France - Regional Meeting of the Fraternities of Our Lady of the Assumption of the Ile de France
On Saturday, the 11th of April, some fifty brothers and sisters met at Montrouge.
From 9.30 a.m. we gradually arrived in the hall of the public education chaplaincy. Present were the Fraternities of Antony, Montrouge, Pierrefitte/Saint Denis, Conflans Sainte Honorine and Grigny. The Fraternité at Le Havre had been contacted by the sisters at Conflans but was not present. The fraternity of Suresnes was represented by Thérèse Crampon (LSA) because now, given the age of its members, this Fraternity can no longer travel.
At 10 a.m., after a warm welcome by the Montrouge Fraternity, Epiphane opened the day and invited each one to introduce herself/himself. In the course of the morning we mingled in inter-Fraternity groups so as to do this. Father Jo launched the work of the day by inviting us to write on "paper spectacles" what we had observed on our arrival at the regional meeting. This initial participation gave those who were there a fresh outlook. Each person was transformed both by what he or she had said personally and by what the others said: a new outlook, ears that not only hear but listen according to the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few words: to admire, to see beautiful things, to offer one’s place, to sing, to meet the neighbour, to hear, to be with children, to show the way, to observe, to exchange, to guess, etc.
We took a step further, the second stage of the process. Father Jo explained it: choose one or two photos from among those that were distributed on each table. Express the meaning that emerges from that photo, it is what we call contemplation. To see oneself beyond the mirror: the only image it gives us is that of oneself. Go more deeply, to the meaning. The mirror of the heart changes our outlook, we renew ourselves with what is beautiful, we are called to have an interior life. Each group wrote on different-coloured stickers.
See, in orange: we look at the photo that has been chosen.
Contemplate, in green: I try to understand what I see.
Change, in rose: the photo questions me about my way of looking at things.
Afterwards, we had a free discussion and received many testimonies:
The testimonies were intense: "I am called to see the interior beauty of young people; if we judge them we kill them"; another said: "I suffer when I see the suffering of others makes me suffer"; another "The Cross we bear is our faith; this faith that we have can change the outlook of others. My grandfather used to say ’, Carry your cross always and walk with justice and uprightness’. And finally: "When you have a trial, you are never alone, a time will come when somebody will take your hand, the All-Powerful is there, we must go from distrust to confidence."
We shared the food each one had brought. The Montrouge Fraternity offered the coffee, which was accompanied by delicious little homemade cakes prepared early in the morning.
At 2 p.m., Monique, a lay member of the Antony Fraternity, began the afternoon by talking to us of the "Common Treasure, Laity/Little Sisters". Father Pernet, from the beginning had thought of the laity. The Little Sister and the laypeople walk together, they support one another. At the 2011 General Chapter the laity asked the Congregation for some formation on the LSA charism. As a result of that we have the papers that we use to animate the Fraternity meetings. Monique recounted the history of the commitment in the Fraternities; it has been brought into harmony with the present day since 2008 when there were initial commitments at Lourdes. Then, Monique invited the five persons who had made the commitment to renew it publicly and together before all the brothers and sisters.
At 2.30 p.m. we prayed together: "Lord, I pray you, teach me to be attentive… "
Father Jo led us into the third stage of our meeting by recounting the gospel story of the Samaritan woman in present-day language. He told us that it would be good to tell this story to one another in our own words – this would help us to listen to it in a new way. Then, we listened to a reading from the gospel of John: 4:1-19, and shared freely. "Jesus saw that the woman was not loved"; "The meeting of Jesus with a Samaritan woman was a shock, because the Samaritans did not mix with the Jews." "She came at midday so that she would not be seen, because she was ashamed before the others." "She went to tell others because Jesus had told her not to keep the secret for herself." "There was a dialogue, it is in talking that we open our heart."
We had an inter-Fraternity time during which we recalled other encounters that Christ had.
What is the gaze of Jesus like?
When Jesus encounters people, how does he look at them?
What is happening in His heart?
What do people discover in how He looks at them?
How and why are they led to change their behaviour?
At 3.45 p.m. there was the Eucharist, with Jo, a priest, and François, a deacon. Others persons joined us and we gathered in a semi-circle around the altar to have a time of sharing the Word of God. There was an intercessory prayer that was an echo of the depth of our discussions, attentive to those present as well as to those who were absent, to the sick, recalling also the questions of the world, our neighbourhoods, our churches and our families.
At the end of that Eucharist we were filled with the Holy Spirit. Some were surprised, taken aback, quite overwhelmed by the experience of such marvels in the course of the day. Each returned home filled with joy; some found it difficult to leave being still quite astonished to have had that experience of the Risen One.
"I did not know that you had a treasure hidden in your crystal ball." "It was different, this participation was deep, everybody recognised that!" "Everybody is enthusiastic."
Account written by Casilda Mendos (Pierrefitte/Saint Denis), Monique Fouilloux (Antony) Myriam Collon (Montrouge)