spiritual exercises

Aug 29, 2010

For eight hours yesterday I travelled with fifty others from Rimini (on the Adriatic Coast) to La Thuile in the Aosta region of Italy.

The Rimini days have been extraordinary. For a full week almost one million people (mostly young (ie younger than me)) pilgrimaged through exhibits that proclaimed that faith is the only answer to the real questions of life. These exhibits were not “holy” or “pious” but on first glance appeared very secular. What can a display on mathematics have to do with Faith?

Throughout the day we filled auditoria to hear people who had accepted Faith as the answer.. It was nothing less than extraordinary to hear cardinals and media celebrities, missionaries and young people speak with delight and love of their personal experience of God within the Catholic Church. It was evident in their presence and in their presentations that their lives had been transformed by this personal divine encounter, and by subsequent life within this particular (Catholic) community of Faith. The most accurate description is to say that they had been reborn.

And these speakers were all Catholic. (a few were invited to speak from a Buddhist or other non-Christian perspective, but only two or three of the thousands). My earlier blog on the ‘Rimini Meeting’ will give you a taste of the experience.

The Rimini Meeting is organized by the Ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. It is open to all. The La Thuile “spiritual exercises” are the annual gathering of leaders of the movement from around the world and is by invitation only. There are seventy countries represented and this year (for the first time) New Zealand is represented. In total three hundred people are at the spiritual exercises this year.

The bus journey yesterday was long, (eight hours) but a happy journey from the eastern coast to the Italian Alps – at the foot of Mont Blanc. We arrived in time for dinner at 8 then attended the first session beginning an hour later.

Fr Julian Carron is the leader of the movement and he leads the Exercises. His session last evening was inspiring and moving, in the midst of our tiredness. He suggested that we, along with the rest of the world, were sleeping in the presence of the reality of God’s love. He added that it is rare for us to be awake as Andrew and John were when they first encountered Jesus. But when this is suggested to us Fr. Carron said the sure sign that we are ‘sleeping’ in the face of this encounter is that we become defensive: “no, I’m not sleeping, I know that God loves me.”

But do we really know that in our sin, our weakness and frailty, in our resistance and rejection of God, that God continues to incline over us covering us in His love? Well if we really knew this everything would be different – life would be a delight rather than a struggle. Faith would be transforming and healing rather than (as it is most often) reduced to moralism and legalism.

Fr. Carron finished speaking just before 10pm and we then began Mass. The perfect time for Mass I think: my resistance to anything including God is very low after 10pm!

The cool mountain air is refreshing after the obscene heat of the past few months in Rome and Chicago.

As I write this it is early morning. I took my computer for a walk across the village and found a coffee. Internet access is not easy but I will do my best to keep the blog alive in these last few days of my sabbatical.

When I arrived here last night I was very aware than in exactly one week I will be arriving home. I am very happy about that and looking forward to being with you all once again.

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