The American “Festival of Life” took place this year in Alabama, where, thanks to the friendship and “joyful hope” of Bishop Baker, we have our fraternity “Our Lady of Joyful Hope”, situated exactly next to the “Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament”. We were able to meet with the families and youth of the United States, and share with them the “warmth” of the Love of God even through the unusually cold weather.
We want to thank all of you first of all for your prayers that accompanied us these days that translated to so many “graces” for so many families and young american men and women that were united around our new fraternity, “Our Lady of Joyful Hope”. The first day of the meeting was spent near the “Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament” that was built in the heart of Alabama by Mother Angelica, a humble cloistered nun, chosen by God, to give life to a Catholic television show, EWTN, which is very well known on the north american continent. Our house is very close to the Sanctuary where there is continuous adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament: a spiritual blessing for our youth and also for all the families united here for the American “Festival of Life”. The meeting was held in an open area that contains a reproduction of the Grotto in Lourdes and a large space with many benches for all the groups that come there. Even through the freezing cold of Alabama, the american parents resisted well, well equipped with their large jackets and scarves. Mother Elvira spoke to them about the importance of understanding through the cross they carried in their families, which is the true sense of their lives, and not material things that do not make the human heart happy! The true joy of life is found inside! The parents that were first meeting Mother Elvira were shocked by the simplicity and joy that she transmitted through her smiles and hugs. She finished by saying: “Smile because smiles are like the sun on a snowy day!” A little while later, during the Holy Mass, Father Stefano spoke how our daily crosses put us on the path towards the crucifix and towards God. Later on, at the moment of the consecration it really looked like it was going to snow. A frozen icy rain was pouring upon everyone, but it was a miracle that no one moved. Everyone remained still until the end, full of faith... and a luminous joy shone on the faces of all. In the afternoon, the sorrowful rosary ended providentially in front of a huge cross that graphically depicted the wounds of Jesus. Father Stefano took the occasion for a catechism on how our wounds are a manifestation of how the power of evil has to become a window where the mercy of God can enter. Afterwards the moment of adoration was lived in a profound silence in the small chapel under the Sanctuary where the “full” presence of God was felt. After a festive salute in the beautiful square in front of the sanctuary we made an appointment for Saturday morning in Community. However, upon waking up, there was a blanket of frost over everything and the seats had a nice layer of ice on them. We started to work right away to prepare to welcome the families. Thanks be to God, the sun came, bringing back serenity and warmth into the hearts of all. We had a wonderful mass where Father Stefano explained to the parents in the light of the words of St. Paul: “I have learned to live with abundance as well as in poverty” how also we in community live the experience that life is more than just the things we have. If we happen to have everything, it is a gift, but also when we do not have everything, that it is also a gift in and of itself because when we understand that life is worth more through sacrifice, we become stronger. Like St. Paul, through the difficulty in our lives, we can say “I can do everything through Him who strengthens me!”. In the afternoon there were sincere, moving testimonies from some of the young men, women and parents who were not afraid to tell the story of their journey towards truth. As soon as the sun went down, we performed our recital “From the Darkness to the Light” to be able to give testimony to the parents and our friends the story of our resurrection. A beautiful video beforehand told the story of the Community Cenacolo in America which allowed even those who had come to the Community for the first time to see the story of how we came to the United States. Bishop Baker, a dear friend of the Community who’s “fault” it was we first came to Florida, and now in Alabama, was providentially there as well, very happy to be in the presence of Mother Elvira. The testimonies and the dances of our young men and women touched the hearts of all, parents and friends, and all returned to their hotels that night cold, but with the warmth of hope alive in their hearts. Sunday morning we lived a solemn Eucharistic Concelebration presided by Bishop Baker. Mass started off by the blessing of the house. The homily of the Bishop transmitted to all the joy of having the Community Cenacolo in his diocese. In a world of false illusions, the resurrection was visible and tangible from the youth of Community to their families, and it is a font of joyful hope for all! At the end of mass, Mother Elvira confirmed her joy and stupor in seeing that God was working also here in America with these words that touched the hearts of all: “I still continue to not understand anything, but I am happy to renew my daily “yes” to God. I believe in Love, and I believe more every day more in the God of Life and Love!”. Father Stefano thanked Bishop Baker in the name of all because he “gave a push to hope” so many years ago upon coming to Saluzzo to ask that the Community might open a house in Florida. His hope has become a living hope for so many youth and parents. In the afternoon, after the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Albino’s final goodbye reminded him that he had entered into Community exactly 20 years ago. He thanked God, Mother Elvira and the Community for the many miracles that happened in his life up until that point, and for all the blessings he receives daily through his wife Joyce, the young men, women and from all the families. The last touching hugs of the parents and children, the picture memories with Mother Elvira, the tears of joy and gratitude on everyone’s faces made the sunset all the more beautiful and luminous on Alabama’s clear sky. Truly life had celebrated in these days through the sacrifice and free service of so many young men, women and parents who ran, cooked, smiled, danced, and sang... happy to be risen from the dead! Life is beautiful, yes, lived in God, life is absolutely beautiful!
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