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Pilgrimage of the participants of the formation programme "Horizons"

19/09/2019: Italy

From August 8 to October 5, 13 Brothers under the age of 45 participate in the permanent formation programme "Horizons", which takes place in Manziana. At the beginning of the journey, they made the "Camino di San Francesco", from La Verna to Assisi. Brother Joaquim Sperandio, one of the members of the formation community of Manziana, tells us about that experience.

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Walking the "Camino di San Francesco" is to realize that life is an eternal pilgrimage along little-known paths, overcoming challenges and barriers, confirming successes to achieve the proposed goals. This was the objective proposed to the Brothers of the programme of continuous formation "HORIZONTES". It is the first time that a group of Marist Brothers has travelled along this road.

We crossed 108 kilometres in five days. We left La Verna, the place where St. Francis lived for some time and where he received the grace of the stigmata. "Here one experiences God," said one of the Brothers. There we were received by the local Franciscans, and we stayed in their Convent. We participated in the Mass of the Assumption with many people and we heard from a very communicative friar, a spiritual explanation of this poetic, mystical and sacred space, nestled between mountains and forests.

On August 16, guided by the "T" (Tao) that indicates the way, we left early to follow the five stages: Pieve di Santo Stefano, San Sepolcro, Citerna (Le Burgne), Città di Castello, Valfabrica and Assisi. Between Città di Castello and Valfabrica (90 km), due to lack of time, we travelled by bus to Gubbio. We would have preferred to walk the whole way.

To do the "Camino di San Francesco" is to go beyond walking. The experience leads us to silence, to stillness, to spaces of contemplation, to the experience of spirituality, to the appreciation of details. We receive and exchange wisdom, inner harmony and breath. It is a personal experience, but with community environments.  It was necessary to help each other, especially on the second day, when we walked 37 km uphill and downhill. We slept in common rooms, we shared the same bottle of water, the same food, the same aches all over our body. And together we went on, with our eyes fixed on the final goal.

What fantastic landscapes we can see from the top of the mountains! We reached mountains higher than thousand metres. The nature of the Italian region called Umbria is exuberant! It's wonderful to hear the silence in those lonely places. It was there that Francis moulded his being and internalized his spirituality. He had reason to praise God in creatures.

Along the way we met many people. Almost all sought silence, challenge, encounter with God in contact with nature and with other pilgrims. The greeting among the pilgrims synthesized what we carried in our hearts: "Pax et bonum!

The centres of art and culture responded to our curiosity. In addition to the monastery of La Verna, we visited the Eremo di Cerbaiolo and the Eremo di Montecasale (places where St. Francis, St. Bonaventure and St. Anthony stayed), countless churches and ancient castles. The works of art of famous or unknown authors have sensitized our hearts to the good and the beautiful.

It is impossible to explain how we feel when we see from afar the city of Assisi with its monumental basilica at the top of the hill. The heart beat faster and the sore feet hurried. On August 20, around noon, we arrived at the Sanctuary of St. Francis.

There we arrived with a grateful heart, confirmed in faith, in spirituality and strengthened in character. And with a spontaneous prayer, we joined the thousands of tourists to praise God. Afterwards, we received the certificate for those who overcame the challenge of walking the Camino di San Francesco. "Pax ed bonum" is what we felt at that moment.

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