The World Needs "Fools For God"

"I used to go to Church and everything was so boring and dull. No one sings. I go to this new church and I always leave with a good feeling." "The sermons in your churches are so monotonous and tedious. The preacher in our church is so vibrant and alive and biblical." "Why do you adore Mary?! You even put her statue high up on the high artal in the Cathedral!" "So many devotions and rosaries and no Scriptures - that is what the Catholic Church is all about..." And it went on and on and on... A two hour discussion with this local guy who has decided to leave the Catholic Church and join this new church.

In his teens, he was an artal server. He went to a Catholic school. Later, his wife left him. He claims, he did not find any support in the Catholic church. So he left. Now he reads the Bible every day. He is serious and conscientious.

What a pity that he, like many others, is finding outside the Church what he should find inside the Church!

Seminar Between Bishops And Movements

This is why what happened in Rome just a few days ago is highly significant. From June 16-19, over 100 Cardinals and Bishops from all corners of the globe met in Rome to participate in a seminar organized by Vatican to reflect on "The Ecclesial Movements and New Communities in the Episcopal Pastoral Work."

These new ecclesial realities are helping ordinary Christians to put God as the center of their life in a century, ours, which has excluded God from its core.

The Holy Father believes that these new organizations "are a real gift of the Spirit for the Church at the end of the millennium, and one of the new signs emanating from Vatican Council II."

Six initiators of these new realities were handpicked to speak to the Bishops. Among them Kiko Arguello of the Neocatechumenal Way, Chiara Lubich of the Focolare Movement and Salvatore Martinez of Renewal in the Spirit.

Kiko Arguello revealed that the Neocatechumenal Way came into being thirty years ago "to help the parishes move from a sacramental pastoral plan to one of evangelization in this de-Christianized society. A pastoral plan according to the model of the Church of the early Christians, where those who wanted to be Christians had first to be catechumens, that is, they had to follow a path of formation."

Bishop Stanislaw Rylko's, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, stated: "It is well known that in the Pope's pastoral plans, the ecclesial movements occupy a special place."

Professor Guzman Carriquiry, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, did not hide his satisfaction over the enthusiasm and seriousness with which the bishops followed the discussions. "The tension that used to be elicited whenever movements were mentioned seems to have disappeared. Everything has unfolded in a relaxed atmosphere."

Woe To Me If I Do Not Preach The Gospel

Cardinal Adrianus J. Simonis, Archbishop of Utrecht, spoke of his experience in working with the movements which are, in his estimation, the "salt of the earth," an oasis where the Catholic faith is lived to the fullest in a secularized world.

"The problem is that in general they are seen with suspicion in the parishes," since the spiritual climate of some parishes has lost its potency and because some see it as competition. "It is unjustly said that the movements are more geared to personal sanctity than to the apostolate and social action. The first accusation is true, the second is false," the Dutch Cardinal said.

Archbishop Robert Sarah of Conakry, Guinea, spoke enthusiastically. "It is marvelous to see that the Spirit is stronger than our plans and that he acts in our Christian communities as we would never have imagined it."

Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, New Jersey, was one of the two representatives of United States. He spoke vigorously about the missionary thrust that characterizes the Neocatechumenal Way, emphasizing the conversions and the number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life it has awakened, "It is a great blessing and a great gift to the Church in Newark," he affirmed. He explained that the prejudices between the movements and pastors are due to a lack of knowledge of one another.

The Brazilian Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, "As understood by John Paul II and Paul VI, movements are an expression of the universal Church. They are born in a specific place, but their horizon is the universe, and they attempt to respond to the needs and demands of the Church worldwide, and not of just one or a few dioceses. Their missionary dynamism, program and plans, their proposals, apostolic formation and spirituality are universal."

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led a lively two-hour debate, answering questions from the assembly of Bishops and Cardinals.

He spoke about his meeting with the Neocatechumens, who put Baptism back at the center, "a very much forgotten sacrament in the Church, although it is the foundation of our faith, at a time when families and schools were not initiating people into the faith."

He also referred to his meeting with Renewal in the Spirit: "I have had the joy and the grace to see young Christians touched by the power of the Holy Spirit... At a time of exhaustion, when there was talk of 'a winter of the Church,' the Holy Spirit was creating a new spring."

A Radical Faith

When asked "What is the importance of movements?" Cardinal Ratzinger answered : "The Gospel is for everyone and the movements can be of great help, because they have the missionary impulse of the early times, even in the smallness of their numbers, and they can give impetus to the life of the Gospel in the world."

And we?

I believe we can learn a lot from our Pope. He is a real saint. In response to his companions' concern about his health, John Paul II answered he had "eternity" to rest. Sisters Tobiana and Eufrosia, the Polish nuns who care for him at the Vatican, have tried to slow him down.

"I am worried about you, Your Holiness," Sister Eufrosia said, after a very tiring trip. "I am also worried about my holiness," the Pope quipped.

Yes, only a faith, radically understood and radically lived, can answer the many real questionings of our contemporary man. These new ecclesial realities will help us in this endeavor.

(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.