The author of this article is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan and serves as Diocesan Assistant to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo of the Movement of Communion and Liberation. Beginning from his own experience, he presents the principal points of the evangelization which this Movement accomplishes.
Evangelization is a fundamental issue for the life of the Church in as much as it is her very raison d’être. So for some time now we have heard a lot about a “new” evangelization. Some prefer to speak of a “first evangelization” meaning by that, starting again from proclamation of fundamental truths. But I think it’s necessary to re-affirm that evangelization has to respect God’s method – the encounter with humanity begun with Abraham’s calling. Today too before demanding moral behaviour, we need to show the face of God in the Advent of Christ.
‘Like those pilgrims of two thousand years ago, the men and women of our own day — often perhaps unconsciously — ask believers not only to "speak" of Christ, but in a certain sense to "show" him to them. And is it not the Church's task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium?’.
Theophilus of Alexandria said: “Show me your humanity and I’ll tell you who your God is.” When I look back over my thirty years of priesthood I remember how I used to preach in the first years after ordination. It was much more moral preaching than proclamation of the Event of Christ. I used to “wear out” my listeners, but I didn’t describe for them the contents, the method with which God saved the world. I presupposed and took for granted, at least methodologically, the dogmatic contents of Christianity, its ontology. I presupposed the event of faith.
Today too in the Church there’s a prevalence of ethics over ontology and this leads to a confusion between religion and faith. This ambiguity touches also the question of the New Evangelization. In some ways, the modern consciousness is more open to the question of meaning and this prepares the ground for the “New” Evangelization. But this position is still not Christian faith.
Christian faith is an act of the reason moved by the Spirit and it accompanies us in recognising and adhering to Christ who is present in history as the redeemer of all. Redemptor Hominis says: “The Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the cosmos and history”.
Christ is the new principle of knowledge and action. The contents of evangelization is an issue of knowledge. The Gospel speaks of conversion of the heart in a biblical sense. Too much preaching dwells on ethical appeals to duty, looking for convergences on values held in common. But Christianity cannot be reduced to a programme of moral living.
The beauty that’ll save the world – to use the famous expression of the Russian writer – is the novelty of the Event of Christ. Evangelization, understood as the proclamation of this Event, renders human life new. And this is the sense in which I speak of “New” Evangelization.
The Roman rector, Mario Vittorino, used to say: “When I met Christ I discovered my humanity”. “To say that man is saved means that he recognises who he is; he recognises his destiny and he knows how to take steps towards this” (Giussani).
This is also the basis for true ecumenism. Nothing is excluded from this positive embrace of Christ the Redeemer. Ecumenism is the Christian view of all of reality. It’s a life for the truth that is present, perhaps even fragmentarily, in anyone.
More than 25 years ago I met the Communion and Liberation Movement. I felt I was “re-baptised”. Personally I had been quite opposed to the Movement because I was quite attracted by Liberation Theology. But what I had fought against became my people.
Although expelled from school for being a subversive, and although having been invited to resign from directorship of a diocesan weekly newspaper, the Good Lord, through Cardinal Martini and Don Giussani, has wanted me to become diocesan assistant to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation while also being parish pastor in a parish in the suburbs of Milan.
This encounter continues in the form of belonging to a fraternity which for me is the bosom of authentic freedom. It’s not some kind of belonging to a group, but rather a home where it is possible to welcome and share each one’s journey. And every day I repeat with the psalmist: “Reveal to us the mystery of man and fill his desire for liberation”.
It’s a cry that remains; it’s a question that keeps us awake. Meeting with the Movement has changed my own self-consciousness more than my idea of God. The goal of our Movement is that of helping each other to mature in faith so that we become active collaborators in the will of God, faithful to the task to which he has called us.
Through grace we become communicators of this Event that has touched us, creating a Movement that displays the usefulness and creativity of faith in daily living. Faith tends to enter all of life since it is the form of the person, the form of his self-expression. And this for me is the New Evangelization!
On the unforgettable day of May 30, 1998, the Pope pointed to the Movements as the providential response to the dramatic challenges of the new millennium. The response came from the Holy Spirit.
Ecclesial Movements represent visible expressions of the Church’s New Evangelization because they are the fruit of the untiring genius of the Spirit of God. They appear as a charismatic outpouring that, together with many other ecclesial experiences, respond to the need, very much felt today, of a re-centering, a re-foundation and re-vitalisation of the Christian experience.
“I think it is marvellous – as Card. Ratzinger has written in reference of the Ecclesial Movements – that the Spirit is once again stronger than our programmes and puts value on things that are very different to what we had imagined.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar spoke of charisms given in the form of a “bunch.” In using this image he wanted to highlight the inter-communication of graces. This doesn’t mean forming some kind of “movement-like block” in the Church. Rather it means recognising what the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: “In their diversity and complementarity, charisms co-operate for the common good.” The common good is expressed in unity around the Pope and Bishops in communion with the Pope.
For this to happen we need to mature in the spirituality of communion as Novo millennio ineunte (n.43) points out. It means desiring to bring about Jesus’ prayer for unity of all his disciples: “that all may be one, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17: 15-18).
What happened on 30 May, 1998 in St. Peter’s Square has remained very much in our memory and the witness to unity, the unity of all the Church, has been entrusted to the care of each one of us.
After that unforgettable day, Don Giussani said: “We exist for the Church. We are builders of the Church… and this responsibility is carried out inasmuch as we communicate with others as responsibility. This is true with regard to the whole Church and so for the whole Movement”.
The world can always attack the behaviour of Christians, especially when marked by fragility and weakness. Let us not forget, however, that the world often attacks error, but in truth it cannot bear the origin of our presence in the world, an origin that cannot be reduced to any form of power.
I would like to conclude with some words from Don Giussani. They are full of realism and hope: “Without recognising the presence of the Mystery, the night advances, confusion advances and – at the level of freedom – rebellion advances. Disillusion reaches such a point that it is as if nothing more is expected and so people live without wanting anything more. But from the mystery of the resurrection of Christ a new light invades the world and contends inch by inch with the darkened earth.”
“Come, Holy Spirit. Come through Mary. Our Lady is the most powerfully human and persuasive touch of all God’s action on man” (L. Giussani).
May she help us, as mother of the Church, to have an experience of a deep communion, one that generates a new missionary impetus, in other words, a New Evangelization.
At the beginning of this new millennium, the Ecclesial Movements are not called to an almost self pre-occupation with the Church, but rather to render present in all aspects of human life the presence of the Lord who saves. This evangelization will then be seen as the truest and most perfect human development.