During the first week of September, some unexpected results of the second edition of a new annual event. The response from Loppiano to requests by clergy and lay people.
The recipe turned out to be simple, just spread the news about the spiritual exercises to be offered at Loppiano during the first week of September. Then prepare a program with some basic topics presented by a variety of speakers. Welcome anyone who comes, but limit attendance in accordance with anti-Covid measures. Blend the diversity of the participants to form a vibrant community. Warm it all up over the fire of the Gospel message of mutual love.
“I’ve met people I never imagined I’d meet in my life. It was a fantastic week,” one attendee boldly reports. The participants were from Milan to Messina, both engaged in parishes and not, close to the Focolare for some time and meeting the Focolare for the first time in January, watching the recent movie about Chiara Lubich, regular visitors to the citadel and coming for the first time. And a Sister and permanent deacon were not missing.
Some people especially appreciated the reflections on the second choice of God, on Jesus Forsaken, on the Holy Spirit, and on the Eucharist. Other people were struck by the presentations on discernment, spiritual accompaniment, and the present moment. But the main effect was produced by the last topic, on the life of Mary as a mirror for our own lives. “I realized that Mary envelops and sums up everything that we heard in these days,” said one woman who came in search of answers.
Everyone had the impression of feeling the presence of Mary in the citadel. The possibility of experiencing the spiritual exercises at the Vinea Mea Center of Spirituality, animated by the priests of the Movement, of attending Mass at the St Mary Theotokos Shrine, of sharing meals together with the other guests of Loppiano, and of sleeping in different locations, made everyone perceive a particularly Marian tone and a connection between the words of the spiritual exercises and the way of life in the different environments. “The organizers, the priests and presenters pampered us,” said one woman. “I received so much love and so many lessons that helped me to grow in my faith,” she went on to explain in the faint voice of a shy person.
“We felt a growing communion among us all. Now it’s up to us to bring it to where we are returning,” said a man from Piedmont, who had attended the previous spiritual exercises the year before. “The important thing is to continue the journey together,” said several people. The variety of callings facilitated the experience of being Church, and the walking with others highlighted the beauty of synodality, which the Italian Church is focused on right now.”
In recent years, requests have been arriving from clergy and lay people for spiritual exercises. Last summer was the first attempt, based on the classical form of the spiritual exercises. This year, in this second edition, the Focolare’s charism of Unity had a stronger influence on the different aspects of the event. More studied planning helped to make the recipe simpler for this year’s spiritual exercises.