A Pope And A Miracle

I have just seen a miracle. Over ten thousand people traveled to Rome from all over the world to listen to a man, dressed in white. In the crowd, important Cardinals and Bishops, over one thousand priests, two thousand and more eager seminarians, hundreds of couples with children… all gathered in a hall named after Pope Paul VI just beside the Vatican.

Among this excited crowd there were two hundred families, many of them with children (five, six, seven..), who have felt the call to abandon everything (home, country, good salaried job, extended family) and go to wherever they are sent to give witness that Jesus Christ is alive and is still able to save people from pain. Some families are going to Kazakhstan, others to Shanghai, others to Boston, others to Guam… All moved with gratitude for what Jesus Christ and His church have done to them. Their only desire is to share Him with others - compellingly, persuasively, with all their ingenuity and passion.

The Pope wanted to give them personally the missionary cross, which they will need to rely on as they evangelize. This entire crowd belongs to the Neocatechumenal Way.

The Pope loves this Way. You could see it in his eyes, in his attitude, in his words... In his address, Benedict XVI acknowledged that in our few years of existence, the Neocatechumenal communities "have been able to do much and from your communities have come numerous vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life." He presented Christ as the center of the mission who, "celebrated in the liturgical rites, constitutes a privileged and indispensable way to build living and persevering Christian communities."

It is beautiful to be in Guam and Saipan. So much good work has already been accomplished by the Church in the Marianas. So many outstanding people in our parishes work selflessly for the Gospel. And there are things that remain to be done. And this is possible only through the people.

Without each of us responding to Christ's call to be evangelizers, the Church loses her identity. Where the Church ceases to be missionary, she ceases to be herself. Zeal cannot be delegated. But it can be shared, and when shared, it multiplies like a spreading fire.

One may wonder, why all this fuss? What is all this urgency to bring Christ to others at all costs? One Sunday evening, a father surprised his son by taking him into a bar! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. "Willie," the father said to his son, "These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ." Years later, this son became an evangelizer and he always said that what the impression he got that day never left him.

There is so much camouflaged suffering around us and Jesus Christ can relieve all this pain. But Jesus Christ needs to be brought to people by other people. This is the leitmotif of evangelization. This is the underlying principle of the Neocatechumenal Way. This is why the Pope has long been an admirer of this way of evangelization.

"I was a professor at Tübingen, and some people from the Neo-catechumenate came to me, including Toni Spandari, who was later my student and now works in Munich. Those young people were touched by the discovery that the church needed a new post-baptismal catechesis, which had to realize anew the personal and communitarian appropriation in a common path.

Reflecting on baptism, I realized that for some time baptism had been almost a forgotten sacrament in the church, yet it is the foundation of our being Christian. Having studied the Fathers, in particular, I knew how for them the sacrament was realized in a path of initiation, and for that reason I was happy that there might be a new beginning to this experience. What the Neo-catechumenate understood, in fact, was precisely that even if we are baptized as infants, we have to enter into the reality of our baptism, we must throughout all our life, naturally in diverse stages, enter into this initiation into communion with Christ in the church.

I was happy that a path of renewal could be opened of this fundamental experience of the church, and above all in a time in which the family and the schools are not, as they once were, places of initiation into the faith and into communion with Christ in the church."

This is what the then-Cardinal Ratzinger said at the time of the grand assembly of new ecclesial realities in the church called by John Paul II for Pentecost 1998.

The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a powerful poem entitled 'The Wreck of the Deutschland' that recalls the death of five Franciscan nuns drowned on a German ship on the river Thames in 1875.

In this poem, he used an atypical verb, 'Let Him easter in us.' A rare verb indeed, but this is what the zeal of the Gospel is all about. Christ easters in us by giving us a hope that constantly conquers discouragement and the drive to bring this hope to others.

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.