Once again the young people from Croatia were astonishingly numerous at the European meeting at Rotterdam. In order to take part in such a gathering, they do not wait for someone else to organise the journey for them. In the parishes, in the schools, between friends, they talk about it, they set up preparation meetings, and they find the most inexpensive bus company.
Each time I go to visit them, in this beautiful country between the plain of Pannonia and the Adriatic Sea, I am struck to see how many young adults you find in church, even on week days. Yet the Church leaders ask more and more “What can we do for the young people? We have to find new ways!”
At Osijek, in the North East of the country, no one can remember for how long the Wednesday evening prayer has existed: “It must be at least twenty years!” Periodically a new generation takes over. Even the bishop first heard about it when he was still a student. When I wrote to him that I would be taking part in the prayer at the beginning of February, he replied right away that he would come too and, after a tiring day, he did thirty kilometres by car in order to be with us.
Last summer, the same bishop did not hesitate to make a twenty hour bus journey with the young people in order to spend a week in Taizé. All attempts to propose a rather more comfortable form of travel were in vain: “I want to see for myself what the young people do at Taizé. So I have to take part in their pilgrimage right from the start.” On the way back, the following Sunday, the journey by bus offered a chance to listen to what the young people had to say. Some of it was so enthralling that even the shyest dared to speak in the microphone. The whole week, the bishop had helped with the washing up in the adults group
When you visit them, is it a matter of awakening a little nostalgia, or listening to beautiful memories of a week in Burgundy, or for some “the most beautiful week of my life”? Seeing them squeezed together in their little church, sitting on the floor, gathered together to sing, to pray and to keep silence together, I said to myself: they have understood that it is a question of more than that. They have discovered something that they want to share with others in their little Slavonian village. They have discovered that they can contribute to the life of their parish and their local community. The adults were sitting behind the young people: “They are afraid to disturb”, said the parish priest. But they were attracted by the beautiful songs. And the silence of the young people seemed incredible to them.