27th Franciscan March of the Holy Land: an experience of rebirth

Eighty youth gathered for the 27th annual Franciscan March of the Holy Land in Galilee following the theme: “We belong to His Church.” On the second-to-last day an exchange with the Custos and a mass in the presence of several Franciscan priests from the parishes in Galilee took place.

“We wanted to emphasize the fact that Christ is the head of the Church, which is the body,”said the leader of the march, Br. Emad Kamel. “Young people look for material things that are in reality very disappointing; they bring you away from the truth and with time they lose us.”

“The importance of Jesus in our lives is one of the guidelines of the march,” said Br. Emad. “The Church we belong to is not composed of stones or of the postcard-type landscapes of the Holy Land. The Church belongs to each one of us; we are the living members of the Church and the body of Jesus; each of us is the Church, and if we live out our faith well, we will influence and positively affect the Church with positive and real energy. We bring the light of Christ to others and the Word of God to everyday life. Thus, each young man and woman is important in God’s plan for the Church.

“The experience of marching in and of itself was also very important,” he concluded, “because the difficulties of the path represent the march of our lives. We are experiencing some relatively difficult times, [and in order to] overcome them, we need internal strength and a lot of self-discipline.”

Nimer, 20, participated for the third time in the march “and each time, I feel closer and closer to Christ through prayer, the fatigue of the march and its highlights. It was not enough for me to take part [in the march] just once; the more I participate in it, the more I thirst [for it], and each time I come with a particular intention and this walk is indispensable for me to bring this intention to my prayers.” The ascent to Mount Tabor is also a strong spiritual experience for the participants. “This difficult stage is a time when we truly feel on the one hand that we walk with God daily, but we feel that we are ascending toward Him.”

Marian, also 20, has a totally different story but it is a personal and spiritual experience that is just as strong nonetheless: this was her first time participating in the march, and “honestly, I did not know it was a spiritual march,” she said, “even though I knew it was with the Franciscans. The march completely changed me, especially after the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I did not expect to be able to walk so much with all of the weight I was carrying on my back; my greatest accomplishment was going a [whole] week without my phone. It is a march that helps us re-think our priorities and for many of us, [it allows us] to discover who we are and where we are going, and how precious our time is. It is simple: I’m a renewed person.”

“My father, who was a peasant,” said the Custos in his homily, “used to tell me that we could not straighten out a plant that is already mature; [this can] only [be done while] it is still young. You are young, [and] your role tomorrow when you are back home is doing everything to stay close to God, because many will discourage you from living this life of simplicity,” he said. “You have now experienced this life, [and] it is up to you to live it out and to turn it into your daily life by remaining close to God and to His word.”

Nizar Halloun

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