Festa Della Vita 2016

The Cenacolo community has a big feast each year in Saluzzo and this year five priests from England (one was from Scotland) went out, plus three of the lads from the house here in Kendal. On our pillows, when we arrived, was a little sign saying: “Thank you for coming and for your availability” I asked a friend what I was making myself available for, and it was confessions. Confessions take you straight into the heart of the work of Cenacolo as you hear of the suffering of families and children as a result of addiction, and the search for healing. You become a part of that healing as you listen and absolve. Being the Year of Mercy, ‘I desire mercy’ was the theme of the feast, and a natural part of this was the question of suffering and forgiveness.

We had a number of testimonies, from Rwanda, Italy and Syria, that brought out the relationship between the two, from people who had suffered great and violent loss, been under personal attack, who had served in the Middle East and seen terrible things. In all this they spoke of a discovery of a way to forgive, a process of coming to forgiveness, which many in the congregation needed to hear.

This sounds as if it was endlessly sombre, but in fact there was a great joy in all of this. We danced a lot, being guided by some of the young people, which I resisted until Tiziano dragged me into and then thoroughly enjoyed, and sweated a lot. We sang too, and there was a great deal of hugging and laughter as well.

One of our joys was seeing some of the lads who had been in the Kendal house and finding out how they were doing. Some were involved in the two plays of ‘The Prodigal Son’ and ‘The Creed’ which they performed in the evenings and dramatically brought out the theme of mercy and forgiveness again. They were about to leave on tour with these to World Youth Day.

Medjugorje, Rome and beyond.

Among the thousands of people there, the catching up, the chats in different languages (done badly by us English), I found time to reflect too on how impressive the feast was. It is a place where you see great love between families and others, and yet at the same time great distress and uncertainty. People trying to re-establish relationships that have been so harshly tested by the effects of addiction, that they have been broken. People are wounded and in search of healing.

Yet at the same time, you could feel the presence of the healing Christ among us, and that power was underlined in the Masses and prayers that we said together. We began the feast with the phrase: “we are sinners, yet happy,” and it was true.

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