It is a remarkable thing to be on vacation with a group of almost 300 people. I met many of the group last year at the Rimini Meeting. They invited me to return for their annual vacation.
But as I soon discovered, this is no ‘normal’ vacation. I think most people see a “vacation” as a time of doing NOTHING. Instead these days are time of doing EVERYTHING that helps us to live more fully. The company and conversation is FULL.
During the non-vacation days that make up the rest of the year, we live under many demands and pressures. We dream of the time when the holiday will come. But then it does come and we are not sure how to spend it? The vacations weeks disappear and we are back to work.
The group I am with is a wonderful diversity of age and experience. There are babies and small children with their parents and grandparents. There are teenagers and older young people. All of us are searching. We are united by one thing only: we have found, in Christ, an experience and a language that touches our hearts (thus meeting our experience) more than anything else we have encountered. We are together for a full week, in the Dolomite mountains just south of the Italian/Austrian border. Each day is full of company and conversation, food and drink, and physical activity that stretches me fully. There is music and laughter. There is art and more music. All of this activity is held together with prayer. We pray often. Morning Prayer begins the day. There is Mass. Three times during the day we pray the Angelus. Three times during the week we climbed in the mountains. The photos convey something of the experience. The climb was (in parts) demanding. But the pace was slow and steady. I know that, had I climbed alone, I would have given up and been satisfied with sitting to savour the view in a spot in the sun. But the group kept moving together. It is as if the strong (some mountaineers in the group and the energetic young) carried those of us who struggled more. There is a lesson in this. I know that this annual vacation of these friends (friends in the most real and true sense of the word), helps them to carry each other through life in the year between vacations. Many of them meet together every week to talk about their life; their struggles and their hopes. Just like on the walk. They carry each other. This is the life of faith. While our personal encounter with God is the core and the starting point, it is the company of friends (again, friends in the most real and true sense of the word) that is God’s preferred method of supporting us.
“Summer vacation is the time for freedom, not one that frees you from studying, but a freedom that obliges you to face the efforts and responsibilities of freedom and sincerity. It is a time when an understanding of what it is you really want can come to the surface.
“There is, inside me the presence of something as real as the sea or the mountains. I am always myself.
“Summer vacation is the time of the personality. Maintaining the permanence of a criterion (moment of faithfulness and of continuity).
“After a time, even a novelty will cease to be new and can provoke boredom. The real novelty is the true search for our destiny. Pay attention to those around you.
“Adapting oneself to an environment does not mean to let yourself be compromised by it.