This July, the St. Maria Goretti house received the gift to watch the Festival of Life Italy. Being so far away in Florida we often forget that community is bigger than just our house. Watching the Festival give us a window into how big and Beautiful Community really is.
We started every day with dancing I was struck by how joyful everyone was. The tent was filled with people, both young and old, all singing and dancing for Jesus. It is always touching to see men and women who were sad and lost in deep darkness sing and dance with gratitude for Jesus.
Because of the 6 hour time difference, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 9 a.m. our time. As it was time to pray we watched the atmosphere in the tent change from festive and joyful to reverent and prayerful. There was a huge sense of connectedness as we prayed in different languages representing the different places our Community is located in.
Mass started with a long procession of priests, some of which were just men who entered Community and other were friends of the Community. The Bishop of Saluzzo talked about Mother Elvira and the Community with a lot of respect. The choir, made up of both men and women, sang several beautiful pieces. I was, once more, struck by the talent and beautiful resurrection of those lost in darkness. During Mass on Saturday, several young men and women received the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. It was touching to see how much excitement and joy they had.
Friday and Saturday, we were able to listen to some people give their testimonies. Alessandro Gallo and his band played music, and him and his wife spoke.They said they had desired the opportunity to testify at The Festival of Life of 15 years, and it just never happened. They shared how it was difficult to wait, but it was important to wait on God’s timing. Their testimony would have been different if they had been asked to do it before, and God knew when the time was right.
There was another couple who met in Community. They talked about some of the struggles they have had in the past, but also about getting up after falling. She said that they both fell in love with God before falling in love with each other. The. Love they have for God has kept their love for one another strong. I was touched by their honesty in sharing the joys and hardships.
We also listened to a man who’s son committed suicide while he was high. He spoke about how depressed and saddened he was and how much guilt he felt, but he turned to God and formed an organization for children in need. There was a powerful moment after his testimony when one of the men in Community hugged the father and apologized on behalf of the people who sell drugs for the death of his son.
Ivana, the responsible of the house in Medjugorje, talked about why she has chosen to stay in Community. For about 6 years, she wanted to exit Community because she of her own selfishness. She wanted a job and a life of her own, but she stayed in Community because she wants to love. Which is something that everyone can admire, true selflessness.
The Festival was also filled with a lot of moments of prayer. There was a beautiful adoration on Friday night that sent prayers from Italy all the way to our house in Florida. It was a powerful moment when many different people in Community were able to pray out loud in front of Jesus and say thank you for the great gift of our lives.