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The first stages of the third age session

05/09/2006: Italy

Two weeks of the session for brothers of the 3rd age have already passed by and the chronicler believes it is the right moment to inform you about this programme and the good disposition of the participants.

On the 11th August, Brothers Innocencio Martinez, director of the session, and Antonio Ramalho, representing the General Council, welcomed the nineteen participants to the course, twenty-three if we add Brother Carlos Wielganczuk, sub-director, Brother George Fontana, administrator and Father Pascual Calvo, chaplain. The participants come from Brazil (5), Mexico (4), Spain (4), Colombia (2), Argentina (1) and Central America (1). Two Spanish Marianists, totally integrated into the group have also joined us. Our ages range between 67 and 78 years and we are all in good health to bear the rigours of the humid heat of the Roman countryside.

In his words of welcome, Brother Innocencio insisted on the grace of being able to dispose of a special time to look back on our lives and our journey until today, so as to discern the graces and to see our faith and our confidence in God and in Mary in order to undertake this last stage of maturity. This was highlighted by the life testimonies of the brothers and confirmed throughout several days the words of Mary: “The Lord has done great things in me,” or those of Paul “Grace has not been fruitless in me.”

The session has gone according to plan. The first theme of community life was treated by Brother Pau Fornells, who spoke of our documents “in proposing to recreate community life” through seven stages: from disenchantment to hope, from critical judgement to a welcoming attitude, from activism to attentiveness to the word, from the concern for efficiency to gratuitousness, from the personal seeking of prestige to the gift of self through love, from human prudence to divine excessiveness, from false spiritualism to a committed religious life. In a second talk, through a sort of exhortation, Brother Pau insisted on the need to recover the meaning of the three vows and of the lay dimension of our vocation.

In continuing the doctrinal expositions, Brother Ernesto Sanchez presented our lives to us as stories of salvation: with the same elements as the election of the people of Israel, chosen and set apart: experience of God, faith in him commitment regarding the covenant. But in the biblical story, faced with the continually saving action of God, we often experience a sense of loss and distance from God. But God is always present in order to realise his designs for us. Consequently, let’s stop seeing what happens to us only through human eyes and start to experience this through our faith.

Brother Carlos Wielganczuk is currently presenting Marist apostolic spirituality to us and the way in which to live it. Later, the Brother Vicar General will present the subject of the older brother in the life of the Institute. We will be able to tell you about this later.

As times of lectures, reflection and prayer alternate with exchanges and leisure activities, on the 12th August we explored the volcanic crater lake of Lake Bracciano, visiting the towns of Bracciano and Anguillara. On the 15th August, we went to Rome to share with the brothers of the General House the joy of celebrating the Assumption of Mary, patronal feast day of the Institute. We were able to meet four General Councillors: Luis Garcia, Pedro Herrero, Antonio Ramalho and Théoneste Kalisa. Brother Onorino Rota showed us around the house and we celebrated the Eucharist together, with prayers and hymns in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Brother Gaudencio, econome of the House, offered us an aperitif and a great banquet. We returned to Manziana after a visit to the Divino Amore sanctuary. On the 18th, we explored Rome. I still remember the image of a group of brothers jostling the crowd to get to our bus with the crowd following them simply smiling as their way was blocked by this group.

Packed days would be hard and difficult to bear if we did not have some free time. In principle, all the afternoons are free, though on occasion they are used for complementary information sessions for the good running of the house. Only Sunday is totally free for us; we can go to Rome to visit monuments or stay at home or roam through the local village. As the train system and its timetable are not familiar to us, someone, instead of returning to Manziana, took the road to Civitavecchia. Happily, he was able to change direction at Cerveteri and arrive at the house where all were anxiously waiting for him. But didn’t this also happen to Jesus when returning from Jerusalem?

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