the second meeting of Brothers and Laity of the network of the communities of Europe was celebrated, in the house of Marist Spirituality of El Escorial.  Thirty-seven Brothers from the five European Provinces were present and three couples, from Rumania, Spain and Italy. Brothers Antonio Ramalho, General Councilor and Maurice Berquet, Provincial of L’Hermitage also participated. 

The general theme of the encounter was “Celebrate the joy of being brothers and laity in an international institute”. This general theme contained three specific objectives: 1) the joy to celebrate and share the life of our communities through lived experiences; 2) to deepen the study of the themes of prophecy, mysticism and communion (following the reflection of the II International Assembly of the Marist Mission of Nairobi); 3) to reflect, at personal, community and provincial level, on some guidelines of the new form of being Marists today. 

Besides, like a background of the encounter, there was the triad of Pope Francis: “to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope”.  

The communities were divided into three groups so that they could present, with living and profound witnesses, their own reality in the light of each one of the themes: Prophecy, Mysticism, Communion. Afterwards, each participant shared, in small groups, his reflections on each one of the themes.

The ideas about Prophecy were presented in the Assembly through the symbol of a big cheese:

·         We are called to be always a more significant presence among the more needy young people. This presence is a fraternal presence. Where they see us as brothers and where we accept them as brothers.

·         A creative and friendly presence, that is attentive to their problems and situations of vulnerability.

·         A prayerful presence: the Bible teaches us that a part of the mission of the prophet is to pray for his people.

·         Finally, they manifest that the prophet is a courageous man, who is not afraid to displace himself to go to “the existential and geographic peripheries” of which Pope Francis speaks about. It is at the side of these children in need where the Marists of Champagnat have to be. 

The ideas concerning Mysticism were presented in the Assembly through the symbol of a flame, imitating the bonfire of Nairobi:

·         The Marists of Champagnat are called to be a more attentive presence to the Lord in their lives through prayer, contemplation, the meditation of the Word of God.

·         They are called to grow and develop in themselves a thirst of love which is nourished and fed in the sources of living water and the bread of life which is the Lord, as our document “the Water from the Rock” reminds us.

·         Contemplative silence calls us and makes us attentive to the voice of the Lord.  This is the way that leads to the tenderness and compassion that we should express to those who are the preferred object of our mission: those in greater need.

·         We are called to return to or to deepen the interiority that we manifest when we accept in ourselves the Spirit of the Lord, the source of prophecy and of mysticism.

The theme of Communion was presented by a symbol representing the table of La Valla:

·         In a divided and fragmented world, the Marists of Champagnat are constructers of communion accepting with them the children of different social, cultural or religious origin.

·         The sense of communion is manifested in attitudes that should be a distinctive mark of every Marist of Champagnat: attitudes of acceptance, openness, of sharing life.

·         The Marist Brothers and the Laity are called to create and develop, in their relationships, an attitude of joint-responsibility or co-responsibility in the different levels of the Marist life.

·         We are called to strengthen and make visible in the Church the family spirit, the cornerstone of our tradition. The Marian face of the Church, which we are called to construct, has much to do with the family spirit, acceptance and tenderness, key elements to live communion among all.

The encounter favored the silent and contemplative style, in its prayers and in the moments of sharing, similar to the way of Taizé.    

Brother Antonio Ramalho offered the group a synthesis of what the life of the Institute has been during the past years, the different processes followed and its convergence: the placing of all these things in context is what has motivated the Institute to live the celebration of the Bicentenary in 2017 as a new beginning.

He also referred to significant facts that have contributed to the creation of this mentality: The Conference of Provincials in 2013; the International Assembly of Mission of Nairobi and the European Assembly of Mission, in L’Hermitage and La Valla. All these are elements that are helping the new dawn to be born.

In the last plenary session, after a meeting by Provinces, there was an exchange of suggestions as to how to preserve the network spirit. The meeting ended with the Eucharistic celebration and a fraternal supper in the open air.

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