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The search for simplicity

This post was translated to English from the original “Hľadanie jednoduchosti“.

The image of the 21st century human is the pursuit of perfection. The desire and need to have everything right now: to buy fresh mandarins in Slovakia in December, to move from one place to another by the fastest means of transport, to be in a constant rush for something and not have time for what is important, to think of many perfect alternatives, sometimes leaving aside the less complicated way and to look for and expect great things.

At the end of April, from April 27 to May 2, 2022, three youthfrom eRko participated in the eco camp “Do coração à terra” – from the heart to the Earth – in Casa Velha, Portugal. The camp showed a way of simple life on a farm similar to that described by the Holy Father in the encyclical Laudato Si, whose anniversary we commemorate today, May 24. On this occasion, we would like to share with you, our experiences, our search for simplicity in the 21st century.

The main motivation to participate in the camp was clearly the offer itself. Without a doubt, it’s the kind of opportunity that can’t be refused. One expects what will gradually come out of it. Then came more personal matters such as the desire to visit Fatima, which is very important for Christians, or the possibility of drawing on this experience not only in personal life but also in school and eRcarian life.

Casa Velha stands on 4 basic pillars: the beloved land (how to be thankful), the fragile land, the fertile land and the promised land. We lived each of the pillars over the course of a day where we took a deeper look into the Laudato Si lifestyle. The camp program was very varied. It was made up of work, talks, lectures or prayers and reflections.

We began the morning with extracts from the encyclical Laudato Si which we reflected on later. The lecture day offered us topics such as climate change, global ecology, organic farming, local ecology and integral ecology. We ended the day by watching a documentary on ecology, the stories of Jesuit Pedro from the Philippines and Margarida from Casa Velha. We often worked in three groups, one working on building a water canal, one planting new plants and the third working in the forest. We also worked in the forest with the girls.

Sunday’s program consisted of Holy Mass, which was unique for us also because we could sing or pray the Our Father in our native language. It was also special because of the visit of the locals who came to introduce us to their culture through singing and dancing. This was followed by a garden party during which we, as attentive animators, noticed that children everywhere in the world play the same way. One day we also had a program prepared by CIDSE, specifically the Change for the planet – Care for the People platform that organized the camp. Of course the time at the camp was also a time of making new friends, eating great vegetarian Portuguese food or overcoming various challenges and seeming limits.

“I didn’t think I would make it this far with my English, and I still have a lot of Duolingo lessons ahead of me. The very first evening I sat down at the “right table” where I completely forgot that we were not speaking my native language. Margarida, who hosted us in her home, asked us if we knew the story of Fatima. Her grandmother was in Fatima for the sun miracle on October 13. Already 100 years ago Our Lady asked the children of Fatima to pray for Russia. Her immediate narrative, complete with the story of her family and the creation of Casa Velha, gave me chills.” These the words by Maťka.

Before the pilgrimage to Fatima, we talked with our Portuguese friend. He was also going there with us for the first time. “In Fatima you have to feel something!” His grandmother told him this sentence. During the 20-kilometer pilgrimage from Casa Velha to Fátima, this phrase resonated more and more with the girls and me. You could say that with each kilometer our expectations grew. We passed through towns, meadows and forests and Portugal certainly didn’t skimp on the views. But the most beautiful view was the one we got when we were crossing the last stretch to Fátima. It was a narrow road with a gate made of trees and one could hardly guess what was behind it. And as we boldly stepped forward, we were met with all our materialized ideas about this land. Stone cascades and meadows full of colorful flowers. It really didn’t matter if we were in Casa Velha, Fátima or later even Lisbon, the herbs accompanied us throughout our stay and this scent will forever represent our main aroma and will form an essential part of the whole atmosphere. When we finally arrived in Fátima, our visit took off very quickly. We had a moment to pass our intentions, walk around the square, enter the Basilica of the Rosary of Our Lady and buy a little something for our loved ones in the souvenir shop. For a full day’s journey to Fátima, we really spent little time in this place and if we can be honest, it certainly wasn’t to our liking. At Marian sites like this, one expects a great conversion or specific words that Our Lady sends straight to you. It’s just that the short time and all the people around you trying to take pictures and preserve some material memory doesn’t leave you much room for self-awareness of where you actually are. As it says many times in the Bible, it was only later in solitude that we could really feel what the whole pilgrimage meant to us. So, not to mention only the good things, there were certainly a few things that we didn’t agree with or that were different than we expected. Each of us approached it differently, but we complemented each other and were able to see a reality from multiple perspectives.

“If I had to sum up the whole camp and stay in Portugal in one word or sentence it would be Raffaello – more than a thousand words. After the camp I am braver to speak in a foreign language, I have learned to act on my own without my parents and I am able to see working in our garden as the right thing to do for the planet (although hoeing has more charm in Portugal than at home). This camp was a great inspiration for me to re-evaluate my life. Life nowadays is very rushed. We are impatient, always dissatisfied with something… When it’s winter we want summer, when it’s summer we want winter… but when we wait, the world suddenly slows down, time goes slower and so does nature. If we are patient in nature, we can expect a big surprise. If one is humble and seeks gratitude in simplicity, then one can turn unknown opportunities into adventures.” Lucka Puškášová

“What was the pilgrimage to Fátima supposed to teach us? What did Casa Velha teach us? Probably all three of us would agree that simplicity. The charm of ordinary things, as sung in one of my favorite songs. I often complicate my own life, and in fact I don’t know where else the Lord should send me that year but to Casa Velha. We expected great things and yet we received so little – simple things. “

“The journey to Portugal was a journey of simplicity, unity and communion. Despite the differences that were visible on the outside, we created a community where no one was afraid to talk and to go deep.” Monika Vojtašáková

Living the ideas of Laudato Si is possible even outside of the camp at Casa Velha. If you are interested in these themes we also give you the renewed Charity Campaign, which will culminate this autumn. We also remind you of the “Sowing the Future” photo contest. If you enjoy taking photos while caring for our common home, this is a super opportunity to show how creative and sustainable approaches should be an integral part of the future. Also during the camp we realized how important it is to support regional farmers, and if we were to enter this contest, it would be like this: “The photo I’m taking right now shows strawberries growing in my grandmother’s garden, who sells her harvest at the local market. This way we can get to know the person who has lovingly grown the tasty fruit in person.”

The camp was about many conversations and sharing experiences on how we young people can also get involved and find creative ways to take care of our common home. The experiences of young people from several countries can be seen in the documentary with Slovak subtitles “The Future lies with youth“, produced by CIDSE, specifically the platform “Change for the Planet – Care for the People”.

Your Laudato Si influencers, eRkarki Monika, Lucka and Mata

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