Waiting for a show during the Colonia Urbana in Puente Alto

Santiago: Defending the indefensible

To discover that Christ wants us to be happy, two weeks of adventures for 250 children and 80 animators: a priest from the Fraternity of St. Charles gives an account of the Puente Alto Colonia Urbana.
Lorenzo Locatelli

In our Chilean mission, summer – which here falls between January and February – is the busiest time of the year. One of the most beautiful events was the summer camp, which we call the Colonia Urbana, and which had the title: You were born to be happy. Almost 250 children and more than 80 animators participated; for many of them it was their first experience of Christian life.

The two weeks of the Colonia began every day with Mass and half an hour of silence and adoration, which we freely proposed to whoever wanted to participate. After praying lauds with the animators, the cooks, a few parents, and the most curious and eager children, we began the day with songs, games, workshops and a short daily catechism time, presented through a play. This year, we accompanied the journey of the Three Kings, three friends who, following their passion for Heaven, met its Author.

It struck me that on the last day so many asked to be baptized. Not only the children but also the animators: they understood that Baptism is the possibility of being held forever by the Beauty they had seen. During the final assembly, we told them that this Beauty – many said that they would never want it to end – does not depend on the good things we do, on how good or nice or brilliant we are. It is the presence of Jesus. In fact, it cannot be explained: we got tired, we fought, and some things even went wrong. One of the most beautiful scenes was seeing some of them reconciled and experience the power and beauty of forgiveness. They then loved each other even more! Many of them went to confession.

Among the animators there were three teenagers from Duraznal, the poor neighborhood of our parish where we have been proclaiming the gospel to street children and teenagers for years. With the adults who collaborate with us, we thought it could be an opportunity for them to grow and discover themselves to be more beautiful, giving themselves. One of them, Nacho, said he was surprised to see himself taking care of some children, "I have never even taken care of myself," he added. During the final assembly, he almost could not speak because he was overwhelmed by emotion. He told us that since he has been with us, he does not do drugs anymore because he now feels that he belongs to a family.

Mike, a difficult young man, wanted to come just a few days, to see what it was all about. On the second day he told me that he had already paid for the two weeks as an animator (we ask them for a small contribution). Then, on the Monday of the second week of the Colonia, he came up to me and said, "I would never have thought that Monday would be the most anticipated day of the week."

What a spectacle to see them washing dishes and floors for the first time, and discovering with us that the more you give this life, the more it is fulfilled.

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After the summer camp, many faces and stories that remain in the heart. And sometimes they break it. I think of Emiliano, who had to be picked up every morning pretending not to see the drug dealers in action at his house; I think of Jeison, a child who lives in an orphanage and who on the last day, as he was leaving, came back, took off a cloth bracelet he had on his wrist and as he gave it to me said, "Father, this way you will not forget me." He does not know it, but that phrase was his prayer to the one Father who mysteriously, through our poor lives, reached out to him to tell him how much he is loved.

In those days I, too, understood a little more how much I am loved. One evening, during dinner at home, my brothers were telling me about the various pranks that people had pulled during the Colonia. A passionate discussion ensued, in which I caught myself justifying them to the point of defending the indefensible. Then, for a moment, I had an intuition: that is what Christ has done with me! A passionate defense of the indefensible. That, ultimately, is what Easter is!