Thousands attended the annual Gathering of Catholic Dutch Youth, which is held every 6 November by the Catholic Bishops Conference in collaboration with various Movements. It had the style of a rock concert with its fast rhythm, loud music, enjoyment, but also serious reflection. The Catholic identity, which is a minority in Holland, was powerfully emphasized.
Between one religious song and another, a priest was interviewed and then it was Maria Voce’s turn. A small group of Gen went on stage with her and asked her some questions. Their questions were concerned more with unity than diversity: “Before belonging to this Church or to that Church, what comes first is that we are all children of God, and therefore brothers and sisters.” Maria Voce recalled when she first met the Movement and how it struck her: “This isn’t an organization, but a life: If you live the Gospel, you belong to the group.”
More songs were followed by an interview with the bishop who has been serving the Dutch youth for twelve years and is now handing this post over to one of his auxiliary bishops (who also interviewed). Then there was a video about World Youth Day and a half-hour of Radio Maria, which has begun transmitting in Holland. This was followed by Mass, workshops, and visiting stands. Many expressed emotion, but there were also many who are seriously engaged in offering a living testimony of that “fire” that was day’s theme, which today was being rekindled or lit for the first time. The presenter would repeat it: “Let’s make fire!”
That afternoon Maria Voce met at Marienkroon with Focolare members from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. “We had always dreamed that Chiara Lubich would visit our lands, but she didn’t manage it. Now this is an historical moment for us.” With these words they offered their warm welcome to Maria Voce (and the Nordic people are said to be cold!). They told of their difficulties and conquests especially in the field of ecumenism.
Maria Voce thanked them for their fidelity and encouraged them saying: “We must arrive at becoming a universal family. But let us always remember that we don’t make dialogue between religions but between people. For example, at the recent meeting among religions in Assisi, I experienced a great joy, because nearly everyone there, from different religions, knew the Movement and offered me their testimonies and their appreciation. Certainly we will always run into differences that will never be overcome, but we can always accept each other completely, loving one another as we are. And I must testify to the fact that in 2011 I was surprised to find people from other religions no longer standing on the outside, in dialogue with us, but standing together with us giving witness to the ideal of unity.” Everything ended with songs, photos, greetings and a promise to meet again soon, perhaps in one of the Nordic countries!
The final moment of the day, was the encounter with the inhabitants of Marienkroon, especially the pioneers of the little town whose willingness to leave everything made Marienkroon possible. People who never held a microphone in their hand were now standing on stage and sharing very personal things: “I work in this little town for the people who come here and say: ‘How beautiful it is here.’ And so that they can find God, because God is beautiful.” Marienkroon: a unique little town, a town built with hearts.
By Giulio Meazzini