Emmaus and the art of accompaniment addresses the question “what does it mean to mentor youth” and the opening talk of the first International Meeting of Advisors to the Vincentian Marian Youth (Paris, July 2014) focused on “The Art of Accompaniment” as portrayed in a painting of Jesus accompanying the disciples at Emmaus.
Fr. Irving Amaro used the art of Siger Köder’s Painting “Emmaus” to unpack the somewhat prototypical journey of Jesus with the Disciples along the road to Emmaus.
He writes… Those who accompany another are persons who are attentive and sensitive to others; they are not in a hurry and they know that, although there are many important things to do and urgent options that must examined, the plant does not grow by uprooting it. Rather the plant must be given time to develop and grow. Those who accompany another do not uproot that person, but rather nourish and nurture the other; they give the other person hope and they are able to smile.
Why use this artist and not some other? Because this artist communicates a profound understanding of Jesus.
I hope that this will serve as a useful tool that will help us develop the task of accompaniment and also help us to carry out this task with love and enthusiasm and joy.
The painting of the disciples on the road to Emmaus
“Jesus took the initiative and approached them; he listened to them and was concerned about their discouragement. He asked them: what were you talking about? … Jesus entered into their reality and their feelings, but the disciples did not realize who was accompanying them. Jesus walked with them, listened to them, asked them questions and understood that faith is a process (at times a very long process). When the disciples recognized Jesus, he disappeared. The disciples then hurried back to Jerusalem in order to communicate and share the Good News: Jesus is life and hope, in other words, Jesus’ plan makes sense.”
There are three moments in the painting that I will describe separately.
“….the one who accompanies the young men and women will not always be able to see in a clear manner what is behind these young people. Nevertheless the attitude of being near to these young men and women is most important.
“Patient listening: to know how to listen, to not be hurried, to give of our time. We need to listen and to be quiet before attempting to speak something that will be significant for the young person. We must accept the fact that each person has his/her own rhythm and our role is support them in this process.
“People need time in order to achieve maturity, that is, a stage in which people can make free and responsible decisions. Therefore companions must be patient; they cannot make young people follow their rhythm and would not attempt to follow the rhythm of the young men and women because that would detract from the task of accompaniment.
“Companions are educators. They know what is happening in their surroundings. Education is not simply a process of transmitting knowledge but is also communicating an ideal for life or a plan for society  which in turn can become life-giving to the young person as he/she becomes a protagonist in society.
“Companions allow others to help them. They know other people who can collaborate with them in their role as companions, for example, teachers, legal advisors, psychologists. They know how to look for collaborators among those persons who belong to the Church … a Church that is able to return to Jerusalem. These companions listen and are warm and approachable rather than cold and rigid. They are able to enflame the hearts of others  … When this task is done in collaboration with others, it is done better.
“Up-to-date: accompaniment in the digital era … today knowledge is very accessible to young people through various technological means such as television, telephone, mobile phone, internet, social networks (facebook, twitter, what’s app), etc. This excess of information can, however, create confusion. Therefore, it is important to organize the essence of the message and to provide young people with values that will help them in their process of development.
We need men and women who, in light of their experience in the process of accompaniment, are prudent and understanding, patient and docile to the Spirit, people who are able to care for all the sheep that are entrusted to them, in this case, the young men and women from so many different countries throughout the world (Evangelii Gaudium, #171).
Art and Pastoral Accompaniment
Let us point out some elements that the artists and the companion have in common:
- They are patient; time is their ally; their life has rhythm.
- They identify what has to be done and in the act of doing they continue to be creative.
- They are passionate, dedicated in what they believe and do.
- They have certain abilities (awe and contemplation).
- They are experienced in what they are doing.
- They are creative and the offer the best of themselves.
- They have pastiche.
Here in this workshop I have attempted to highlight the person of those who accompany others, that is, persons who want to provide this service and who are approachable, able to listen, able to enter into dialogue with other, able to ask questions and are patient (if a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit [Matthew 15:14]). They are people who have found in their life and they are able to motivate young men and women to share their experience faith with others, to see God in the poor and the poor in God. Accompaniment is a form of witness that is revealed in the attitudes of those who are accompanying others. Those who accompany young people must be concerned about helping these men and women to make their own decisions as they journey forward in life. Accompaniment does not mean that one points out the way, but rather than one helps the young person to become an agent and a protagonist in their own development.
The presentation in outline complete with a larger presentation of the painting and close-up of the three facets of the whole.
- What is art?
- What is accompaniment?
- Who is Sieger Köder
- Reflection on accompaniment
- Art and Pastoral Accompaniment