Joy, dances, praise to God, sharing and prayer: these were the moments that marked the day of preparation for Christmas by the young people of the Holy land on Sunday 15th December. The meeting was organized in Bethlehem by Fr. Emad Rofael, who is responsible for youth pastoral care for the Custody of the Holy Land, with the subject: “Our nourishment is in the manger”. After some dances to express the joy of faith and sharing, the prayers of praise began, accompanied by the instruments and voices of the friars and nuns present. About one hundred youngsters from all the Holy Land were in the theatre of the Franciscan school in Bethlehem.
“We follow the young people who come from Galilee with two meetings a year. But also those from Jerusalem and Bethlehem,” said Fr. Emad. “The ones who are here want to grow closer to the Lord and show a strong desire for God. We do not look at the numbers, but we accompany those who want to make a commitment for the renewal of spiritual life.” Fr. Emad recalled that most of the youngsters approached the world of the Franciscans and the Church thanks to the Franciscan walk. “Last summer’s walk has brought great results up to today,” Fr. Emad went on. “Some young people have had a radical change in their lives, as their mothers have told us. I can see that they want to continue drinking in the desire for God and as a group of friars and nuns we try to do our best to help them with a meeting at Christmas and one in preparation for Easter.”
It was Fr. Mario Hadchiti, head of the Holy Land School of Jericho, who explained the topic of the day. “God wanted to be born in a manger. The place where food is put for animals became the place where he who is spiritual food for each person was placed,” said Fr. Mario. “Sin transforms man into an animal, but Jesus gave humanity dignity, declaring and rejoicing in being “the son of man”.” Fr. Mario explained to the youngsters that they should never choose the easy and comfortable paths, as God did by choosing to become a man and be born in a manger. “Like the Magi who came to offer gifts, but returned by a different route, this is how we today live this day and celebrate Christmas, we cannot return as we came,” Fr. Mario said.
Singing and playing, the youngsters of the Holy Land and the friars went to visit the Grotto of the Nativity, where there was a moment of prayer. The young people then set off from there to reach the Shepherds’ Field in Beit Sahour on foot.
“Since we started to go on the Franciscan walk, I have also been coming with joy to the meetings organized by the Custody and now I know many of the participants,” said Clara, aged twenty from Bethlehem. Rami, seventeen, on the other hand, is one of those who left Galilee at dawn to take part in the day in preparation for Christmas. “I love these moments because I meet God, I find happiness and the peace that I am always looking for.”
After lunch in the garden of the convent of the Shepherds’ Field, the young people divided into groups to reflect and then share the contents coming out from the morning catechism of Fr. Mario. The day came to an end with the mass celebrated by the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton.
“I have tried to encourage the youngsters to respect women and people and not to complain of poverty,” commented Fr. Mario. “Just as God transformed the manger, God can transform their lives and their thoughts.”