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The summer of Living Stones: service and training camps

“As Abraham or Moses or many others teach us, the life of each of us is a true pilgrimage, and the challenge that God offers us is to always set out but, even more, he gives us others: the gift of crossing, truly and intensely (even if only for a short time), the path of another man who, like you, is on a quest, is thirsty for life, has the same doubts and questions as you, is a priceless gift that enriches you, changes you profoundly and gives you the strength to set out again, backpack on your shoulders, toward the goal that is Him”: speaking is Saverio Gabrielli, coordinator of the Pietre Vive group in Rome. He participated in the service camp organized by Pietre Vive this summer in Santiago de Compostela (August 1-8).

Santiago: backpacking toward the destination

The summer camp in Santiago de Compostela, Saverio explains, is a service camp that consists of “welcoming pilgrims from all over the world and anyone who comes to Santiago and proclaiming the Gospel to them through free visits to the Cathedral, narrating the Beauty of faith through the Beauty of art and architecture. This year, specifically, Living Stones were involved in organizing and participating in the PEJ (European Youth Pilgrimage) event, which was held right in Santiago.”

An initial time was devoted to training and studying the history and artistic heritage of the city and the magnificent cathedral; and then devoting the remainder of the time to welcoming young pilgrims, together with four hundred other volunteers.

“This gave us the tools to get in touch with, meet and get to know the thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe (and beyond) who ended their journey there, filled with a strong experience and a great desire to tell the story of the walk and its meanings as told by the bas-reliefs in the church porticoes”.

Santiago was not the only summer experience. Other camps were held in Greece (9-17 July) and Amsterdam (17-24 July Round I, 24-31 July Round II). And each camp, or shift, was attended by around 25 young people from different countries in Europe.

Amsterdam: serving the Word

Some 20 young people from all over Europe gathered in Amsterdam from 17 to 31 July for an experience of formation, prayer and service. “For a few days, Pietre Vive were the welcoming face of their host Jesuit community. They kept the doors of De Krijtberg open and offered passers-by a word about the works of art in the church,’ says Caterina Bruno, coordinator of Pietre Vive in Naples. “We were struck by the light in the presbytery, filtered by the testimony of the saints portrayed in the stained glass windows. Someone stopped, and the visit became a dialogue between different confessions, many Muslims, Jews. The beauty of these encounters that let light through remains”.

Greece: bringing to fruition

Finally, the Pietre Vive camp in Greece aimed to study the link between classical culture and the origins of Christianity, through training lessons, individual study, group sharing and visits to significant archaeological sites. “An atmosphere of prayer, both personal and communal, punctuated the days, culminating with mass,” says Maria Velia Gianfelici, from Pietre Vive Bologna. “Beyond community relations, it was important for me to experience how Christianity came into contact with every human reality, even the pagan one, bringing it to fulfilment”.

‘Pietre Vive’ is a communion of youth communities born to proclaim Jesus Christ, Beauty of the Church, to those who look upon the beauty of churches. Through welcome, prayer and free guided tours, the ‘Living Stones’ proclaim the Gospel as that ‘Invisible in the visible’ that art reveals. They experience the Christian sacred space as a place of encounter with God.

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