This Thursday afternoon, in Ars-sur-Formans (Ain), the garden of the Jean-Paul-II priestly home was transformed into an open-air theater. It’s all there: the costumes, the grand gestures, the exclamations, even a few bursts of laughter. But the lines do have an unusual resonance. “O God! you are my God, I am looking for you; my soul thirsts for you! exclaims a trembling voice.
The rather special troupe of actors is in fact a group of priests from the diocese of Chambéry in full annual retreat, proclaiming psalms under the eyes of their director, Philippe Rousseaux. For fifteen years, this professional, both trained in theater and with a degree in theology, has been leading workshops bringing together artistic experience and spiritual life. With lay people, most of the time, and occasionally for nuns or monks. From Monday June 26 to Friday June 30, he was, for the first time, called upon, at the request of a diocese, as a preacher. “The objective is to learn to embody the Word,” he summarizes.
A tool to better “grasp” the psalms
Father Michel Euler, diocesan administrator pending the installation of Bishop Thibault Verny, says that the idea was slipped by the former bishop’s assistant, who was looking for a specialist in psalms. “There was a tool there to grasp it in a completely new way,” he explains.
The organization of this retreat took a rather radical turn: while the previous ones had, on average, an hour and a half of intervention per day, Philippe Rousseaux proposed seven hours of work, the morning being dedicated to a study of the texts. in depth, the afternoon with exercises around pronunciation, gestures and staging.
Without forgetting the “show”, scheduled for the last day. The place, too, was changed: usually at the abbey of Tamié (Savoie), the stay finally took place at the foyer of Ars, whose spaces are more adapted to the activities. What arouse some reluctance among the priests, of whom only nine registered this year. “Fortunately, this sample represents all ages and different sensitivities,” rejoiced Father Euler.
Giving “flesh and meaning” to words
Some were immediately seduced by the relevance of the stay. “When we are priests, we are sent to speak the Good Word, and yet, when transmitting it, we often ask ourselves: ‘Why doesn’t it work?'” confides Father Alexis, 57 years old. If we want to give our message a chance, we have to understand it and live it: it is the incarnation that gives flesh and meaning to words! »
The priest, recently in post in the country of Chautagne, joins the original intuition of Philippe Rousseaux. It was after a dazzling conversation, in the early 2000s, that this Vosgien had the click. “The Church seems stuck in its ‘presentability’: its message is fabulous but anything but seductive. How to fix it? “, he wonders, about a year before creating the Clown association by faith, in 2005.
Nearly twenty years later, Philippe Rousseaux thus guides Father Louis, 75, in his interpretation of Psalm 63, attributed to David: he chose to present it, tied to a tree, to better transmit the emotion of a weakened man.
A mind-blowing experience
“These are texts with which we are familiar and which I used to recite”, explains Father Louis, particularly invested in the catechumenate. “But it is by making them resonate within us that we finally enter into their truth. Once overcome the learning of “by heart” comes, for each, the difficulty of laying bare. “Theatrical incarnation requires courage! », would like to remind them of Philippe Rousseaux. If the experience is, by everyone’s admission, “hustling”, everyone is now waiting to observe the fruits it could bear in their ministry. Father Jean, 83, now retired, summarizes it as follows: “I came with a ‘help’ and I left with a ‘hallelujah’. »