My dear friends,
I would like to tell you all about the recent study weekend with our middle-schoolers.
We went to Berzosa de Losova, a small pueblo in the Sierra of Madrid. We had booked a house for the twenty-five of us, kids and adults. Many of the kids were uncertain of whether they would come or not: they still don’t know each other well, and some aren’t used to spending the night away from home. Furthermore, it was close to their exams and a common objection was in the air: “But I have to study for real!”
Working to prepare for the weekend, and keeping in mind the path that we had been walking with the kids up to that point, I chose a theme for the weekend taken from a poem of Saint Teresa of Avila, who writes: «¡No haya ningún cobarde! / ¡Aventuremos la vida! / Pues no hay quien mejor la guarde / que el que la da por perdida». In English, you could translate it like this: “Let us not be cowards! Let’s live life as an adventure! For there is no better way to guard it than to consider it lost!” In the end we decided on the simple theme “Let us live life as an adventure!”
As the weather was exceptionally temperate for the Sierra, considering it was December, we were able to take advantage of our splendid surroundings every day. We enjoyed the mountains, which were just a stone’s throw away, as well as the daily time to study. And since Fr. Tommaso came with us, we were able to have Mass every day.
I received a deep impression seeing how these kids, who had come brimming with doubts and without much initiative, had become transformed in the span of just five days. On the last day, before the final clean-up and departure, we dedicated an hour to share with each other what we had discovered during our time there. I would like to cite some of their contributions.
A boy of the 7th grade, a Latin-American, who lives without his father, and whose sister was recently diagnosed with cancer, told us that it had always seemed impossible to him to find friends with whom he could share all of his life. Not just his schoolwork, but also the things that are most difficult to disclose in front of others. He was referring to the problems of his family, which he was speaking about in public for the first time in his life.
Another girl, who had started to frequent our group just three months prior, and had not wanted to come at all, confessed that she had had a wonderful time. She would never have forgiven herself for not coming – she told us – because thanks to her friendship with us, she had stopped considering herself to be strange. “What I really want,” she confided to us, “what is in my heart, is the same as what is in all of your hearts. That is why I am sure you all are my friends.”
Lastly, a comment of one the older girls moved me greatly: “What happened during this weekend? We only did what we usually do: studying, eating, singing, playing… However, I discovered that with you all, it’s almost as if my life had something more, something added to it, a secret something that I could have never discovered by myself.”
When the kids returned home and told their friends who hadn’t come about the weekend, these others said to me, a bit shamefully, that they understood that they had missed out on something important. They will come to the next outing for sure, they promised. Luckily, they don’t have to wait long: very soon, we will spend a weekend together with the other middle-school groups of Madrid. And we are waiting impatiently.
In the picture: Stefano Motta during the “study-vacation” with the young people of the parish in Fuenlabrada.