Last August we, the Carmelite youth from different parts of Europe where the Order is present, met for five days to celebrate the second part of the “Awakening” project. They were very intense days in which the sharing of experiences and training workshops helped us to better understand our belonging to the Order and to discover how the charism of Carmel is present in our everyday lives.
The venue for the meeting was the sanctuary of Our Lady of Carmel in San Felice del Benaco, Italy. And how could it be otherwise? We only have good words for the community living there. They opened the doors of their house and made us feel part of the family. They always attended to the needs of those present and did not miss any details during our stay.
As in the previous meeting in Fatima, the words of God to Elijah once again called us to “Get up...”, words that invited us to leave behind our self-interests and hit the trail, to live a few days of reflection and deepening of faith and experience the grandeur of the “Carmelite Family.” It is exciting to share with others who I am, our realities, so different and yet so similar and impregnated by the spirit of Carmel. Discovering the charism is a gift from God. It is not my property; I have not chosen it. It was He, a God-love who becomes human whenever I meet a brother or sister.
They were days in which we also shared many moments of prayer. There could be no real encounter if the Word were not present. The prayer with which we started the day gave meaning to all the tasks that were being proposed throughout the day. We prepare our “home” to be inhabited, inhabited by Him who makes all things new.
We began by sharing our realities after a wonderful introduction of the “Awakening” project by Fr. Dave and Victor, two members of the committee. From the gathering of different provincial groups, I enjoyed sharing the enthusiasm and affection of young people who feel close to the communities of friars and work together with them, the desire that our monasteries be open houses where we can meet and share the Life through the vocation of each one, through what God has in store for each one, through the process of faith that everyone is living, and through the unanimous feeling of being sons and daughters of God.
We become “seekers of God” through a story, ours. Father Dave helped us better understand our origins, to see Carmel as the “place of the heart where God dwells” and he invited us to share a lectio divina on the Rule and a time of silence in the chapel before celebrating Eucharist together.
However, before we went deeper into the history of the Order, it was necessary to make a stop along the way and answer three questions: who the world tells me that I am, how I see myself, and how I think God sees me. It was quite a proposal to recognize my essence, my more real me, who I am, what makes me unique, what God has placed in me, because the best gift I have to offer to God, and to others is who I am. Yet first I must find my place, and be willing to travel to my heart, because that is where life really happens. And there, when I discover who I am, my mission begins, because then I am ready to ask the Lord: “What do you want from me?”
We were very fortunate to have the presence of Fr. Míceál O’Neill with us in these days. He is a great communicator, and as a listener I can say it was a privilege to hear him speak about the women in Carmel. I must thank him for his support and his ability to be young in the midst of all of us. His presentation brought us to enjoy the dark night of the soul through the poetry of John of the Cross, and it was one of those moments that were magical, and not because supernatural things occurred, but because they left in one’s heart, extraordinary experiences. We finished the prayer walk silently together in the intimacy of the chapel.
As it could not be otherwise, Saturday was dedicated to the figure of Mary. Fr. Luca and myself were invited to recount our experiences in Carmel. I emphasize that, despite my fear of public speaking and my shyness, I felt very comfortable sharing my vocation as a mother and my love for Carmel. Motherhood was a key moment in my life: the birth of my son brought me to experience the unconditional “Yes” in which there are no doubts, in which one leaves it in the hands of God and is able to give life.
This small sharing gave way to Father General Fernando Millán with his paper “Three Witnesses of Love” in which, as always, with a very fresh language aimed at young people, he updated the story, he thrilled us by teaching us that we, too, are called to witness to the love of God in our everyday lives, and did not miss an afternoon of strolls, talks, photos, and great shared moments that all of us who were there will not forget.
Finally, we ended by opening a “window of hope” in which all provincial groups could express their wishes for the future and how they would carry out afterward what they lived in San Felice.
It only remains for me to thank in a very special way Fr. John Keating and all members of the European Committee of the Carmelite Youth who counted on me on this trip. The Awakening project has been a dream for many of us. It has come to an end, and now it is time to share feelings and to continue walking together. We young Carmelites want to continue writing our history and carry the message of Jesus Christ in the midst of the world through our charism and spirituality.