The gardens of the Mariapolis Centre of Castelgandolfo became a great park filled with small flags, strands of colourful paper and balloons. The garden was also filled with many festive children who were moving in teams, together, everyone sweating. But if you stopped one of them to ask who they were, or where they came from, or why they were there, or if they were happy, they would look you straight in the eye and open their hearts to you without mincing any words. With them were also some slightly older children, the Gen3 and their assistants. Some mothers and fathers too.
This was a glimpse into the Gen4 congress that was held on 14-17 June. Four hundred boys from all over Italy and several other European countries, as well as a numerous representation from Korea. They really liked the meetings’ slogan, because they shouted it out so often in chorus, but also because it expressed the experience they were living: “One brother, two brothers. . . all brothers!”
The atmosphere wasn’t that of a school, but of a family. In fact, everyone had a voice in the meeting. Even on stage, the microphone was spontaneously passed from adults, to children, to teenagers. Everyone had a say, from the smallest to the biggest. Everyone contributed something: the presenters, the ones who did magic tricks, the ones who shared stories, as in a true family. Also the focolarini who work at the Mariapolis Centre took part in the game, recounting how they were working for the congress behind the scenes.
“May this be a training ground where you become champions at loving.” This was the message that Maria Voce sent to the Gen4 congress when they arrived. And indeed it was. The stakes were high, but they were willing to walk the path in four stages: discovering one another as brothers; giving a hand; beginning again; meeting Jesus in many others.
“I had built a paper kite and it came out very well,” recounts Nicolà, “Then I met a boy who didn’t have one, so I gave him mine and I felt happy.” And Marco says: “I was alone in front of the goalkeeper, but instead of making the goal, I passed the ball to another Gen4 so that he could score the goal.”
Sitting in the first row throughout the congress were some of Chiara Lubich’s first companions: Bruna Tomasi, Marco Tecilla and Bruno Venturini. There were also some older Gen from the Gen School at Loppiano. Past, present and future coming together in harmony like the branches and foliage of a tree. The Gen4 had some serious questions for them. Luca from Trent, Italy, asked: “I wish there was no more hunger or war. What can we Gen4 do about it?” And Francis from Korea asked: “Did you really meet God directly in your life?”
On the schedule, the Mass was called “The Encounter with Jesus”. And with respect for the liturgy, the priest was able to find a way for the Gen4 to present their acts of love, the animated songs and several moments for speaking with Jesus personally. One Gen4 spoke with great seriousness when we pulled him away from a football game long enough for a quick question: “Jesus is our reference point,” he spontaneously replied, “the friend who is always with us.”
The many workshops were also a great success. They had been planned with a holistic educational approach. During the working sessions in preparation for the congress, the director of the Gen4 Centre explained: “Consumerism (de)forms children from the earliest years of life. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on activities that help a person to be proactive, to express himself in a creative way, to overcome obstacles, to access his inner self and to develop a sense of the common good.” And so the proposals were to build a musical instrument and learn how to play it; to sing and dance; to experiment with different colour combinations, making a mandala; to model a piece of wood to give birth to a dolphin; to be fascinated by the endless combinations of shapes and colours in a mosaic and to use recycled materials to build airplanes, kites and parachutes.
When they returned home, the Gen4 left behind in Castelgandolfo, a concrete sign of love and solidarity: more than 4,000 toys to be given to children in war torn lands.