A weeklong summer vacation for a heterogenous Fraternity group – five families and two priests – becomes the occasion for rediscovering the beauty of common life.

“Mom, how can someone have lots of kids if their parents don’t have a fraternity group?”.
Kids’ questions often catch us by surprise, just as Irene’s did. They are audacious; they arrive like lightning. Chiara, her mother, is resting on a lawn chair in front of the swimming pool, enjoying the sun and easy conversation with the other mothers. Used to sustaining conversation between the interruptions of one child and another, she holds out a towel as Irene approaches from the pool dripping wet. Meanwhile, their conversation continues. Irene wraps herself in the towel and asks her question. The chat stops. Irene turns and makes a dash towards the pool together with her friends who are by now like siblings.
Five families and two priests. Twelve adults and sixteen kids. A Fraternity small group in a cottage in Umbria for a week of summer vacation together. At first glance, it is pretty difficult to pair the children with their respective parents because it is so normal to see a child being held or fed, consoled or saved from a fall in the pool by one of the other parents.
Each family has its own apartment that opens up to the same central courtyard. Fr. Davide and I also share one of these apartments. The children are free to scamper around between patios. For them, it’s like being at one big house.
Apart from breakfast, everything happens together. We begin our day together with morning prayer; before we pray, we keep a climate of silence. As one would expect, the older children cannot help but whisper a bit, as they scheme about the day among themselves. During that first moment they see adults absorbed in a booklet about which they converse during the day. They try to participate, keeping their voices to a low-roar.
After morning prayer, we sing a few songs with the children. At that point, they can finally raise the volume and let loose what they held back during the morning silence. Then they race to be the first in the pool.
Everyday, there is a different team that takes care of the meals. Even though there are about 30 of us, there was no shortage of exceptional fare: homemade pasta, risotto, house specials and cold beer. Sometimes mealtime conversation consists of banter and simple conversation. Other times there are lively discussions regarding the education of children, work, the life of the movement and the Church. Every now and then there is the inevitable interruption of one of the children in need.
After a nap, there is an afternoon snack then more time in the pool. The water games begin, which include both parents and children. Some seize the occasion for more serious dialogues. After the last dive, we begin to prepare for Mass. The children all line up in the first rows. A few serve the Mass. Some remain in silence imitating those who are bigger than them. Some fight with a brother or a friend.
Dinner, like lunch, is eaten outside. The first stars appear and while some put their children to bed, others prepare the evening. Some are passionate about Gaber and propose listening to some of his songs; someone else speaks about a book; others present a video. Bishop Massimo comes to visit us one evening. During the last evening there are games with the children.
There are not only games and the pool. We also invaded the local villages. From shop windows people looked at us with wonder and irritation. It was a ragtag group of adults, priests and 16 children: an unusual companionship.
This is the third year that we have spent this week together in the summer. Every year, what remains in the heart is the beauty of a strong communion, the joy of sharing both significant and insignificant things, and the wonder of such a fruitful nearness between the vocations of virginity and marriage. What’s more, this experience is not only a parentheses of the summer. It has become a physical and concrete closeness between families, priests and consecrated. In the heart of the city, which is becoming ever more like so many hives of solitude, a small house rises up, an apparently unimportant village, where it is possible to live communion among friends. Where one’s own task of being a parent is sustained, reassured and rediscovered in its beauty. Where one can be helped with the shopping, taking the kids to school, living one’s work. Where the desire to open oneself to the whole world is reborn. Where, dear Irene, a new life is not only a problem, but, first of all, an experience of joy and gratitude in introducing a new existence into the fullness of life that Christ gives us.

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