This is the third time that our fraternity Saint-Martin-de-Porres has welcomed parishioners of Saint Louis d’Antin in the middle of the week at lunch time. A very particular parish: without territory, but in the middle of a lively area in an incessant coming and going of people, because of the proximity of the Saint-Lazare station and the famous department stores “Le Printemps” and “Les Galeries Lafayettes” in the Boulevard Haussmann.
For this reason, we welcome people coming from Paris and the suburbs, who are working or retired, with little time available during the week, and of very different origins and histories.
As the theme for this year, “the body”, seemed a priori a little difficult, we feared the reaction of the participants, In fact, all have entered the subject sincerely and in truth. The suffering body, the aged body, the sick body, the damaged body, but also the well-groomed body, the fortified body, the body transfigured by friendship, tenderness, the grace of the sacraments.
The wholel body, flesh and spirit united. Of course, we cannot imagine the body of the Jesus risen and hence our own: the disciples of Emmaus recognized him only in the gesture of the breaking of the bread. Mary Magdalene only recognized him by his voice. Words and listening: a direct encounter. A beautiful meeting, punctuated by musical interludes, rich testimonies, moving intercessions, a warm climate in spite of the “austerity” of the menu: bread – apple – water. (Bernard and Monique, St Martin of Porres fraternity, Paris)
This testimony of Bernard and Monique who, with their fraternity, proposed a “meeting near you” in the framework of “Lent in the City” tells us of the fruitfulness of this form of participation of the lay fraternities of the Province of France in the Order’s Mission of preaching through the Internet.
For several years we have been engaged in this action which makes us “Preachers of Hope”. With the friars and the sisters, lay Dominicans were called to take charge of a week of meditations (Advent in the City). For several years we have animated the “Fraternets”, virtual forums, bringing together a dozen retreatants throughout Lent who have left us some beautiful testimonies of the paths travelled. Finally, it also seemed to the leaders of “Retreat in the City” that it was good to make it possible to pass from the virtual meeting to the real encounter, “in the flesh”, with retreatants who live “near us”: to drop our guard during a meeting. Hence our participation for three years in organizing these “meetings for all” published on the website, or “meetings with friends”, facilitated by the website and for which advertising is left to the initiative of the organizers.
The idea is that in every town, village or region where lay Dominicans live, they offer and animate during the Lenten season meetings open to all those who are registered at Lent in the City, and even beyond. Members of Rosary Teams, for example, or simply close to the Order and loyal to the proposals of Retreat in the City, were also invited to organize meetings.
These consist in three phases: sharing, prayer and conviviality. The time of sharing is supported by a specific meditation proposed by a friar: this year Br. Jean-Michel Potin wrote a very beautiful meditation on the theme: “The Word of God became man so that we might become God.” For the time of prayer some tracks are given that create communion. The convivial moment is at the initiative of the organizers, arranged around a snack, an aperitif or even a meal. This year we shared apple-bread or rice-apple as was suggested in line with the theme “This is my body”, accompanied perhaps by a gesture of sharing towards the poor.
Priories, monasteries, but also local parishes and even private houses were solicited. This year, 2017, 48 “meetings for all” were proposed as well as numerous “meetings among friends”, throughout the French-speaking world, from Canada to Madagascar and Reunion, not to mention Cameroon or Belgium.
Certainly there were some disappointments when the registrants did not show up for the appointment, leaving the organizers with bread and apples … to be shared otherwise! But conversely, there were also meetings that attracted people from the parish, for example, without passing through the website, and who left us energized on their way towards Easter! “It should be done again!” those who have embarked on the adventure tell us.
The meditations of Lent in the City accompany us every day on this path … It is truly a joy for us, lay Dominicans, to contribute with our brothers and sisters to this time of preparation for the feast of Easter. In the midst of this time of desert, which Lent invites us to experience, these moments of renewal in prayer, sharing of the word and conviviality with others who, like us are nourished daily by these meditations, are also a springboard to go to our brothers and sisters, to live and to speak of the love of God that dwells in us and transforms us.
The theme of this year 2017, on the body, may have seemed difficult and perhaps put some people off. But to all those who have ventured to meditate on the Word of God, it has allowed us to enter a little more into the mystery of life and into that of a God made Man, dead and risen, so that all may have life. He made it possible to awaken their sleeping bodies and open their eyes to the truth of their bodies, which is also the body of Christ, suffering and glorious, given for the life of the world. He invited them to respond to the call of Christ to form together one body, that of the Risen One.
On this day when we celebrate St. Catherine of Siena, let us repeat with her this prayer :
Oh love, inestimable love,
If at the time when man was a tree of death
You changed it into a tree of life
By grafting yourself on a man, you who are life …
If you have done this, you can now
Save the whole world that does not know how to be grafted on to you […]
O Eternal Truth, unite yourself,
Graft upon yourself those whom you have given me
And whom I love with a particular love,
That they may produce fruits of life
(Prayer 20, from 15 days Prayer with Catherine of Siena)
Written by: Catherine Masson, April 29, 2017
Read this article in French : Carême 2017. Des rencontres près de chez vous.
Visit the web site: Lent Retreat in the City (http://careme.retraitedanslaville.org/).
Each Province/Vicariate is invited to share their stories and/or pictures with a next Province/Vicariate, if possible with a meeting. That Province/Vicariate invites the next Province/Vicariate, etc. For the Chain there is a route with a time table, which can be used. If every Province/Vicariate also sends their stories and pictures to the ECLDF website, we will create, in this way, a real chain of preachers of hope throughout Europe until the next Assembly October 2017 in Fatima.
Here you will find the announcement of the Chain and also an overview of all the contributions.