The common year

Let me first introduce myself. Although I’ve been in the Fraternity for four years, this is the first time that I have written a Newsletter. I’m called Eric, I come from South Africa, and I’m 32. After being a postulant in Mauritius, I went to Aubagne in France for my novitiate, and then went to study in Lille, also in France.

Six months ago I set out for Spello in Italy, to meet up with fourteen other Brothers for the "year in common". The idea of this time together is for us to get to know each other better, and deepen our understanding of our common inheritance.Collepino, villageCollepino, village We have also all come with questions relating to life in our various fraternities. So many things have happened between us, with the others and within myself, that I feel that these six months have been like an entire lifetime!

We come from eleven different countries. Nine of us are Little Brothers of Jesus, and six of us are Little Brothers of the Gospel. We are all, more or less, at the same stage of our training, that is to say, half way through our studies. So you can imagine how diversified our group is; indeed, one of the first questions I had to tackle was the differences between us, and how I handled them. How do I welcome my brother when he is so different from myself? I hope I shall come out of this with a more realistic approach to handling differences – which is not always self-evident – being both very thankful for the richness which our diversity offers, as well as for everything that unites us.

In Spello, we are guests in two hermitages and in one of the village houses in Collepino, which are in various places surrounding the fraternity of the Little Brothers of the Gospel.the fraternity  of the Little Brothers of the Gospel in Spellothe fraternity of the Little Brothers of the Gospel in Spello They have been a great help to us, and have welcomed us into their lives to the extent of sharing their friends with us. Thank you, Yves, Franco and Gabriele.

Our day-to-day living is in rather curious conditions. We are isolated from the town of Foligno, and even from Spello itself. We do have some contact with the people in Collepino village and with families in the valley, and even with people further afield, but much of the time we live among ourselves.

It is a very intensive brotherly existence! This enables us to get to know each other very well – one of the aims of this year together.
We spend most of our time studying various subjects together, and enjoy these sessions very much. So far, our topics have been communication, the modern world, the Bible, religious life and subjects close to our heart such as Nazareth and the history of the Fraternities. We are looking forward to sessions on Charles de Foucauld led by Antoine, and on "being a Brother" with Marc. We also helped with the olive harvest in November, which was a special opportunity to meet people. ready for harvesting olivesready for harvesting olives

The study sessions are going very well, but the most important part of our year in common is living together. And every time we have a guest speaker, he reminds us that we are insufficiently aware how surprising it is that we manage to live together in this way, how surprising the Fraternity is insofar as brothers can live together while being so different from each other.
This is the first time that our Fraternities have ventured into a year in common. We are, therefore, still learning what it means and how we can best benefit from it. At the beginning, in particular, we were constantly having to rethink things and to confront realities as we actually experienced them. I must thank Wolfgang, our facilitator, for his willingness to listen, his flexibility and his modesty, all of which are helping bit by bit to find our wayWolfgangWolfgang Thanks also to the Fraternity, and especially to the team who organised it, for giving us this moment of grace. It has been given not just so that we can know each other, but also to know ourselves, together with our ambitions and desires.

"I do not believe that the summit of our liberty is in our solitude
but in Fraternity, and it is because of that
that we have undertaken this path."