NEO-CATECHUMENAL WAY: JOY, FAITH, SEARCH FOR UNITY
VATICAN CITY, 10 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In St. Peter's Basilica this afternoon, Benedict XVI commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, a group founded by the Spaniards Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, and the Italian priest Mario Pezzi.
During the meeting, which was attended by 25,000 members of the Way, the Pope entrusted the "mission cross" to fourteen Neo-Catechumenal communities, each made up of some 30-40 members, soon to depart on mission to help pastors in the most difficult and secularised areas of the outskirts of Rome.
"Your presence", said the Holy Father in his address, "bears witness to the prodigies wrought by the Lord over the last four decades. It is also a sign of the commitment with which you intend to continue down the path you have begun, a path of faithful adherence to Christ and of courageous witness to His Gospel, ... a path of humble acceptance of the guidance of pastors and of communion with all other components of the People of God, ... well aware that helping the men and women of our time to meet Jesus Christ, Redeemer of man, is a mission for the Church and for all the baptised. The Neo-Catechumenal Way is part of this ecclesial mission, as one of the numerous 'ways' brought into being by the Holy Spirit at Vatican Council II for the new evangelisation".
"How much fresh apostolic energy has been created among priests and laity!" the Pope exclaimed. "How many families ... have been helped to rediscover the joy of faith and the enthusiasm of evangelical witness through the announcement of the 'kerygma' and the rediscovery of Baptism! The recent approval of the Statutes of the Neo-Catechumenal Way by the Pontifical Council for the Laity are a confirmation of the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows the work the Lord began through your founders".
"Your apostolic activities, already highly praiseworthy in themselves, will be even more effective in the degree to which you constantly strive to cultivate that desire for unity which Jesus communicated to the Twelve at the Last Supper. ... It is this unity - gift of the Holy Spirit and incessantly sought by the faithful - that makes each community a living and well-integrated member of the mystical Body of Christ. The unity of the disciples of the Lord is part of the essence of the Church, and an indispensable condition if her evangelising activity is to prove fruitful and credible".
"Indeed, what is needed today is a vast missionary action involving the various aspects of the Church which, each conserving the originality of its own charism, must work harmoniously to achieve that 'integrated pastoral care' which has already enabled significant results to be reached. And you, placing yourselves - as your Statues say - with complete willingness at the service of bishops, can become an example for many local Churches which rightly look to Rome as a model to which to refer".
The Pope concluded his remarks by inviting the members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way "not to lose heart in the face of difficulties, and not to seek human success, nor to fear misunderstandings and even persecutions", but rather to "trust only in the power of Christ, to take up your own cross and follow the footsteps of our Redeemer". [Blogger: this last paragraph contains good advice for all involved in renewal movements and activities.]
One of the staples of "traditionalist" complaints is consistent criticism of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. Well, the Pope is not buying the complaints, as his comments above unequivocally show. In my view, these papal comments are more evidence of how not a few in the self-proclaimed "traditionalist" wing are simply out of touch with papal reality. To borrow a phrase, it's "evidence that demands a verdict." Yet, likely, the evidence will not even get a serious hearing given the nature of self-righteous and closed human minds in the grip of fear.
VATICAN CITY, 11 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Today, as is the tradition on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Pope administered the Sacrament of Baptism to thirteen newborn infants in the Sistine Chapel.
In his homily the Holy Father described Baptism as "the bridge God built between Himself and us, the path by which He makes Himself accessible to us. It is the divine rainbow of our life, the promise of God's great 'yes', the doorway of hope and, at the same time, the sign indicating the way to follow, actively and joyfully, in order to meet Him and to feel we are loved by Him".
Through Baptism, he said, "we give back to God that which came from Him. A child is not the property of its parents, but is freely ... entrusted to their responsibility by the Creator that they may help it become a free child of God. Only if parents achieve such an understanding can they strike the right balance between the desire to dispose of their children as if they were a personal possession, forming them on the basis of their own ideas and desires, and a libertarian attitude expressed in allowing children to grow up in complete autonomy satisfying their every desire and aspiration in the belief that this is a way to cultivate their personality.
"Although with this Sacrament", he added, "the newly-baptised become adoptive children of God, object of His infinite love which protects them and defends them from the dark forces of evil, it is still necessary to teach them to recognise God as their Father and to behave towards him as children".
When "children are baptised, introducing them into the light of God and of His teachings", the Holy Father explained, "they are subject to no violence, rather they are given the richness of divine life in which the true freedom of children of God is rooted; a freedom which then has to be educated and formed over the years, that they may become capable of making responsible individual decisions".
Turning to address godparents, the Pope said: "Be aware of the gift you have received and ceaselessly thank the Lord Who, with today's Sacrament, introduces your children into a new family, larger and more stable, more open and numerous than your own: I am referring to the family of believers, the Church, a family that has God for Father and in which all consider themselves as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
"Today, then, you entrust your children to the goodness of God Who is power of light and love; and they, though amidst the difficulties of life, will never feel abandoned if they remain united to Him. Ensure", he concluded, you educate them in faith, teaching them to pray and to grow as Jesus did and, with His help, 'increasing in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour'".
Blogger comment: Yes, ultimately, "our" children do not really belong to us: they belong to the Creator. That is why when I pray over my children I sometimes say words to this effect: "Lord, this child is really yours. Take care of him and help him. I am simply the steward of Your child." Notice the two ways of viewing children as described by the Pope: the "possessive" way in which some parents seek to live vicariously through the educational, athletic, or other achievements of their children, sometimes at the expense of the happiness and healthy personality development of the children; and the "libertarian" way which, in effect, delivers so many young people into the hands of the forces of darkness. I even recall hearing this story of how one "mother" simply told her young daughter: don't get pregnant and bring a child to this economically stressed household. That was it. No education or advice on chastity or sexual morality or on the true road to happiness in relations with males or on the urgent and crucial goal of saving oneself for a future husband. The end result for this young person was utterly disastrous. The daughter obediently and efficiently contracepted her way through a multitude of sexual relationships with males that resulted in tremendous emotional damage to her and others.