Just last week I was immersed in an ocean
of heroic virtue! And it was a real joy!
I was attending a ten day convivence (alias,
a retreat) of the Neo-catechumenal Way in
Italy. It was open to families who feel the
call of God to leave home, comforts, stable
jobs and emigrate to areas where there is
the need to establish or strengthen the Church.
It was a real spectacle of faith! A chant
We must have been one thousand five hundred
people and more. Many of them young families
with many children. The Apostolic Nuncio
of Italy, Very Reverend Paolo Romeo, came
and presided the Eucharist in the name of
"The Church is grateful to you,"
the Nuncio said with strength. "You
are a living open cell in this enormous macrocosm!
You render visible and credible the missionary
dimension of our Church. Abandon all your
fears to Him. He will sustain you."
Pope Benedict will meet with these families
in January and give them personally the missionary
cross, as Pope John Paul II did with the
other families who have now been in mission,
some of them for eighteen years! This is
a new form of evangelization aimed directly
at the many "lost sheep" that no
longer have any contact with the parish and
with the Church.
Why the 'missionary cross'? Because the success
of evangelization cannot be measured by management
efficiency programs. By their presence alone,
these families are making faith present.
It was beautiful to listen to mothers recounting
how their children are the spearhead of the
'New Evangelization' by families. For example,
the mission families in Japan are always
finding their homes invaded by Japanese children,
friends of their children. These children
learn the language every quickly. Through
the children, the families have got to know
other families. These Japanese are very struck
by this way of 'living the family', seeing
the family table like an altar where the
father transmits the faith to the children
and where the marriage bed is also an altar
where new children are given life. A new
culture appears and this touches the hearts
of the neighbors.
The stories which they say many times are
scary! "I woke up one morning and found
blood near my bed. I had been feeling weak
the last days and so I phoned the doctor.
He immediately diagnosed the reason of my
weakness! "Are you sleeping with your
windows open?" he asked. When I answered
yes, he said "In our country we have
bats that suck the blood of animals and people.
Just keep the windows shut and you will be
"The rats are so aggressive that one
night I found the cloth of my pajamas eaten
by them! I must have been very tired because
I did not even feel them!"
"I found myself facing a gun,"
recounted Gerald in mission in Georgia. "This
man was insisting that I take his daughter
to Europe because here she was being threatened
by the Mafia. When I told him that I am not
here for this kind of activity but to announce
the Gospel... he stared at me and I thought
that the end is now.... Luckily, he did not
And yet they are so grateful "God has
sent me to this district where there are
so many people whose lives are destroyed,
to make me - who has so many times doubted
the love of God - share the experience of
St Thomas: to put my hands into the wounds
of Christ, which are these poor people".
"When we have nothing to eat, the children
take up their guitars and play!" "I
had bandits in my house. They started beating
us when they found out we had nothing in
our home. I suffered immensely but I will
never exchange this suffering for anything
in this world! Jesus Christ sustains you,
"God gave us an intimacy with Him which
is one million times more beautiful than
any suffering which one can go through in
the mission field. Jesus Christ comes with
us. This is our conviction. To enter into
the suffering is joy."
The constant refrain was, "God has humbled
me and has been extremely good with me."
"I am so grateful to God for choosing
me for this mission - He has given me joy,
He has rebuilt my marriage, He gave a backbone
to my children through suffering..."
"No way will I return home! I will go
back on my two feet, walking, if necessary!"
As Kiko ArgŁello, the initiator of the Neocatechumenal
Way commented "They have all come with
eyes full of light, of love, of the tenderness
of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has been with
them in the midst of very great suffering
and has helped them very much."
When Pope John Paul sent out the second wave
of families to the mission, he emphasized
the need for faith to appear in this generation:
"You need a deep faith to walk in today's
world as a family. You need great faith to
walk as a family in the steps of the Holy
Family of Nazareth".
Let us find out how we can generate this
kind of faith in our parishes!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
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