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Jesuits News Youth “Adelante pellegrino”: instructions for the journey
Youth Prayer

“Adelante pellegrino”: instructions for the journey

To follow in the footsteps of Ignatius, on the same road travelled 499 years ago, from Gaeta to Rome, and rediscover what it means to be inspired by Ignatian spirituality today. With this desire, about eighty young people, aged between 15 and 30, from Albania, Romania and various regions of Italy (Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Abruzzo, Lazio, Tuscany, Liguria Piemonte…), together with two religious sisters and about ten Jesuit fathers, accompanied over the weekend by the Provincial, Roberto Del Riccio, walked 20 kilometres a day between 22 and 25 April.

The questions and the stages

As in every pilgrimage, each participant arrived with his or her own question, desire, burden: to make sense of his or her life, to face a problem, to find a way forward. “The journey challenges us and helps us discover new resources, it teaches us to achieve goals with perseverance and to open ourselves with awe to the beauty of the places we pass through”, explains Fr. Marco Colò, EUM’scoordinator of the initiatives for the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St Ignatius and who accompanied the young people.

The route included three stages – Formia/Fondi, Velletri/Pavona, Appia Antica – a question was distributed during each stage as a guide for times of prayer and sharing:

– how can one become a reformer in this world? This is all about the theme of leadership. Faced with the uncertainties of this era, a young person either retires – and we know that depression, which has increased during the pandemic, is prevalent among youth during the present times – or sets out to reform society. Ignatius the Reformer can be our guide. And Laudato si and Fratelli Tutti are also important indicators.

– How can one find God in every situation? Here we are at the heart of Ignatian spirituality. And yet there is always something amusing about what this really means. For example, you learn to find God in all things if you celebrate with your brothers and sisters and are accustomed to spending time on the Word.

– What type of church do we dream of? Ignatius was a natural lover of the church, as he was aware that from the church, he received the greatest gift: faith. Even if the Church put him to the test, this love has always remained alive and strong in him. Finally, he has been a reformer of the Church.

The day, from silence to witnesses

Before the journey, each day began with praying a psalm and meditating on Gospel texts, chosen from episodes featuring people on a journey: Jesus and Peter on the water, Emmaus, the disciples learning the great gap that existed between their way of seeing things and that of the Lord as they walked towards Jerusalem.

The first part of the walk took place in silence to allow time for personal prayer. This was followed by a time of sharing in twos, while walking. Halfway through the walk, some insights were given on the figure of Ignatius. And, at the end of the day, mass was celebrated. The evening was dedicated to encounters with witnesses from the areas they walked through: a lay president of a social cooperative in the diocese of Gaeta, a priest who has refurbished an old monastery and made it a place of welcome particularly for those who arrive there with deep hurts, a nun from the monastery of Der Mar Musa. A time to review events rounded off the days.

“Dreams transform reality”

“At the end of the pilgrimage, notwithstanding the tiredness, the joy was visible on the faces of the participants, who began to sing as they entered Rome. And even in their own words, the young people said they were grateful for this powerful experience, which shed light on their lives,” Colò recounts. One of the phrases uttered by one of the witnesses whom they met along the way and shared during the concluding Mass was: “Dreams transform reality”. Ignatius, a pilgrim and dreamer, also transformed reality, allowing the grace received from the Lord to be poured out onto the people he met. Finally, Father Provincial, at the end of Sunday’s Mass, launched the proposal for a synod of young people from the Ignatian family network. A small seed sown, a shared dream, which we hope will germinate next year.

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