Friends of the Hermitage
“You are beauty, You are gentleness, You are our protector,
You are our guardian and defender, You are courage. You are our haven… ”
(from Praises to God Almighty, St. Francis of Assisi)
In Jerusalem there is a Garden: it lies across the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus used to withdraw with his disciples here when he was in Jerusalem; he would rest, pray, talk to the Father and his disciples, go for a walk with them: God had returned to the earth to meet his creatures, as He had done before in the Garden of Eden prior to Adam and Eve’s fall (first sin).
In this Place Jesus lives his drama of the Saviour of the world on the last evening of his life; he’s presented with the bitter cup of Passion and death: He thus experiences abandonment, hatred, loneliness and isolation. Nevertheless, His love for us overcomes the bitterness of that cup and we see Jesus fighting, sweating drops of blood and keeping faithful to the Father’s will.
After years of neglect, one side of this Garden has been restored and has come to its original beauty, returning to be the Place where Jesus meets all those who seek Him and where he gathers all the world’s sorrow and pain. All this was possible thanks to an intuition Fr. Giorgio Colombini had. Around 30 years ago Fr. Giorgio started cleaning up, digging up, tilling, planting and building in this area of the Garden, he had volunteers (gardeners, bricklayers, plumbers …) helping and offering their precious and unpaid work; they managed to turn this neglected area on holy ground into a pleasant and welcoming Holy place of prayer.
Time progressing, the lifestyle of our volunteers has dramatically changed here and their urge of “doing something” has given way to a wish of serving and sharing the community’s mode of life during their stay (weeks, sometimes even months) at this Holy Place. Thus they both work and participate as much as they can in the Franciscan community life. By doing so, they stay with Jesus to meditate on the unfathomable mystery of his Easter, to hear His voice in silence, a voice that is praying, begging, crying, shedding tears and weeping; to adore this immense divine love and finally say with Him: “Yes, Father, thy will be done”.
This explains why Fr. Giorgio used to affectionately call them “friends” of Gethsemane rather than “volunteers”, as they were called before.
While we try to live this way – with the help of Lectio Divina and daily prayer – we continue our work and service in the Hermitage, so that visiting guests can experience a welcoming and homey atmosphere here and most of all can be felt loved.
Bruno and Gabriella, Friends of the Hermitage