Ecclesial Movements: a gift from God for the New Evangelization…

In the Instrumentum laboris at n.115 we read that «Within the last decade, another gift of Divine Providence to the Church is the flowering of groups and movements, oftentimes in a spontaneous, spirit-filled manner, dedicated primarily to proclaiming the Gospel. ».

The magisterium of the last popes reaffirmed in many circumstances the providential nature of «a new era of group endeavours of the lay faithful»,1 emphasizing the close relationship with the «renewed Pentecost»2 of the Second Vatican Council. Specifically, the Blessed John Paul II never lacked to remark the missionary dynamism of movements and new communities that: «represent a true gift of God both for new evangelization and for missionary activity properly so-called. I therefore recommend that they be spread, and that they be used to give fresh energy, especially among young people, to the Christian life and to evangelization, within a pluralistic view of the ways in which Christians can associate and express themselves».3 Pope Benedict XVI affirmed once more that «the Ecclesial Movements and new Communities are a providential instrument for a renewed missionary outreach; welcome and promote them in your Dioceses».4 On another occasion he encouraged bishops to welcome them «with much love».5 In fact, the teaching methods developed by the charisms of the movements and new communities liberated in many lay faithful - men and women, young and adults - an extraordinary missionary thrust characterized by courage, joy of announcing Christ and an amazing creativity.

Unfortunately, movements and new communities are still a resource not fully valued in the Church, a gift from the Holy Spirit and a treasure of graces still hidden to the eyes of many bishops, probably afraid of the novelty they might bring to the life of their dioceses and parishes. The Holy Father is well aware of these difficulties, and yet exhorts Pastors not to extinguish charisms, to be grateful for them, «even if at times they may be inconvenient».6 A real “pastoral conversion” is demanded on the part of bishops and priests, called to recognize that movements are, first of all, a precious gift rather than a problem.

The missionary zeal of the new realities, indeed, does not surge from emotional and superficial enthusiasm, but springs from intense experiences and demanding formation courses of the lay faithful, formed to an adult faith, capable of aptly responding to the challenges of secularization.7 The novelty of their action it is not to be found in their methods, rather in their ability of reaffirming God at the center of all Christian lives, a subject which is fundamental in the teachings of the Holy Father Benedict XVIth. The ancient saying “operari sequitur esse” is the task of the new evangelization, because our behavior expresses always our being. Evangelization is not only a conduct or “being able to do”, rather it is, first of all, a matter of “being”, being true and authentic Christian.

However, the evangelization methods adopted by movements and new communities are apparently very different and varied, but they are all referable to the “three laws of the new evangelization” as addressed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger on the Jubilee of Cathechists and Religion Teachers in the year 2000:8 first of all the “law of expropriation”, that is, the evangelizer is not the master of the message he proclaims, but an humble servant, he does not speak on his own authority, rather in the name of the one who sent him. “Evangelizing is not simply a way of speaking, but a way of living”, the one who evangelizes must have the clear awareness of belonging to Christ and to His Church, transcending one’s own ego. The second is the “law of the mustard seed”, that is the courage of proclaiming with patience and perseverance, without claiming immediate results, and keeping present that the law of great numbers is not the law of the Gospel. It is an attitude that we can recognize in the work of evangelization of the movements and new communities in the most secularized zones of the world. The third law is the “law of the seed of wheat” that dies in order to give life. The evangelizer must accept the logic of the cross. According to this criteria we look at the witness of numerous martyrs of today. In these laws, mentioned by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, it is enveloped the most profound secret of the fecundity of the evangelizing thrust not only of the ecclesial movements, rather of the Church of all times.

1 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, n. 29.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Address on the Occasion f the Meeting with the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, “Insegnamenti” XXI, 1 (1998), p. 1121.

3 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 72.

4 Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Mozambique on their “ad limina” visit, “Insegnamenti” III, 1 (2007), p. 924.

5 Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Germany on their “ad limina” visit, “Insegnamenti” II, 2 (2006), p. 637.

6 Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Roman Clergy of the Rome Diocese at the beginning of Lent, “Insegnamenti” III, 1 (2007), p. 283.

7 Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishop-Friends of the Focolare Movement and the Sant’Egidio community, “Insegnamenti” III, 1 (2007), p. 177.

8 Cf. J. Ratzinger, La nuova evangelizzazione, in “L’Osservatore Romano”, 11-12 dicembre 2000, p. 11. (Address of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Jubilee of Catechists and Religion Teachers, 10 December 2000)

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