Boys' get-together with the Servant Brothers in Lumezzane (Italy) on February 20th, 2015.
On Friday, February 20, 2015, Br. Luke and Br. Kevin, SHM, drove off to St. Apollonius' parish in Lumezzane, a town in the diocese of Brescia in northern Italy where the Servant Sisters have a community. Located in a mountainous region and over 700m above sea level, the winter season was still in full force. The high slopes of the Val Trompa, the valley where Lumezzane is situated, were covered with snow.
This was the 5th time that the Servant Brothers had made the trip in order to do apostolate work with a small group of young boys of the parish. It’s a group that has proved to be faithful in turning out for these sporadic encounters. Despite being limited by the bad weather this time, we were still able to have a great time together. The bonds of friendship already established from our previous visits were further consolidated. As usual, the aim of the whole get-together was so that the boys could have a true encounter with Christ, while having a blast.
The fact that this time around we were unable to take our usual mountain hike because of the weather didn’t dampen things; we still had a load of fun, making the most of the big hall that is attached to the Servant Sisters' house, filling the days we had there with different indoor games and activities and of course with “indoor soccer.” The guys even chipped in to cook their own evening meal! Some might think that we ate carbonised pasta instead of pasta carbonara but it was all very much edible and even quite tasty. It’s surprising how you can be kept well entertained with only simple means at your disposal. A bit of good imagination and a will to participate is very much a key factor, and thanks be to God, the boys weren’t lacking in this department. Obviously the most important factor, the soul and spirit of it all, are the graces with which we are ever abundantly supplied with on these occasions. Left to ourselves there would be nothing but disaster and failure. The never-failing hand of providence and the steadfast maternal guidance of our Heavenly Mother were always very much manifest.
These days weren’t just about playing games, having fun and filling our stomachs up with good things; more importantly there were times for serious thought and reflection together upon more transcendental matters, accompanied with the essential time for prayer. We had guided meditations and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Mass and the rosary, finishing the day off with a reflection and examination of conscience before bedding down for the night. The topics that we went over, you could say, were already given to us. Being at the beginning of the Lenten season, we addressed the three spiritual aids that the Church proposes to us; that is, prayer, mortification(fasting) and charity(almsgiving), emphasising that this is a time for a more concerted effort towards our personal conversion to Christ with the necessary recourse to the sacraments.
It was a greatly encouraging to see that some of the lads have matured somewhat in this past year or so, since we started visiting them and that not only in a physical way. There was genuine interest in elevating the conversations to more spiritual themes instead of sliding off into the purely superficial, worldly talk that probably they are more accustomed to. Even if the reason for this might well have been the presence of the Servant Brothers, the fact that on many occasions these conversations were opened up or enquired upon spontaneously by them was a good sign.
One of the highlight moments of the weekend was the visit we made to the nursing home in town. This gave us an opportunity to put into practice one of the three spiritual aids that we talked to them about: fraternal charity. The home is a great big building that houses 150 elderly people. We separated ourselves into two groups of four and went through the different wards on the different floors. We would draw close to the groups gathered about in different places and just start speaking to them, introducing ourselves and simply just taking a genuine interest in them. It seemed like they, the elderly, were lapping it up. We were too. In fact, it made such an impression upon the guys that one of them was even making enquiries about how to go about becoming a committed volunteer. A more comical element of the visit was to be experienced by the foreigners, namely the Servant Brothers, whose Italian in the best of cases is no better than caveman stuff. When the elderly residents started to talk in their own dialect, which sounds more like German than Italian, you can guess what the faces of our 2 Servant brothers were like; nothing that a big smile and a consenting nod of the head couldn’t fix though!
Our weekend together finished on Sunday evening when Fr Felix returned from giving a small weekend retreat to the lay adult members of the Home there. A decent number of these, including parents of the boys we were with, came along to share pizza with us. We started with a general assembly which gave the chance for those who partook in these weekend events to share their own experiences and the graces that they had received. All the boys there put in a positive contribution and shared their impressions, which was very encouraging.
All in all, as I said before hand, the encounter went well. On the surface there were no problems and the main aim of the event was accomplished; putting the boys into contact with Jesus Christ in a real and personal way. The conditions for such an encounter were there but the internal reality of it all, the conversion of their hearts to God, this has yet to be seen. The seeds were sown and it is now up to them to collaborate with Gods’ grace, which rained down upon them in these days, so that these seeds may come to the fruition that He desires for them. Let us pray for this intention.