Stories from the “Land of the Ancestors”, France
How are you, brothers? Warm greetings from Marillais, France. Well, I can't believe I've been in St Montfort's country for more than five months. I have encountered many interesting, challenging, and inspiring events. From the beginning of the journey from Indonesia to arriving in Marillais, France. Even though I didn't have time to record it in detail, I will share some interesting moments with all of us here.
I departed from Indonesia on Saturday, December 10, and arrived in Paris on the same day. From Bandung-Jakarta-Dubai, I was with Father Dwi, SMM. We took a quite stressful journey (Jakarta-Dubai). Rain and lightning alternated. Feels like an angel of death like in soap operas. He came suddenly and grabbed the victim. This is not a soap opera but the truth. Creepy and scary. However, I also felt a little relieved because I saw P. Dwi, SMM always recites the rosary quietly beside me. Indeed, he is present as a guardian angel and fades the fear of nature that is not friendly. My relief grew, even more, when our plane landed safely in Dubai.
In Dubai, the two of us went our separate ways. I went to Paris and he went to Rome. In Dubai, I had no trouble going through the airport immigration process. Likewise when I was on the plane. Comfortable and put me to sleep. The point is that the Dubai-Paris trip is completely different from the Jakarta-Dubai trip. The seven-and-a-half-hour flight seemed so short. Finally, I arrived in Paris safely.
At the Paris airport, I had no trouble finding P. Arnold, SMM who picked me up. He came with P. Andre, SMM. They were standing right outside the airport exit. How happy I was when I met them, especially P. Arnold. Because we haven't seen each other in years, since he became my formator at the Malang scholastic. He looks fresh and energetic. His style of talking and joking is still the same as before. There was a signal on his face that he would be a trusted guide for me for two days in Paris.
This reliable signal guide doesn't seem to have gone wrong. Because, when I got home and met another confrere, Fr. Arnold, SMM invited me to attend Sunday mass at the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. I immediately accepted his invitation with pleasure. I like walking too. While walking around the cathedral, he explained some of the important events related to St Montfort's experience in this place. The next day, we traveled to St Sulpice's Church. Here I behold the statue of the Founder of our union: large, sturdy, and dignified. I took time to sit down and pray, imagining what he was doing around this church back then.
From Saint Sulpice, we followed a road that is believed to be the site of St. Sulpice. Montfort wrote the book CKA. It is difficult for us to pinpoint where “the convent of the nun where she wrote CKA is under the stairs”. The situation has changed. This place used to be an alley. Can be described as the alleys in the village. Now the magnificent buildings are crowded, showing the superpower as well as tenderness (the beauty of the city of Paris. SMM history also writes that in that hallway, St. Montfort contemplates and writes love stories of divine wisdom that he experienced in his life.
Too bad the time is too short. After two days in Paris, I had to leave for Saint Laurent. In Saint Laurent, I live in a community with Fr. Paulin, (Madagascar) and F. John Marie, (India). Actually with P. Arnold too because he is the Superior in this community. However, he lives in Paris for studies and occasionally he comes to visit us. So, it was with them that I passed the Christmas and New Year's celebrations yesterday.
On January 8, 2017, I left for Anger (Mission Langues) to take the Français class. In Anger, I live in a dormitory with 30 students. We come from various countries in Asia, Africa, America, and Europe. It is interesting that, in one of the open spaces of the course, I saw a photo of Fr. Arnold and Fr. Rafael Lepen. Responsive Mission Langues said they were both very famous there in their time. I feel proud to hear that. At least they created a history that will always be remembered (there), especially for Montfortan Indonesia which will follow in the future.
In Angers, I stayed for three months. Early April, I returned to Saint Laurent. Saint Laurent is certainly not as busy as Anger, let alone Paris. The town is small and quiet. This atmosphere invites me to always visit and pray at Father Montfort's grave. Well, it's like telling a story. My imagination is alive. My first encounter with him in “The Life and Work of St. Montfort” in the novitiate a few years ago came back and became real. He came and listened to my story in silence. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this was a wonderful encounter. Through and with Sta Maria, St Montfort, and Blessed Marie Louise de Jesus, I offer my prayers for the confreres everywhere.
I live in Saint Laurent until May. Right now, I'm already at Le Marillais. Le Marillais is not too far from Saint Laurent. Here I am in the community with Fr. Rene Paul and Fr. Misel (France) Fr. Renel (Haiti) and Br. Armand (Madagascar). You could say an international community as well as in Saint Laurent. The confreres who work in this community are at the same time in charge of the parish.
It is interesting that the chapel of our monastery, Notre Dame du Marillais, is frequented by pilgrims. They come from various cities and even countries. Indeed this chapel is classified as an old building in France. According to history, this chapel was built in 430, long before St. Montfort was born. This chapel also has historical significance for the French Church, especially regarding the French revolution. Around this chapel, there is a memorial to the death of 2000 martyrs (French people from around the Marillais area) who were shot during the revolution in this country. So, people who make pilgrimages to the monument at the same time pray in our chapel.
I don't know how long I lived in Marillais, I don't know for sure. What is clear, next July, I have to go to Saint Laurent to join the FIM program for a month. This is a kind of joint ongoing formation program for the priests of Montfortian, the Brothers of St. Gabriel, and the Sisters of the Princess of Wisdom if I'm not mistaken. Formerly this FIM was called IMI. Based on the results of discussions with Fr. Josh (Provincial SMM Belgique) and Fr. Olivier (Provincial SMM France), after the FIM program was finished, I began to arrange for the transfer to Belgique. This transfer may only take place next year. Hope everything goes well.
At the end of this story, I would like to thank all the confreres. Especially for the confreres in Bandung who were also busy preparing my files yesterday. I pray for you always.
Fr. Stefan Musanai, SMM