Friday, 27 August 2021 08:43

The Blessed Sacrament Fathers at Sant’Agata in Arfoli Reggello (Florence) 1984 - 2020

To relate twenty years of Sant’Agata is not easy for me. When I think about it my mind is filled with memories, faces, stories, joys and even hardships, complicated periods and even some regrets.

When in 1993 it was decided to take back Sant’Agata and to offer a new opportunity to that community, I rejoiced and entered the project with great enthusiasm. At the beginning with Rizieri, Severino, Ugo, Guglielmo and later with the other confreres who followed one another, we shared the idea of giving life to a community that was a sign and testimony of a Eucharistic life. We hence shaped our life around those expressions that we considered relevant to enable the living out the dynamics of the Eucharist to the full.

The choice of communion

We always tried to build up and follow the path of communion as relationship, welcoming of the other and the capacity of giving each other a hand, both between ourselves and with whoever wanted to share a part of our lives.

We chose to live a logic of service, translated in the desire of giving value to the presence of the others, accepting to live with them. An expression of this service was the will to continue to be inserted into the parishes entrusted to us (Sant’Agata and Cancelli at the beginning and later on also San Donato in Fronzano), endeavouring to build up a church of communion.

The service extended to the land. Like every man and every woman, we accepted happily to work the land owned by the parish. We did not want to become farmers but religious and priests who do not feel privileged but deeply part of the social and human fabric of the people living alongside us.

We also asked from the people coming to be with us that their service (in the house, in the kitchen, in the fields) may become a concrete expression of a Eucharist that requires availability and sharing. We were not interested in “how much” was being done but in the “heart” that was poured into even the most simple and daily tasks.

Experience of Prayer

Celebration and prayer have always occupied an important place for us as a community, including our visitors. Daily life was marked by the rhythm of prayer: from Lauds in the morning to the adoration and the celebration of Mass in the afternoon.

Also, before the Eucharist, to receive from this “sign full of meaning and sense” the invitation to be grateful but also to be responsible for a new lifestyle.

We proposed the Eucharist as life that referred us to live an opportunity of gift and offering. In this dynamic we also involved the parish communities, offering spaces for praying and celebrating together with us and the friends who visited us.

The Blessed Sacrament Fathers at Sant’Agata in Arfoli 1

Experience of sharing with the laity

It was an experience built up and lived “with” them. The laity were a part of our community. We never considered them “guests” but main participants, who gladly accepted this role. With them we shared time, paths of reflections, work and prayer. We discovered together a “simple” church, capable of being welcoming and merciful, an open church, attentive to all. It was also a Church being build up in the reality of the daily life of every person, one that endeavoured to reintroduce everyone’s life to the beauty and vitality of all of these intuitions.

Attention to the poor

We also gave space to this dimension. Starting from the awareness that today “great poverty” is linked to an inner poverty regarding values we considered important to offer to those participating in our community an intense space of silence and reflection to reappropriate their own life and to be able to mature an attitude of a deeper attention to others.

We have always considered that in our times there is not a lack of money, of which we have too much, but probably it is badly distributed and badly used, wasted. Rather, we are lacking a “heart” with which we can live in right relationship with money and material things. We have to work towards a new sense of justice and for new relationships between human beings. This can be understood only if we place ourselves before God, his Word and the Eucharist.

Joy and Gratitude

Yes, so much! For all the people who passed through, for the experiences shared, for the troubled paths and the dramatic harvests, for hopes born again and so much desire to start afresh and go back to live with intensity their own vocation.

We have known so many people, of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone was a great gift for us. We remember all of them with gratitude and affection.

The encounter with the Eurocamp project allowed us to broaden even more our horizons and our welcoming. It was really a very beautiful experience to prepare and live the Eurocamp at Sant’Agata. A mixture of cultures, of languages and sensitivities, it was like living a new Pentecost. We were united by the desire for communion, prayer, service. We understood each other!

The Blessed Sacrament Fathers at Sant’Agata in Arfoli 2

Vocational Work

We were always reproached that no SSS vocations were born at Sant’Agata. It is not true! If by “a Blessed Sacrament life” we understand a life motivated and illumined by the Eucharist, open to gift and service, to the desire of new relationships inside the family, the local church and history, we can without a doubt state that Sant’Agata was very fecund. There have been so many decisions of a renewed presence in the world, a motivated responsibility in the places of daily life, many commitments made towards the local churches, so many gestures of attentiveness and care towards the poor and the least of our brothers and sisters. The “Eymardian Family” has taken shape also in the smallness of our simple life at Sant’Agata.

Some people tried following the path of our religious family, but God willed something different.

There are plenty of stories regarding more specific choices of life: vocation towards religious life, towards permanent diaconate, radical volunteer experiences but also couples who regained their energies, families who found their harmony again together with a fecundity as parents, decisions about service in parishes.

To think again of Sant’Agata, for me, is like opening a big book and turning over pages of names and faces, blessing God for everything that they meant for me and for us.

It is beautiful - and even consoling - to know that although Sant’Agata did not continue its welcoming presence, the seeds that were scattered remain, flourishing in other places. More than ever Sant’Agata lives, in so many men and women, in so many memories preserved in the hearts and minds of all the people who departed from there full of trust and hope.

The Blessed Sacrament Fathers at Sant’Agata in Arfoli 3

Regrets and sufferings

Yes, and so many.

The first one is that we were not able to create a broaden interest of our project in our Province. Very few communities felt involved in this project and, as a consequence only a few offered their youth and groups the opportunity to share the San’Agata’s experience.

We were unable to share our project? Prejudices? All of this is possible. Our temperaments, our ways of doing things? Certainly. But one thing I feel like sharing: we believed in this project, we poured our heart into the desire of living to the end the spirituality of communion, service and contemplation that the Eucharist was stirring up in us.

And today?

Certainly, I cannot hide my disappointment in how the experience of Sant’Agata ended up. I am particularly sorry because we were not able to envisage the possibility of alternative presences through which we could share the passion of who we are and all that we recognise as beautiful in an Eucharistic life.

There, at Sant’Agata, we had a great opportunity. But besides this feeling, I am very serene: we tried the best we could, we dirtied our hands on a path that was not always easy and in conditions that were not always in our favour.

Today I feel that I can only bless and thank the Lord for everything that I lived and for the opportunity that was offered to us.

We could have done more, be more creative, widened spaces, proposed more, invented occasions and opportunities, but in everything we managed to do we believed, and we lived it with joy.


Italy - Special Newsletter n.20, August 2021

Last modified on Friday, 27 August 2021 08:49