“I love to be among children because they are the ones who have best interpreted my ideal!”, Chiara Lubich wrote in 1955.
Today, the children who live the ideal of unity are present in all the continents and number more than 16,000. In an epoch of emergency in education, they are a living answer to many questions on education that adults ask themselves today because through the way they interact with their educators, these children give witness to a new relationship: reciprocal love, as Jesus said: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This was also the title of the formation course held in Castelgandolfo (Rome), from 27th December to 3rd January 2012. The meeting convened 180 people who are responsible for the formation of the Gen 4, the children of the Focolare Movement. The participants came from all around the world, including the United States, Vietnam, South Africa – some had to travel more than 30 hours. The event was also transmitted via the internet.
Children are often bombarded by messages that are counter-educational and that do not respect their age. How can we offer them a formation that is both human and Christian?
Difficult situations are lived within the family, causing loss of trust in adults and consequently in God: how do we make them experience the love of God?
These were some of the questions they reflected upon during the week long course of formation. “Our method of transmission starts with ourselves,” the organisers summed up, “by being the first to put the Gospel into practice.”
There was a lot of discussion and exchange of experiences and the program included in-depth studies on psycho-pedagogical themes in the light of the collective spirituality, the rights and protection of children, group workshops and plenary dialogue. Everything was done with great dedication towards children and their formation and there was renewed effort and commitment among the participants to work to this end.
An experience was shared by participants from Egypt: “The Gen 4 saw the older children of the Focolare carrying out initiatives for our city, Cairo, and they wanted to do something as well. ‘Why not bring peace and joy?’ we said to each other. We bought flowers to offer the passersby. Before going out on the streets, the Gen 4 boys and girls thought of the phrases they would say while they distributed the flowers: “If you love Egypt, when you eat sweets don’t throw the wrapper away on the ground”,and similar phrases. Many – both Christians and Moslems – were amazed at this. A street sweeper exclaimed: “A flower for me?” “Yes,” said the Gen 4 because we want to love you.” And he, visibly moved, replied: “It’s the first time that someone has given me a flower.”
A story from Brazil was recounted: Christina, a Gen4 girl, suffers from an illness that can provoke heart failure. After a very serious heart attack this summer she was at risk of losing her life. The doctors had to carry out numerous tests. Christina was peaceful throughout, because having heard the story of Chiara Luce Badano, she was not afraid of undergoing tests and treatments. A doctor said to her: “Did you know you were very close to the door of Paradise?” Christina replied: “Yes, but I did not go in because my backpack wasn’t yet filled with enough acts of love.” On hearing this, the doctor wanted to know more about her life.
These were some of the experiences shared during the week of work at the service of the new generations. The formation course was both complex and delicate, and it was done in collaboration with families and experts in different fields, however we are all summoned to do our part as educators.