The pilgrimage experiences offered by the Jesuits to young people goes back a long way. The starting point is “the passion, the study, and knowledge of the territory of the fathers who preceded us in the Biblical Institute: Rossi De Gasperis, Cesare Geroldi, Paolo Bizzetti”, Fr. Francesco Cavallini explains.
“De Gasperis’ proposals for young people were rejected by Geroldi. During my tenure, I introduced into these a more direct relationship with nature, increased the number of days spent there, and included more adventure”.
The pilgrimage lasts sixteen days. “We retrace the history of salvation through medals, meeting the Lord Jesus as a continuation of a salvation story that begins with creation. That is why our first stages are from the Negev desert to the Red Sea,” he explains. “At the same time, we proceed on two levels: the proposal of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius – the 4 Weeks – meditating at the beginning, in these marvellous sceneries of the desert and oasis, and Genesis 1 and 2 to rediscover the beauty of creation and regain a positive view of the world and of oneself.
Then follows the confrontation with sin and evil, the redemption by Jesus and following in His footsteps to Galilee all the way to Jerusalem, and His gift of life and the Holy Spirit to the disciples and the sending out”.
This is offered by meditating on the Word in the place where those episodes took place, then through the application of the senses: “meditating on sin in the desert, redemption in a beautiful oasis that brings to mind the living water, Jesus himself”. Another important element is knowledge of the geography of the place. “The young people understand better, seeing the places where the history of salvation originated”. Finally, experiencing all this in the natural environment, “a situation which is beneficial to them both psychologically and anthropologically: experiencing the sunrise, walking in the desert, bathing in the Dead Sea, sleeping on the beach of Lake Tiberias”.
We spend 16 days with the Bible in hand “where we review the length and breadth of a historical, natural, archaeological but above all a spiritual journey” enriched by the encounter with the harsh reality of the occupied territories, the hardship, the rights denied. We allow ourselves to be challenged by these situations but also listen to the testimonies of those who are operating well amidst this evil, those who live a sort of positive resilience”.
Among the fruit that often persist as young people recall their experience are “a greater knowledge of God and Jesus, a certain positivity, perseverance and determination to make courageous choices”.
The Jesuit team in charge of the program is growing. The next experiences being offered are from 25 July to 10 August and from 12 to 28 August. The Spiritual Exercises in the Holy Land and an 8-day pilgrimage for those who have already been there, meditating and visiting different places are scheduled.
For information contatct Francesco Cavallini SJ – firstname.lastname@example.org