INFORMATION ABOUT THE POPULAR MISSIONS PROMOTED BY THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY

(BRIEF NOTE PREPARED BY THE ITENERANT TEAM OF POLAND AFTER THE REQUEST OF THE POLISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE)

“Above all the great fruit of this Way is the missionary impulse.  I understand, with great joy, that the words addressed by me to the youth present in Denver have found an echo in you.  I said then :  “It is you are not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rm. 1,16).  It is time to preach it from the rooftops  (Cfr. Mt. 10,27).”  (Homily of the Holy Mass at the World Youth Day in Denver, Aug. 15, 1993).  For this reason preparing yourselves for great popular missions meant particularly for those people who have left the Church or do not know it yet.  I wish that initiative of announcing the Gospel on the streets, done in full agreement with the local Bishops, may lead to abundant fruits everywhere  (Discourse of the Holy Father John Paul II to 350 itinerant catechists, responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way in 94 countries, received in audience in the Clementine Room on Jan. 17, 1994).

In the diocese of Rome, in January 1994, it has been agreed with the Vicar General, Cardinal Ruini, to start this experience in 15 parishes, 3 for each sector of the diocese.  But soon other dioceses followed up all over Italy (Naples, Trieste, Bari, etc.), in Spain and throughout the world.  In the region of Lazio alone there are 200 parishes waiting to start, and all over Italy more than 1,000 parishes that do not have the Neocatechumenal Way have asked to start the mission. 

“It is not a matter of proselytizing but of “showing the way of life,” said John Paul II to the youth present in Denver, and continuing by saying, “Christ needs you to enlighten the world...there are no more things which are intrinsically good...the rights are affirmed but since they do not have any reference to an objective truth, they are deprived of every solid basis.  Wide sectors of society are confused... it is the family, most of all, to be attacked... the weakest members of society are those more at risk...

With these words the Pope has made himself interpreter of the uneasiness of contemporary society.  The violence ever more spread, especially among the young people, the lack of moral sense, the crisis of the family, the scandals, are things before the eyes of everybody.

Exactly today that our streets and our homes are assaulted by a cacophony of voices which confuse people inviting them to sects, cults, superstitions - which so often are a deceit or a jump into irrationality - it is much more urgent the necessity of listening to the voice of the Church.  This is true especially in front of the daily bombarding of TV and other mass-media - cinemas, newspapers, etc. - which present models dissimilar from the Christian ones.

The novelty of this initiative does not lie so much in the fact of going in the streets - which is an ancient practice of the missionaries - but in the fact of riproposing in our days popular missions suggested by a people formed by families, young people and adults - and which the Holy Father has acknowledged as a valid witness of this  news (Cfr. Letter of the Holy Father John Paul II to Monsignor Cordes, Aug. 30, 1990)

However, the invitation of the Holy Father not to be ashamed of the Gospel and to announce it on the streets and from the rooftops, underlines the necessity of a presence on the street of our cities of the Catholic Church : a testimony which goes beyond immediate fruits, which has the power to sow God’s Word in the heart of the people, being aware that God wanted to save humanity through the foolishness of the preaching.

The mission is addressed primarily to the far away and in its first stage tries to contact, if possible, all the people living in the territory of the parish in order to announce to them the Good News of the love of God in Christ Jesus, who with his death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, received through the preaching and the sacraments, allows man to receive the forgiveness if sins and to start a new life.

Obviously the mission is started only where the Pastor has asked for it and after having obtained the permission of the Ordinary.

The mission is lead by a team of catechists of the Neocatechumenal communities in which there is always a presbyter and it is accompanied by the brothers and sisters of two or three communities (around 100 people).  After having taken contact with all the realities present  in the parish (in Italy for example : Pastoral Council, Scouts, Catholic Action, Legion of Mary, etc.) in order to present to them the mission and to ask for their collaboration, the first stage of the mission takes place.

First Stage :  Mission on the streets

The brothers and sisters of the Neocatechumenal communities are involved in this stage together with all the parishioners who have adhered actively to this initiative.  It lasts 15-30 days; all the brothers and sisters, divided into different groups, go to invite to the mission the people, their relatives, and those who have more need to have a meeting with Jesus Christ: in the homes, in the schools (asking permission of the principals to speak to the students), in the shops, in the hospitals, but first of all on the streets.  The brothers and sisters gather in various places of the parish (for example, in front of the market places) with a banner which makes present the mission and the icon of the Virgin Mary and sing psalms accompanying themselves with guitars, until some people start gathering around them.  At this point they read a Gospel and a brother/sister, starting from his personal experience, announces the Kerygma while the other brothers and sisters distribute flyers with the invitation to the mission, dialoguing with them.  In Italy the young people have gone to announce Jesus Christ also in the discos.  The owner has stopped the music for around an hour in order to allow them to announce the Kerygma and to invite the youth to the mission.

Second Stage : Mission in the Parish

It starts with a procession lead solemnly by an image of the Virgin Mary particularly venerated in that diocese or parish.  The procession ends in the church, with the first meeting.  The mission is formed by a series of 15 meeting developed in 3 parts :  the first part focused on the announcement of the Kerygma, calling the people to conversion and preparing the celebration of the sacrament of penance with individual confessions; the second part is the introduction to the History of Salvation, to Scripture, and finishes with a celebration of the Word of God where the Bible is handed over to the people by the Ordinary or by his representative.  The mission is concluded with the third part when some catecheses on the sacraments are delivered and a solemn celebration of the Eucharist.  During this third part, the pastoral realities of the parish are shown and inviting  people to participate in them.

Third Stage : After the Mission

Being aware that the fruits of the mission may  be lost in a society which is always more dechristianized and pluralistic, we see that an “after mission” is needed.  Exactly for this, to the ones most far away and to those who desire to rediscover their faith it is offered the possibility of starting a Christian Initiation, such as the Neocatechumenal Way, inviting them to a convivence (retreat of 3 days).  To the other people, that in Italy very often has formed the majority of the people attending the mission, it has been offered by the Pastor or by the responsibles of the different realities and activities of the parish, the possibility to take part in them.  To all is renewed the invitation to start anew with zeal both the Christian and parochial life.

Throughout all the mission it is made present that, give the aggressiveness of contemporary society, it is necessary to live out our faith in an always more involved, deep and communitarian way, where the Holy Spirit, which is the great “Gift of God,” which is the guarantee of Eternal Life and that makes of our life a joy of communion with God and with others, which helps us to love the other person even if he is a sinner: “As Christ loved us,” enlightens the facts which happen to us, may live and act in us without being saddened and expelled because of our sin.  There is necessity, then, of an always greater help within the Church.