2008-12-30 ITALY

Third age renewal: Manziana

St Lukes gospel story of the Journey to Emmaus provides a great metaphor for our renewal experience. Our group began its journey sharing our stories and appreciating one anothers experiences and personalities. Each committed wholeheartedly to the process and we felt from the start the strong bonds of brotherhood. We were Fourteen Marists and five Marianists gathered for this journey of renewal with the guiding team of Brothers Barry Burns and Antoine Kazindu; our accompanying chaplain, Marist Father Desmond Hunt; and in the care of econome, Brother Jose Descarga.

Good presenters provided input on:Third Age Transitions, The Kingdom of God, Prayer and Spirituality, The Church, The Eucharist, Mary In Our Lives, Choices Of The Heart, and Wellness And Health Issues. We made a 9 day pilgrimage to France where we encountered the spirit and faith of our Marist founders and the societies in which they lived. Local Marists, deeply imbued with the history and charism of our societies, gave us a deep appreciation of our heritage. Ongoing sharing within the group further enriched the experience. We also made shorter pilgrimages to Assisi and Subiaco which also provided understanding and inspiration from the spirits of Saints Francis, Clare and Benedict. The joy of our community experience was further enhanced by excursions to our Generalate in Rome and to a Papal Audience. We also enjoyed the tourist sites in our local area, providing musical entertainment to fellow patrons at the restaurants where we dined.

From the start of our journey, seeking the meaning of our lives and the call ahead, Jesus was present in our community. Through the presentations and experiences He gently opened our eyes and hearts. We felt the unconditional love of God calling us to open our hearts to Him, and with the Eucharist central in our lives, witness to the good news of God?s Kingdom. We understand better the role of Mary and her central place in the Church. This Marian Church , non-judgmental and nurturing, is much more welcoming to non-Catholics and non-Christians. This is the new image of Church our founders had when they started the Society of Mary.

For our final thanksgiving liturgy, we chose St Luke?s gospel account of the Emmaus journey because it describes our experience.

As we shared our stories and recognized the bonds of common commitment and experiences, we felt community ? a brotherhood of unique individuals willing to be wholeheartedly involved in this journey. Jesus was also in our group as we tried to appreciate the opportunities offered by this stage of transition in our lives. Through our presenters and pilgrimage experiences, Jesus gently gave us a vision of the God He wants us to know; the plan this unconditionally loving God has for each one of us; and the journey He wants us to make.

Each Society made pilgrimage to places significant in our foundation stories in both France and Spain. The expertise and deep commitment of our local guides helped us to absorb the spirit of our founders and the societies in which they lived.

Like Mary, we are asked to allow God to live in us, and through us witness His love for the world, to the world. The Eucharist is central to our lives because it draws us into the whole action of Christ glorifying the Father. Mary is our mother, nurturing God?s life in us; actively present at calvary and the altar where she embraces us with St John as her children. This is the Marian dimension of Church ? the family of those who hear the word of God and keep it. We are called as Marists and Marianists to promote, through our witness and testimony, this image of Church.

As new understandings dawned, we found our hearts burning within us. Encouraged by our experience of community; accepting our fifty or so years of mixed experience as resource; we feel energized to hurry back to our communities to share our joy. We have recognized Jesus in the Eucharist of our Manziana community ? a community we have been enabled to build ourselves.

Our sincere thanks to all those who have made this experience possible.


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