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Calling the Ecclesial Movements: Pope Francis Encourages Focolare, all the Movements, So Do We!
By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 4th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
We welcome the members and leaders of all of the ecclesial movements who love the Lord and his Church - and are responding to the call to be laborers in the Vineyard in this hour. Consider Catholic Online as a friendly mission stop, a place where you can spread your message and be strengthened and encouraged. Consider Catholic Online a place where you can find food and resources for your work in the Vineyard of the Lord and share your story with an ever expanding global community.VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On February 27, 2014, Pope Francis held a special meeting with Bishops who are friends of the Focolare movement. They were attending meetings in Castel Gandolfo for the 37th international meeting of the movement. The theme was "Reciprocity of love between the disciples of Christ.".
As he has done in the past, not only with Focolare but with other ecclesial movements, Pope Francis affirmed the movement. He encouraged his brother Bishops to pastor the work and "bring to these meetings the wide-ranging breath of the Church." He asked them to ensure that all of the efforts of the movement are "for the benefit of the whole church."
He noted, Today's society has a great need for the witness of an lifestyle which displays the novelty of that commandment to love one another, given to us by Christ: brothers who love each other despite the differences in character, provenance or age. .. This witness gives rise to the desire to be involved in the great parable of communion that is the Church.
Then, picking up on the theme of the gathering of the movement, Pope Francis recalled the words of John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (The Beginning of the Third Millennium) :
To make the Church the home and the school of communion' is truly fundamental for the efficacy of every commitment to evangelization, inasmuch as it reveals the deepest yearning of the Father: that all His sons live as brothers; and it reveals the will of Christ, that 'that all of them may be one'; and it reveals the dynamism of the Holy Spirit, its free and liberating force of attraction. Cultivating the spirituality of communion also contributes to making us more able to walk the path of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
Also in Novo Millennio Ineunte,released for the year 2000, Blessed John Paul wrote, Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16).
The approach demonstrated by Francis in his address to the Bishops friendly to Focolare follows along the path taken by his two predecessors in the Chair of Peter, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, encourage and pastor. All three Popes are not only favorably disposed to Focolare but to all of the movements collectively referred to as ecclesial movements, meaning of the Church. They do not see them as problem but a blessing of the Holy Spirit and a vital resource.
The Popes have seen these movements as a tremendous missionary resource for the Church in accomplishing the task of the New Evangelization that is so needed within the Church. So should we.
Blessed John Paul II coined the phrase "New Evangelization" Among the many places he it was used was his 1990 Encyclical Letter entitled "Mission of the Redeemer." He wrote, God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
He made the distinction, now often repeated by his successors, between the New Evangelization, which is directed within, renewing the Catholic faithful, and the mission ad gentes or to the Nations. He also bluntly wrote, it is painfully clear that many Catholics (and other Christians) have not been effectively incorporated into life in Christ. Baptized as infants many have never made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As adolescents and adults many drift away from the Church. Evangelization must be directed to the Church itself.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI continually called for this "New Evangelization". It was a central pillar of his pontificate and a lens through which we can understand his teaching Magisterium. He erected a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization tasked with evangelizing countries where the Gospel was announced centuries ago, but where its presence in peoples' daily life seems to be all but lost.
The New Evangelization calls for an authentic renewal by bringing Catholics in the pews into a life changing encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. This makes it possible for them to come understand their vital role in the mission of the Church. The movements are a wonderful vehicle for bringing people into such an encounter and rooting them in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. If - they are properly welcomed and pastored.
This encounter with the Risen Lord must happen if the Church in this age hopes to undertake a new missionary outreach to a world steeped in darkness and waiting to be reborn. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical mission to the Nations. We are the "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5) of the Church. We are members of Christ's Body. (1 Cor. 12:27)
In his encyclical letter, God is Love (Deus Caritas Est) Benedict wrote: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." This emphasis on the necessity of encountering Jesus Christ was central to Pope Benedict's message, mission and apostolic ministry.
It is the beating heart of this man who now serves in the Chair of Peter, this humble poor man who took the name Francis as a prophetic sign. Francis often repeats that very line of his friend Benedict. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Pope Francis is a Pope of the New Evangelization, in both word and deed. His apostolic exhortation, the Gospel of Joy, or Joy of the Gospel is a manual for the New Evangelization.
John Paul, Benedict and Francis have all used the language of encounter in speaking of Christianity. They all affirm that we need to encounter the Lord, to truly encounter Him, in order to be converted. We need to be re-catechized - and experience afresh the grace that comes from the Sacraments in order to grow into His likeness.
On May 21, 2013, Pope Francis addressed a massive crowd which included the leaders of ecclesial movements. It was Pentecost Sunday and he told them: The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission.
The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone.
As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever" (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the "Comforter", who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?
Pope Francis sees these movements collectively as one of the missionary resources of the Catholic Church in her work of reaching out to this neo-pagan age with the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this moment in history. He views this time in which we live as a new missionary age.
He is a good pastor, who wants to ensure that the members of these ecclesial movements do not fall prey to the temptation faced by enthusiastic movements, to turn inward and become, to use one of his favorite words of warning to the whole Church, self-referential.
Over the last few pontificates, the term ecclesial movements has become the term used to refer to the many movements within the Catholic Church which demonstrate that the Spirit of Pentecost is alive and well.We should all begin to use it as well.It focuses us on the Lord and His Church, even if we participate in a particular movement. Movements come and go, the Church endures.
Though each movement may have a unique charism and mission, they all invite Christians into a personal relationship, an encounter, with the Lord Jesus Christ. They all proclaim that Jesus Christ is no longer dead but has been raised from the dead and is still alive in our midst in the Church which He founded. The last three Popes have used the language of encounter, emphasizing that encountering the Lord personally brings the faith alive!
These ecclesial movements are 'evangelical' in the fullest sense of the word. They all call men and women into an encounter with Jesus Christ which awakens the grace of Baptism within them and changes them. They invite the men and women of this age to experience the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit which the Lord promised, right here and now.
Then, all who experience such an encounter with the the Risen Christ are invited to find their home in the Heart of His Church. From that base of operation they are enlisted into a mission in the world, to take their place in the ongoing redemptive mission of the Lord.
The last conference for ecclesial movements in Rome exceeded over 120,000 representatives. There were representatives from over 150 ecclesial movements in attendance, reflecting their growing diversity and numbers.
The Successor of Peter hopes to unite them - and the entire Church - in the one mission of the Church in this urgent hour. He is issuing a call for laborers in the vineyard. Are we hearing the call? Are we responding?
We want to promote all of the ecclesial movements on Catholic Online. We believe they are a work of the Holy Spirit for our time. They are a sign that the Holy Spirit continues to be poured out upon the Church; that Pentecost, and the grace which it brings to the whole Church, is still happening.
We once again issue a call to leaders and representatives of the ecclesial movements to write and tell us of your work, share your way of life and spread the good news of what the Lord is doing in and though your movement.
You may write to Deacon Keith Fournier at email@example.com.
On the first Pentecost the early followers of Jesus gathered as their Lord commanded them, expecting the fulfillment of the promise he had made. We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church for good reason. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them. They were filled with the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead and animated by that Spirit for mission.
The Holy Spirit capacitated those early Christians to carry forward in time the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ. He continues to capacitate all of those who bear His name to do the same in this age. he calls us to continue that same mission until he returns to complete the work of redemption. The Holy Spirit capacitates you and me in the same way and for the same task. We are all laborers in the Vineyard.
We welcome the members and leaders of all of the ecclesial movements who love the Lord and his Church - and are responding to the call to be laborers in the Vineyard in this hour. Consider Catholic Online as a friendly mission stop, a place where you can spread your message and be strengthened and encouraged. Consider Catholic Online a place where you can find food and resources for your work in the Vineyard of the Lord and share your story with an ever expanding global community.
Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)