Live free or die is a slogan from the American Revolution that I have always liked. And it is with joy that I have seen a free life generated by the Spirit blossom in the movement of Communion and Liberation in that portion of the Holy Church in Massachusetts where I live.
It is a small community of about a hundred people, in which initiatives, usually promoted by families, freely blossom. One doesn’t feel judged for not attending all of them, and if someone is not invited, instead of complaining, they ask to be included.
To give an example of this freedom in action, last weekend there was a pilgrimage to a sanctuary dedicated to St. Anne, in a place where everyone could arrive by car within an hour and a half, even from other states like New Hampshire or Connecticut. It is a proposal that one of us had a few years ago, with a mom who took the initiative, coordinating with the sanctuary and sending out invites. We continued to do it every year in May, and then again in September.
Once everyone has arrived, the Mass is celebrated, confessions are offered, and we pray the rosary. It doesn’t get much simpler than that… and yet, as the years pass, it is easy to see the effect that these gestures, inserted in the normality of life, have on the children: their level of attention at mass is impressive, with the bigger kids keeping an eye on the little ones. In a special way, the effect is evident when we pray the rosary.
Praying the rosary is something we started doing eight years ago, during a summer in which, finding ourselves in front of some difficult situations, someone timidly suggested praying a decade. In a short time, almost every day of that summer, we were getting together to walk around the neighborhood or at the playground, praying the rosary. The kids began to participate more actively when we decided to start each Hail Mary with an intention to pray for. Such a gesture helped them to remember, to give thanks, and to ask. Last year, one of our families was practically isolated in their house because of a serious illness of the father. But the children did not forget about them. Instead, their names were always at the center of our prayers.
Returning to the pilgrimage: at the end of the Mass, I went to place my vestments in the car. Walking up towards the outdoor Way of the Cross, where we would pray the rosary, I found myself surrounded by a swarm of little children, from three to five years old, who were waiting for me. Perhaps because they feared that I would leave, a few of them began pulling me by the hand. It was raining and everyone had their hoods on, so I didn’t recognize a small girl. I asked one of the adults who she was and he told me that she was the daughter of the family who was “isolated in their home”.
I had only seen her once last year, and yet here she was, entrusting herself with simplicity to the children who had accompanied her the whole day, and to me.
It moved me to think about how simple it is to be fathers: it is enough to entrust oneself to our companionship and follow. Our companionship is not a structure, an organization or a club. Instead, it is a litany of names, entrusted one by one to the good Lord, given and entrusted to another.
Luca Brancolini is a physics and programming teacher in Boston, USA. In the image, the city skyline – photo flickr.com