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British Province Coordinator reports on Pilgrimage of Hope
26 July 2010

The friar who coordinated the group of young people from the British Province who took part in the recent "Pilgrimage of Hope" in Rome, Fr. Kevin Melody, O.Carm., has kindly compiled the following report...

Almost 200 young people from 13 countries across Europe met in Rome from 19th – 25th July to celebrate a “Pilgrimage of Hope”.

Pilgrims of Hope gathered in Rome.

Carmelite friar communities were invited to each send two delegates, and 7 young people and 3 friars from the British Province took part.

British Province Pilgrims (left-right): Tom Griffith; Martin Imafidon; Bro. Paul Jenkins; Behn Reith; Matthew Sanderson; Hannah Porro; Fr. Kevin Melody; Eleanor; Bro. Gerard Walsh; Roy Scivyer.

The week included workshops on the Carmelite Rule, significant figures in the Carmelite story including Mary and Elijah, experiences of silence, and an opportunity for Lectio Divina in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls where we were greeted by the Abbot, Dom Edmund Power. The work of the week was based on sharing in language groups rather than lectures and talks; through this, new insights were gained into the Rule of Saint Albert as well as the position of the figures of Mary and Elijah as models for all those seeking to listen to the Word of God and act on it (cf. Luke 11:28). An important part of the week was our meditation on the text of a letter written by the Prior General to the young people of Europe and the preparation of a response to that letter; these responses will be collated and presented to the whole Carmelite Family in the weeks ahead.

On Tuesday the group visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major and the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran, and finished the evening when the Prior General celebrated Eucharist in the Carmelite Church of San Martino. This is the community where the recently beatified Carmelite friar Angelo Paoli served the poor of Rome in the seventeenth century. The evening also saw the celebration of the birthday of Behn Reith, one of the pilgrims from the British Province.

Celebrating Behn's birthday.

It wasn't all hard work!

Wednesday saw us journey to Castel Gandolfo, the site of the summer residence of Pope Benedict XVI. Here we were given an opportunity to walk in silence from Lake Albano up to the parish church in the village in order to get a feel for the journey of the early pilgrims climbing Mount Carmel. In the afternoon, reflections on this walk, and the reading of a section of Fr. Fernando’s letter, many of the groups expressed a feeling of peace and solidarity with those who have a solitary pilgrimage through life as a result of poverty and oppression. This became evident in the testimony provided by a number of the participants in our prayer back at Sassone on Wednesday evening.

The Rule of Saint Albert was the focus of the groups on Thursday morning and interpretations of the Rule were expressed through art, poetry, drama and music. For many, this proved to be a highlight of the week and saw some very creative interpretations of a rule which is proven to have the ability to inspire people through the generations to continue to walk in the footsteps of Christ. In the afternoon we journeyed to St. Paul Outside the Walls where we were greeted by Abbot Edmund Power and shared an experience of Lectio Divina Bible meditation. The magnificence and simplicity of this beautiful church inspired a sense of awe and wonder in the presence of God which facilitated the process of Lectio Divina. For many of the participants this was a first experience of this type of prayer and many committed themselves to a further exploration of the Word of God by this method.

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Friday’s theme was “Disciples of Christ” and the group visited the catacomb of Priscilla on the outskirts of the city of Rome. After morning prayer in the grounds of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla, we were given a tour of the catacomb. This particular catacomb was used for Christian burial from the second to the fourth centuries and is home to the earliest known image of the Virgin Mary as well as some other beautiful artwork. In the afternoon we had a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica and a walking tour of Rome which finished at the Coliseum.

All roads lead to Rome.

On Saturday we had the opportunity for individual and group meditation on the Prior General’s letter, as well as the chance to write personal responses to this letter. A plenary session with the Prior General gave an opportunity for questions to be raised; a primary theme was the question of what comes next. Both the Prior General and the delegations from the 13 countries represented committed themselves to further raising awareness of the Carmelite Way to other young people around Europe. Many expressed joy at finding new depths in this spiritual path and agreed to work towards the next World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. Later, the different provincial groups were invited to make a firm commitment to the future; the delegation from the British Province made a threefold dedication:

  • A recommitment to their local parish / Carmelite centre
  • Meeting in September 2010 to plan for the future
  • Working towards a weekend retreat in 2011 to which they would each bring another young person interested in Carmelite Spirituality

Ready to take their experience back to Britain.

A closing Eucharist was celebrated by Fr. Fernando who reminded us that small steps taken with generosity and ope
nness to God can bring us a long way. In this new millennium we have a chance to build on the last 800 years of Carmelite tradition and discover it anew for ourselves in the coming years. After Mass we had a review of the week and each person was presented with a simple wooden cross made in a Carmelite-managed rehabilitation centre in Salamanca, Spain.

The three friar pilgrims from Britain with the Prior General, Fr. Fernando.

Over the week, new friendships were forged and people were filled with hope for the future. Friars and young people recommitted themselves to following in the footsteps of Christ and in sharing the Carmelite way with friends and family.

The icon of Our Lady of Hope was a focus for prayer throughout the week.

A video showing highlights from the week can be viewed by clicking here.