Lately, we have heard only bad news from France. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered due to the misunderstanding of the slogan "liberty, equality, fraternity,” and there have been many anti-Christian attacks in the country (churches set on fire, desecrated cemeteries, damaged nativity scenes, etc.). But this slogan can also be positively interpreted as is the case with the 'Welcome to Paradise Festival,' organised every year by the French-founded Chemin Neuf community.
Chemin Neuf is a Catholic community with an ecumenical calling. Monks, nuns, or even lay people can be members of the community. It was founded in the 1970s in France, and today there are more than 1,200 members all around the world, in 25 countries, including Hungary.
Since 1993, the community has organised every summer the ‘Welcome to Paradise Festival’ in the Abbey of Hautecombe, with the participation of young adults from all around the world, who gather to praise God and help each other understand God’s plan for their lives.
Despite COVID-19, the festival went ahead this year. Since many could not travel to Hautecombe, the festival was convened in other countries simultaneously. Besides Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Mauritius, and even Burkina Faso participated in the celebration that was linked via the internet.
The young adults between 18 and 30 years could approach God, through praise and personal prayer, including those that were still looking for God or just getting to know the Church.
As is now customary, the events begin every year with a three-week-long activity in July, during which young people try to understand the will of God through the Bible. After the one-week-long festival, they have the opportunity to participate in an Ignatian retreat, to clear up all that they had experienced during the summer.
Each festival has its particular slogan that provides a framework for the meditations. This year’s motto was: ‘NEXT STEP’, a phrase that represents both the personal next step of youth towards God, and the next step of our society in this challenging situation of the coronavirus, and the Black Lives Matter movement that has degenerated into aggression.
Since the French revolution and coupled with the violent separation of the Church and the State, the anti-Christian atrocities in the near past, some have labelled the French as an atheistic nation. But we cannot forget that France has given many religious orders to the Church, not just in the middle age (for example the Cistercian or the Dominican orders) but also in the 20th century, such as the community of Taize or the Chemin Neuf community.
For this reason, it is especially important to stand up for France, despite every difficulty, and support the local Christian Church, because the greatest things are born where we have to fight the most.