This summer I had the opportunity to do an experience with my son in Italy and Medjugorje. It was such a blessing and a gift!Michael has been in community a little over three years. Prior to entering he was in other rehabs, hospitals, shelters etc, so he hasn’t been home in a few years. There was a lot of heartache and pain during those dark days, but as we all know Community helps bring our sons and daughters into the light, and gives us all hope!
My experience started right after the Festa Della Vita in Saluzzo. The theme this year was, “noi siamo testimoni!” (We are witnesses!) Even if I didn’t know the translation, I experienced this everyday with the guys in Community. There were about 100 guys during my time in Saluzzo and Medjugorje, mostly because of the festivals and the recitals. Many of the guys were in the recital, and they also were building the stage and taking it down in both Saluzzo and Medjugorje. They are truly witnesses of God’s love and mercy! I shared so much with them. I walked with them, I prayed with them, I worked with them, I ate with them and I shared with them, I even cooked for them! Imagine cooking for 100 hungry guys! I was a little uncomfortable with that and tried to avoid it, but Michael persisted saying that they are taught to embrace the things that make them uncomfortable, so I should as well. I had some help from the guys, Brandon was a huge help, Smeljan, Matija, Sebastian, and of course Michael. It was a huge hit and there was more than enough for everyone. It was a great lesson, and an accomplishment,to overcome yourself and thank God for what you can do. We all felt great when we served everyone and walked out to an overwhelming applause.
During my time in Community I got to know many of the guys, hear their stories and see where they are now. I felt like I was living with the first disciples. The prayer life is intense. We prayed three rosaries a day, usually walking it. We prayed the Angelus three times a day, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Guardian Angel prayer, the Consecration to Our Blessed Mother, blessings before meals, Adoration and Mass. There were a few times when Adoration was scheduled throughout the entire night, and in Medjugorje there is a schedule for Adoration during the workday, and at 2 AM on Thursdays they pray at Blue Cross for providence. They live on providence and at meals they always pour their neighbor’s drink before taking it for themselves. They share honestly with each other and they console each other if there is a need, I saw it all! I came to do an experience with my son, but I felt like I did an experience with many sons!
My time with Michael was very healing. We spent everyday together, working, praying, talking. I typically don’t like to look back because it is so painful, but it is also what has brought us to where we are now. He shared with me his journey, his wounds, and I shared mine, it was very cathartic. It was truly a gift to be able to share so honestly and so deeply with each other, something we had never really done. We even did testimonies together for the Pilgrims. That was a bit unexpected, but that’s also Community! It was great and also healing for both of us, and it was unique for the Pilgrims to have a mother and son share their stories together. During the time we spent together I got to meet a renewed Michael. He was so attentive to me and my needs, it was very special. Michael made me a rosary with beads he made in the wood shop,and a special cross. The cross has the image of the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb.It had significance for Michael, and some of the other guys as well. They shared that when a lamb continually strays from the flock, and the Shepherd, the Shepherd will break its legs and carry it on his shoulders until it’s healed. Once that lamb is healed, and can walk again on its own, it never leaves, it stays close to the Shepherd. I found this to be a very powerful image because our children enter Community broken in so many ways, but through the prayer and time with Jesus they heal. So, although there is pain in the past, I look to St. John Paul II’s words, “Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.”There is hope for the future and joy in the present, and I’m grateful for it all.