2 august 2003
Publish date 29-07-2020
One of the summer weeks of welcoming young people ends at the Arsenale. One of the busiest of the year - four hundred boys and girls from Sicily, Puglia, Romagna, Liguria, Veneto ... - all with a great willingness to be challenged by an experience like ours, extremely simple, but at the same time not easy to understand.
The Arsenal that welcomes them is a vast space, made up of renovated buildings and old-fashioned avenues brought to life by gardens, green corners, spaces for children that never fail here. In the early years everything was concentrated in a single building with the church, offices, reception areas, even a working cooperative - I don't know how everything found its place -. Then gradually new spaces were assigned to us, we restructured them and the Music School, the Restoration School, the Medical Center, the nightly reception were found ... We didn't want to have a single address, we rather thought about the model of the ancient monasteries, capable to offer different services and appropriate responses to the territory in which they were inserted.
When the young people started to visit us in large numbers we realized that there was no space for them; so the last building we are working on will become a hostel to welcome students and young people who want to share the life of this metropolitan monastery. In the meantime, we have created a tent camp for them on the large lawn in front of the University of Dialogue. The torrid heat of this year has put a strain on the boys gathered in the tents but the joy, the desire to be together and to get to know each other have supported them.
We celebrated our first twenty years of life at the Arsenale with them, simply, living a day like any other. The real feast of our twenties are the young people who have chosen the Arsenale as a reference point. They, with severity, the need for authentic things, the search for credible testimonies, are the best wish. There is no need for high-sounding celebrations.
As every morning the church was full of young people with whom we prayed the psalm of the pilgrimage: "What joy when they said to me: we will go to the house of the Lord ... For my brothers and my friends I will say peace be upon you ..." and we remembered the feast of forgiveness of Assisi - one of the many crossings of the Arsenale with Francesco d'Assisi. This psalm and the feast of the Porziuncola of Assisi are the memory that is renewed every year thinking of that August 2, 2003 in which for the first time the white door of the Arsenale opened, showing our interior its interior as an ancient cathedral.
Then, like every day, we worked with the young people, dividing the countless services of a house that lives with the help of many: those who have taken care of the dormitories, those of the sorting of the material they bring us, those who have dedicated themselves to maintenance, music or worked in carpentry. We asked many guys for their impressions before they ended the experience here. They talked to us about the impact of entering the Arsenal, the initial distrust, the fear of having to change and that feeling that we of the fraternity are super heroes, of the unreachable ... We know well that we are not very different from them, we know all our efforts well, but we repeat to them that the Arsenal slowly enters the heart of those who allow themselves to be touched in the depths and make their life change. Today the Arsenal of Peace is no longer just walls; it is made up of people who allow themselves to be changed inside, young people who seek who can guide them to a real change.
A good part of this August 2 - and every day of the Arsenal - we dedicated it to education in the values that must distinguish a house like this: to form mentalities and lifestyles of peace, open up to the problems of the world, especially of the poorer, enter the spirit of welcome and dialogue with everyone. The Arsenal today is made up of this permanent education, of this tension to be disarmed inside. To remind us, we have chosen to keep the Arsenal door always open and some of us at the door to receive anyone who enters: a man or woman who needs something, someone who wants to understand what is being done now instead of weapons ...
People arrive at all hours and help us understand that the real arsenal of peace is out. Also on this Saturday dozens of people passed to tell their dramas. Most are looking for a job, many are unable to find a home and many - even Italians - are looking for just a bed. There are many elderly Italians who, it seems impossible to even think about it, have lost their homes, are no longer able to rent, do not arrive at the end of the month with their pension and seek help. During this hot summer many people asked us to be able to stay here, have a place to sleep or even just to eat. Maybe they try to break the isolation and loneliness in which they have fallen. It is not uncommon for some elderly woman to offer herself as a grandmother to the children playing in the yard. If the walls could talk - and we can overcome that modesty that makes us silent on so many stories about this house - they would tell us infinite gestures of solidarity, of availability, of love. The gestures of love remained silent have made the Arsenale grow, made it a place that communicates peace, even from its austere walls.
from Nuovo Progetto, August-September 2003