On Saturday, October 15, more than 100 young Christians met in Bethlehem for the Advent retreat organized by the Youth Ministry of the Holy Land. Coming from Nazareth, Ramleh, Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the participants were between the ages of 17 and 27. The slogan of the day was “In your light, we see the light” (Psalm 36), [and] through these words the youth explored the Mystery of the Lord who is coming.
Br. Emad Kamel, who for the last two and a half years has been the head of Youth Ministry in the Holy Land, organized the meeting in collaboration with a team of young Franciscan sisters and friars. "We have made an effort to keep in touch with the young people who went on the Franciscan March this summer,” said Br. Emad, who also is the associate pastor at Saint Catherine’s in Bethlehem “in order to discuss the day’s meeting with them.” This was a strong inner experience, based on prayer and meditation, which also includes a walk in Bethlehem, from the Basilica of the Nativity to the Shepherds’ Field.
The first part of the day was dedicated to welcoming the youth and to an introduction to the day by Br. Mario Hadchiti, who enthusiastically welcomed everyone inside the spaces of the Terra Santa School of Bethlehem. The teaching by Br. Abdel Masih Fahis covered the theme of the day: "light is fundamental to everything,” he said. “It is indispensable in rituals and prayers and it is made present through the use of candles. Candles tell us about the sacred and about God’s presence” and this is also true for living witnesses: the saints, for example, are like candles because they consume themselves in order to give light. “Your mission is to be holy, to be the light of the world,” he concluded. “but you cannot be the light of the world if your light does not come from God. You cannot spread this light without experiencing God.”
After the teaching, the youth were divided into sharing groups and then the journey began. From the Terra Santa School, the group moved to the Basilica of the Nativity, where the group joined the daily procession and then stopped for a few minutes inside the Grotto of the Nativity and prayed together before walking to the Shepherds’ Field, lunch and the Holy Mass, which was presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton.
“I had so many questions when I decided to leave for the Franciscan March this summer,” said Evelyne, 17, from Nazareth. “I did not know exactly where to find the answers. So, I felt within me that this was the right place.” And so it was both for her and for the other young participants. After the Franciscan March, she was involved in various activities, including the retreat in Bethlehem. “I met many people from all over the world: Jordan, Syria, Egypt, India and all of Palestine during the march and I owe a lot to Bethlehem. This is the place where my God, my Savior, came [down from Heaven] for me, was born for me and this awareness comforts my soul and body.”