November 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Strong in Faith: An Italian lesson for Scotland

By Mary Dougherty

In September of this year I moved to Campobasso, a small town in Molise, a small rural part of Italy. I am a postgraduate intern in the university of this small town of 40,000 inhabitants. The experience has been cultural, a linguistic learning curve and, most interestingly and unexpectedly, an experience of faith.

I was given accommodation in the student halls of residence. That, especially in Italy, means a noisy, chaotic place, with over 40 Italian students living, talking loudly and cooking together, but a place, too, of great solidarity and genuine friendship.

During my first week in Campobasso, I was invited to dinner with friends from the residence, but this was no ordinary dinner invitation, for it turned out dinner was for 30, and everyone was part of ‘Communion and Liberation’ a lay ecclesial movement founded in Milan in the 1960s.

This was the first time I had come across this movement, I was impressed, and, as a 23-year-old, I became involved. Every week we meet to discuss writings and the general questions of life that affect all young people. When the serious business is over, dinner follows with music and song—well, it is Italy!

Being involved with the movement has been an eye-opening experience. It is faith-assuring and uplifting to be surrounded by people who are simple, normal Catholics, neither fanatical, nor set in the dark ages of the Church. And, you could say in fact, that they are true disciples and members of Pope Francis’ Church, living thoroughly modern lives, interwoven with our Catholic values.

Pope Francis is everywhere in Italy. His photo is displayed all over the university. He visited Campobasso in July and it would appear that Pope mania is still present in the town. You can buy candles carrying his picture in the supermarket, while the post office has books dedicated to him, along with special commemorative stamps and that is not even mentioning the holy shops, of which the town has many.

As a young Catholic who has grown up in the West of Scotland, I have found it a surprising and enlightening experience where it is completely normal to say I am a Catholic and that I practise my Faith. To be surrounded by fellow young people (above top) who also practise and believe is wonderful. It has been a real eye-opener.

Last Sunday at Mass, the priest who was overwhelmingly young, unlike at home, was frank and honest. In his sermon, he said: “I find it difficult to love the Church, I struggle every day to love the Church, it is full of flaws and problems. But as Jesus loved the sinner so too do I strive to love the Church and most importantly I love the people who make the Church, these are the most important things.”

As a young person in Scotland, it is easy to be disheartened in Faith, to watch the Church declining, perhaps even dying from self-inflicted wounds, and a real death of young people to develop the Church for future generations.

Pope Francis knows the problems that we face, and there are plenty of young people in Campbasso and across Italy with the light of faith in their lives, thanks in no small part to Communion and Liberation and its relevant, modern and prayerful approach to nurturing faith.

Perhaps its approach to everyday life and spiritual life, combined with its ability to engage with the lively faith of young people has a lesson for us in Scotland.

When I return home, at the end of my time in Italy, I know that I’ll miss my Italian companions, for they have so much to teach us about keeping the Catholic Faith alive, and it would be good to see our Church in Scotland, learn lessons from them, for the sake of our own young people and the whole Church in Scotland today.


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