The Way of the cross at the GS' Triduo (Photo: Denis Billi/Fraternità CL)

This is what I want for my life

A testimony on the GS Triduo in Italy, the journey, the Way of the Cross, the lessons, the songs, an unexpected encounter.

I am 14 year old and I have been a part of CL ever since I could remember and joined the Secondary School Student Group (GS) in Ireland a year ago.

When I heard about the Triduo (three-day Holy Week retreat) in Rimini for the GS, I was very excited. A meeting for young people like me to go and have a religious meeting while exploring ourselves and meeting others really seemed amazing. It was a long journey, as we took the flight to Bologna and then a bus coach to Rimini, near where we were staying.
We had arranged to travel with a group from Bologna. Initially, I was a bit nervous, as there were more than 60 young students there, and I didn’t know anyone. The long bus ride proved to be memorable, as we introduced ourselves and really started to get to know this community. We had a lot of fun after, playing volleyball and football at the beach when we had our free time.
When we went to the meeting place in Rimini, we were all in awe.
There were 3,600 students in the hall, all there for the same purpose; to be in God’s presence and truly find who we are. The assembly was led by Father Fabio and was accompanied by music from young students.

Already the first reflection had struck me;
“if faith is not useful for life, then what are we here for?”
This line made me realise that having faith is essential not only for one’s Christian journey, but for life itself, from hoping you did well on a test after studying to asking Jesus’ guidance to help find meaning in your life, to fill the emptiness inside that is longing for something more.

The next day we had the morning reflection and the Way of The Cross. It was truly beautiful, as we walked around the town of Santarcangelo di Romagna, from the park all the way to the top of the city in a field, where we sang, prayed, and had moments of deep reflection.

The GS Way of the Cross during the Triduum in Rimini (Giacomo Bellavista/Fraternity CL)

What had made me stop and think was the definition of love; I love you means I want what is good for you, I desire that you encounter Christ. God truly loves us and He is not distant.

That night, we assembled for a short school of community for our contributions. I introduced myself and said that we were very happy and grateful to be there, as it was an amazing experience, to truly connect with the GS. I told them how I had grown up in a CL family and community and could not imagine my life without it.

I asked if there was a way that we could find true meaning to our life, fill this empty space inside as though something is missing, this longing that we have. I remember feeling scared to share this, as not only was it something that I didn’t know the others would truly understand but also because I had to stand up and speak while Chiara and Edoardo (one of the GS leaders from Bologna) translated what I said in English to Italian.
After we had finished and prayed, a girl came up to me and thanked me for what I had shared. She said she too had grown up in a CL family but also felt this doubting feeling, is this really what I feel? Is Christ in fact real? That her journey was bumpy sometimes too. I felt so happy that not only she found what I had said to be interesting, but she truly understood and it had resonated with her.

Later that night we all gathered and sang songs together, having a good time. We were teaching them some of the Irish songs and they taught us the Italian ones, and at the end we even sang a Brazilian one together. I remember feeling, this is true joy, this is what I want for my life.
I really felt the presence of Christ there, something special, and I started to understand what it means to have ‘the gaze’. How could it be? What did this community have that was so special, something that united all of them? We had met them only 2 days previously and yet we had a night full of singing and having fun as if we had known them forever? With some friends we had even agreed to meet up early in the morning to see the sunrise on the beach, waking up at 5:30 am.
Even though it was a bit cloudy and we couldn’t see the sun that clearly, it was like the presence of Christ.
We don’t always see Him, but we know He is always there.

On the morning of Holy Saturday, we left the hotel and went to the Triduo in Rimini for the last time. We had made friends with so many people and we had an amazing experience.
From the assembly, I was moved by Father Francesco’s experience.
The certainty he had of becoming a priest but also the difficult moments in his life, from the cigarettes as a child, his friend Marta in college who died of cancer, who told him she would walk even with the wounds on her feet to see him, and to discovering just how much his girlfriend Margherita loved him, when he told her he was going to the priesthood, setting herself aside for him to follow Christ’s path.
These experiences in his life made me realise how important faith and love are, not only to God, but also to those around us.

When we were going home, we went through Bergamo, and we took the bus with the GS from there. They welcomed us with open arms and even though we spent less than 5 hours together, we all sang and had fun as friends who have known each other for much longer.

I saw again this ‘gaze’, and it wasn’t just friendliness or hospitality.
I knew then it was the presence of Christ within us. God says that “When two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” – Matthew 18:20. This is the feeling of joy and faith I felt when I was with the GS from Bergamo, from Bologna and in the Triduo in Rimini.
We had made many friends, and received invites from both communities to spend the summer holidays with them.
It was an experience I will always treasure.

Signed Letter