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A pilgrimage with 3000 youth to Fátima

28/05/2011: Portugal

Exactly one week before the great pilgrimage to Fatima on 13th. May, I find myself in this sanctuary with a few other Brothers. This was on 7th. May and we took part in a long vigil of preparation for the World Youth Day which is to be held in Madrid, in August 2011. There were 3000 youths. The vigil took place from 5.00pm to 4.00am, 11 hours of presence at various activities.

When I find myself thus in the midst of youth, I feel that my vocation is realized in its fullness. This has also made me think of the Youth Festivals which were organized in Nairobi by our Centre, where the participation varied from 400 to 800 youth from different schools and parishes of Nairobi and its environs.

Among the different activities, I stress some in which all Marists, Brother or lay, should feel at ease.

1.       There was a festival bearing the title, “Religious and Gospel Songs”, accompanied by a musical band from a parish. The youth were swept along by Marial songs, and others drawn from evangelical accounts. They were not happy merely to be spectators but were participators also. Evangelisation was done through music. Could not Marists do much more by using the music as a means of evangelization?

2.       There was an hour adoration, personal prayer, prayer in pairs or in small groups. I was impressed the rapidity with which the group of 3000 youth were divided into little groups or when they were sent to adoration: all was done very willingly and spontaneous. Certainly these young people were chosen youth who were preparing themselves for the World Youth Day of Madrid. But everything happened so spontaneously, that I hardly believed that the youth in such a gathering were capable of making such deep and personal prayer. I thought of Taize where the young came to prayer so freely: no obligation at all. I thought also of our centre of Nairobi where so many young people were coming so spontaneously to pray with us: such reality brought into my mind a dream (but it was only a dream) to turn the Center into a “Petit Taizé”. Very often we were obliged to limit the number of participants coming to our Youth Festivals. Based in these examples I am certain that young people love prayer. And if the marist people would attract, likewise, young people to pray in such away in our schools?

3.       There was a very frugal meal which reminded me of the multiplication of the loaves and of the fishes. These three thousand youth shared what they had brought. I did not bring anything but I may assure you that I did not starve. There was much left over. On the other hand, to spend there the whole night there in Fatima… At my age of 64, I thought I was not capable of it. But I did it. The night is very often the time for youth. As Marist I went there to meet them in this period of the night and in this marial shrine of Fatima, since the Constitutions are telling us we must go and meet the youth where they are.

4.       The youth participated in the prayer of the Rosary and in the night procession of the candles or of the light. It took a rather long time, for the mysteries of the Rosary were announced in six languages and each decade was recited in a different language. But what struck me, was the recollection of the youth during this night of prayer. And the same could be said for their participation in the procession of the candles. At that time, during the night, Fatima became a sea of light. The light became prayer. Basically it was a question of the use of symbols as a source of creativity giving sense to prayer. The young are open to the value and the meaning of symbols. Then I thought of our document Water from the Rock which reminds us that we must pray with generosity and creativity (nº. 88). All Marists, Brothers or lay, must then feel this invitation of our book on spirituality as an imperative.

5.       And finally a representation on the stage going from dance to singing, from the evangelical narrative to the words of the Pope, from the audio-visual to poetry, all numbers bringing to us the already quite long story of the World Youth Days from the beginning till now. It was a kind of historical review of the previous World Youth Days, with creativity and imagination. What struck me was the great love of the youth towards John Paul II. And I thought to myself: if an aged and suffering Pope has been capable of attracting the youth so strongly, all Marist should be able to do it as well. In my life as marist I have met numerous friends who keep repeating me: you are specialists in youth matters, you have no excuses not to attract them.

This pilgrimage to Fatima of 3000 youths, has been for me a challenge. I try to respond to this challenge becoming more Marist and loving more my marist vocation.

_______________________
Teófilo Minga
Co-ordinator of the project AD GENTES
Fatima, May 2011

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