26 Belgians and 9 Dutch on a pilgrimage to the Hermitage
In the week of the Feast of Ascension two groups of Brothers and lay people travelled to the Hermitage; one group was from Belgium, the other from the Netherlands.
Two accompaniers report:
Belgium: On Ascension Day our group set out for Saint-Chamond to spend three days following in the footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat. After a short visit to the chapel at Fourvière in Lyon we arrived at the Hermitage in time for supper.
The next day, Brother Lucien was our guide at Marlhes and Le Rosey, where Marcellin lived as a young boy. In the afternoon, following a short stop at Les Palais – where the encounter with young Jean-Baptiste Montagne took place – we continued to La Valla, where Brother Michel Morel helped us to discover the beginnings of the work which Marcellin had carried in his heart as a young priest.
On the Saturday, Brother Jean-Pierre and Giorgio gave us a tour of the Hermitage – the house and its surroundings. The lovely weather remained with us throughout these beautiful days. Moments of prayer, silence and conviviality contributed to a sense of unity within our group and a profound experience of everything we were offred.
Enriched by this experience, we attended a prayer service on the Sunday morning, then set out on the journey back home.
Brother Albert André
The Netherlands: For several years now we have organised a pilgrimage to the Hermitage during the week of Ascension. We invite a small group of young adults who have participated in one or more programmes at Westerhelling (Nijmegen) to take part in this journey to the Mother House of the Brothers (1824).
“Encounter, Silence, Company, Meditation, Sharing, Attentiveness, Walking”. These words figured at the top of the invitation to which eight young adults responded positively. Although it may seem pretentious to presume that a single short trip might include all these elements, one of the participants remarked that the experience had exceeded her expectations.
It all began well with our first encounter as a group on the evening before we left, and we got to know each other better during the 900 kilometres to the Hermitage. When we arrived there we received a warm welcome from the international community of Brothers and lay people from all over the world.
Silence, meditation and sharing were on the programme the next day, which we spent at La Valla, where the founder of the Marist Brothers, Marcellin Champagnat, began to work as parish chaplain. We descended into our inner depths and, physically, into the cellar of the house, where we spent the morning in silence, meditating by candlelight, singing Dans nos obscurités and writing about our deepest feelings. Then we experienced community when we sat together around Champagnat’s table. The day ended at the top floor of the house, where we shared experiences and expressed our ideals.
It was delightful to hike the 35 kilometres from Le Rozet, Champagnat’s birthplace, back to the Hermitage, through the Parc Régional du Mont Pilat. Surrounded by the beauty of nature we engaged in conversations or chose to walk in silence and meditate.
At the Mother House the founder remains present in many different ways. Martha, a lay Marist from Mexico, spoke about Champagnat’s spirituality with warmth and enthusiasm. We were touched by her impassioned words and the realisation that, still today, the inspiration and vision of one man, Marcellin Champagnat, are fundamental aspects in the lives of so many Brothers and lay people all over the world!
It was a wonderful experience of Encounter, Silence, Company, Meditation, Sharing, Attentiveness, Walking, and a sense of being connected with ourselves, each other and nature.
Brother Gerard de Haan