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Recovering the spirit of the Hermitage



Reflections of the architect Joan Puig-Pey at the end of the work of renovation

08/11/2010: France

« I want the restoration of the Hermitage to let us recover the spirit of Champagnat », Brother Sean Sammon told me in Rome in 2006, looking me straight in the eye after entrusting me with the project of restoring the former mother house. «Brother, I am an architect! I will build a solid building, comfortable, beautiful and respectful of the history, the place… But to recover the spirit of someone who is no longer there! That is « meta-history »! That is how the inspiring voyage, professional, human and Marist, began. On 22 September, with the official inauguration, the goal had been attained. The morning of the day of the inauguration, Brother Sean, with whom Br. Emili and I were sharing breakfast, said to us: « The results of the renovation have surpassed all my expectations as regards the transformation of the places. What the Planning Commission, Jean and his colleagues have produced is a tribute to the Brother founders and the pioneers, and to the heritage they have left us. Congratulations! This morning, while the Hermitage was deep in sleep, I got up at 3 o’clock to walk around the places. I could feel the spirit of the Founder was there, as alive and active as when he shared these places with François, Laurent, Louis-Marie, Jean-Baptiste and the others…» I could not get over it! « The spirit of the Founder was there, as alive and active as when he shared these places with François, Laurent, Louis-Marie, Jean-Baptiste and the others…I ask myself: how was that possible?The response was born in Rome, even if I became aware of it only later: meta-history!Working at the Hermitage implied mobilising the best of myself, as architect, as person and as Marist. And putting into it my whole heart, all my intelligence and all my strength; my feelings and my interior life; intelligence, imagination and sensibility. And putting into it too my whole body: voyages, cold and heat, getting up early and lying awake, leading a life as austere as a monk’s. Free and convinced that this was my mission during all this time. In accord with Dolors, my wife, and Jaume, my associate. From base camps which allowed the unforgettable ascent to the summit, with the certainty that once I descended, I would find the table set.Advice to the sailorsAnyone who goes to the Hermitage to learn things, to perfect his knowledge, to « know more about it », will go away disappointed. He will learn nothing there. To correctly « enter » the site, it is necessary to « click » on the password. It is « MY BODY ». Repeat that slowly, and you will mobilise yourself from head to toe. You will have the same experience as Brother Sean, and so many others who have been conquered in these last six months. For the Hermitage is a place which every Marist ALREADY carries in his heart. A place that « lives in us », that is part of the whole body, not just the heart and the head! Now open your eyes wide and let yourself touch; give ear and listen to everything: the silence, the Gier… Let them sound in your interior and be attentive to what will emerge. Touch, touch everything: the stones, the walls, the wood; speak to these elements, let the words within you burst out. And eat! My friends, that is what will make you different from a tourist, however sensitive he may be. The new Hermitage is « bread of life » for every Marist Christian. It is not just for recharging the batteries. It is salutary. It revitalises. What happens at the new Hermitage is like having an antivirus: if one allows it, it cleans your personal hard disk. And it is capable of reformatting in the most serious cases!How is it possible? The presence of the new community is the second key. The Hidden Life there in those places and the one each of you carries in his heart has need of hands, feminine and loving, which make the « connection ». This is the mission of the hospitality community. A prophetic community for which, given its heterogeneity, the matter is not easy. And there it is! It « demonstrates » to all, Marists or not, that an international communion, mixed and in different forms, is possible. It holds together, for the work it accomplishes is not something personal, but the continuation of the work of the One who has really built the house. L’Hermitage is waiting for you!

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