The Fraternity Exercises in Mauritius

The beautiful path that (also) passes through Mauritius

The Fraternity Exercises in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Stefano, on his first trip to the island, speaks of a friendship "full of affection upon the first greeting".
Stefano Siboni

This year was the first time I had followed the Fraternity Spiritual Exercises with the Mauritius community. Before I left, I was a little weirded out, thinking that I would be visiting people I was completely unfamiliar with. I told my colleagues who asked me what I was going to do for three days in Mauritius that I was going to visit friends, and I understood that was a true answer, but at the same time I perceived it as very mysterious. I prayed that that answer would become flesh and that I would be able to return to Italy with the consciousness that I was leaving a dear place and people I had grown fond of.

I was picked up at the airport by Laura and her husband Lekram whom I got to know better in the car. The next day, at the Tamarin Sports Center, we began the Exercises and already at breakfast I started getting to know the other people in the community. The beginning of the Exercises was also immediately surprising for Laura. In fact, she had invited the parish priest of Tamarin (Fr. Mariusz, a Polish priest who had been on the island for a few years), to celebrate Mass, and he at the end of the celebration wanted to ask each person who they were and how they had got to know the movement. It was a way of getting to know them and, above all, it was an opportunity for each person to become aware of the history that had brought them there. It was the least planned but most appropriate start we could have imagined.

During lunch they asked me lots of things, especially about my work and my vocation as Memor Domini, which they knew little about. They were very impressed by the community aspect of our life and by living the vocation in work, because they perceived it as a possibility for them too, simply by taking the proposal of the movement seriously. It was a time when they also talked about themselves, like Monica, a writer and artist, who told me the story of her husband's illness, who had been diagnosed with melanoma with a bad prognosis several years ago now. She recounted that that period had been like a second honeymoon for her, in which it became clear to her that her husband was being given to her again. On this occasion she met Fr. Eriberto who invited her into the movement, and she joined heartily. Or Pamela, who works at the youth ministry office on the island and who asked me if I would be willing to do an interview with the youth of the diocese so that they would see a "young" person who had dedicated his life to God.

We then continued with the lesson and, at the end of the afternoon, they took me to watch the sunset at the beach before dinner together. On Sunday, after the conclusion, Tessa insisted that we had a moment where everyone said what they had been struck by. Lily immediately said that as soon as the booklet is published in French she will devote an hour a day to read it; Tessa struck me a lot because out of all that had happened, she realized that the only thing she really needed was the title of the Exercises, which was to keep her eyes fixed on Christ. Then she said that listening to the Exercises made her return to the joy of the beginning, to the enthusiasm of when she first met the movement through Eriberto, to "her first Galilee." Michéle recounted that during Fr. Lepori's first lecture she could not focus on the matter and was constantly wondering how to reawaken her faith, how to renew it, since it cannot be lost. But then she realized that the reawakening of faith was already happening, listening to Lepori, living the Exercises with us and keeping her eyes fixed on Christ who was calling us together there. Patrice, Michéle's husband, spoke of how impressed he had been by St. Patrick's prayer, and that he kept hearing it echoing in his head.

At the end of the notices, Laura launched the proposal to join the Fraternity. Some people struggled a bit to understand why. When we explained to them that it is a recognition of value of a place that is fundamental to one's life and that Fraternity groups are places of friendship where people share everything helping each other to keep a continuous tension towards Christ, Patrice exclaimed, "Well, but then we are already from the Fraternity."

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What a sight to see hearts struck and moved by what also strikes me. But what was even more moving was a mutual affection that was loaded upon our first greeting, and that became carnal during those days, just as I had longed for on the plane on my way out. I recognize that this can only come from the consciousness of having been called together on the same beautiful path that is the movement and that this alone can make them a "place," despite only being a few and far away.