.- A group of French teenagers arrived in Rome this month without money or possessions in the hopes of learning how to let go of material things and grow closer to God.
“We've come here without money,” said 17-year-old Marie Lecointe. “It’s taught us to detach ourselves from things like beds, showers...”
Lecointe came to Rome on Aug. 19 alongside nine other youths aged 15 to 20. They left Paris on Aug. 3 with barely enough funds to reach Rome.
“We don’t know where we will sleep tonight but we will search around town,” Lecointe told CNA on Aug. 20.
The young woman said that the group, which belongs to France's Chapitre Saint Lazare or Saint Lazarus Chapter, prays a lot – which she says “has definitely helped them.”
The teens, who are now going from door to door asking for food or money, traveled on foot and sometimes, by bus.
“We have to ask people for...whatever they can give us,” added 20-year-old Arthur Thomé.
The ten young people spent their first night in Rome in a building run by the Community of Saint Peter, but they now need to find other places to sleep at during the following nights.
Otherwise, said Thomé who is the oldest and responsible for the group, they will have to sleep on the streets.
He told CNA that although they go out in twos and threes during the day asking for food, he wants them to sleep in the same place each night for security reasons.
Lecointe noted that they are trying to learn a few phrases in Italian, since most people they have spoken to did not speak French or even English.
“But it’s quite difficult because we don’t have any time now or any books to learn from,” she said. “We can understand some words because it comes from Latin, like French.”
Thomé said that the aim is to gather enough money during the day to buy the cheapest food that can feed the ten. “People are giving us money or food so now I’m not afraid but yesterday I was because we had no money and very little food.”
The group cooks their meals on the street in a pot and portable gas cooker they brought with them.
“One day we were cooking pasta and an Italian man came and said 'that’s horrible! How can you eat that?'” Lecointe recalled, laughing.
“He then cooked it for us because it was really catastrophic,” she remarked. “It was about ten days ago at the beach and he also made the sauce for us.”
“It was very delicious, better than our own food,” Lecointe smiled.