IS THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY
Introduction by Kiko and Carmen
The Lord has called us to live a way of conversion, through which we are coming to
discover the immense riches of our faith in a post-baptismal catechumenate. During this
catechumenate, gradually, stage by stage, step by step, we are descending to the waters of
eternal regeneration, so that the baptism the Church has conferred on us in the past, may
by our adherence to it, become a sacrament of salvation, good news for all men. Through
the Neocatechumenate, a way of Christian initiation that develops a pastoral work of
evangelization for adults is opened up at the center of the parish, This evangelization is
bringing to a living faith many of our brothers and sisters who today live a Christianity
of habit, and is giving to many people submerged in a secularized world the possibility of
meeting Our Lord Jesus Christ through Christian communities which live their faith at an
adult level: of love in the dimension of the cross and perfect unity.
How the Neocatechumenal Communities came
To our astonishment, we witnessed a word which,
taking flesh among these poor people who welcomed it with joy, brought to birth a
community in prayer and a surprising liturgy as the response of all these brothers, laden
with sins, who blessed the Lord for having remembered them. So, in the space of three
years, we saw appearing before our eyes a tripod on which would be based the Way that the
Lord was creating: the embryo of a Catechumenate, in a Church where fraternal communion
was coming into being, in which love took on a dimension which surprised everyone: the
dimension of the cross where one dies for the enemy.
This love, made visible in a small community,
was the sign which called to faith many people whose lives were far from the Church. The
result was that the parish priests of St. Frontis in Zamora and of Christ the King in
Madrid invited us to bring to their parishes the experience of the catechesis they had
observed. To our surprise, even in these parishes where the social environment was quite
different from that of the shanty town, we saw how communities on a way towards conversion
were born after the announcement of the kerygma and two months of catechesis.
When the Archbishop of Madrid at that time, the
Most Rev. Mgr. Casimiro Morcillo, came into contact with this reality, he supported it
enthusiastically, and he himself sent us to the parishes who wished to begin the
experience, while urging us to act in union with the parish priest. This experience spread
rapidly in Madrid and other Spanish dioceses.
In 1968, we were invited to come to Rome,
bearing a letter from the Archbishop of Madrid for Cardinal Dell'Acqua, then Vicar or
Rome, and we began the same catechesis in the parish of Canadian Martyrs. It then spread
throughout the diocese, through the preaching of catechists elected by the first
communities, and in many other countries, in all the continents, including the missionary
Very soon requests from parish priests in other
dioceses gave rise to the charisma of itinerant catechists. They leave their own
communities for a certain time, and make themselves available to take the Neocatechumenate
to the dioceses who ask for it.
Many teams of itinerant catechists, after an experience of evangelization in their own
country, have been called by the Lord to open the way in other nations, from whom numerous
requests have come - from bishops and parish priests - particularly since 1972 onward.
One of the greatest experiences we have today,
and one for which we bless the Lord, is to see how God allows us to announce the Gospel in
so many parts of the world. And not only do we proclaim the kerygma, but a community-based
way for the gestation of faith appears, through which, with time, the parish can pass from
pastoral work concentrated on the sacraments to one of evangelization.
A concrete way of Evangelizing those who are
The Neocatechumenal Way is lived out within the
existing structure of the parish, and in communion with the bishop, in small communities
each composed of people who are different in age, social status, outlook and culture. It
is not a group formed spontaneously, neither is it an association, nor a spiritual
movement, nor an elite within the parish. Rather, it is a group of people who wish to
rediscover and to live Christian life to the full; to live the essential consequences of
their Baptism, by means of a Neocatechumenate divided into different stages, like that of
the early Church, but adapted to their condition as baptized persons. As a consequence,
these communities have the mission of being, at the center of the parish, the sign and
sacrament of the missionary Church (Synod of Bishops); of opening a concrete way of
evangelizing the `far- away', by giving - in the measure to which faith has been developed
- the signs that call pagans to conversions; that is love in the dimension of the cross,
and unity. `Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this love you
have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.' (John 12, 34-35).
`May they all be one. Father, may they all be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.' (John 17, 21).
Bringing the Council to the parishes
In the light of the 2nd Vatican Ecumenical
Council, the Neocatechumenal Communities seemed to us a concrete way of rebuilding the
Church in the form of small communities which are the visible body of the risen Christ in
the world. They do not impose themselves; they consider it a duty not to destroy anything,
but to respect everything. They present themselves as the fruit of a Church in renewal,
one which tells its Fathers that they have been fruitful, for the communities have been
born of them.
Charismas and ministries
Where the experience develops, one catches a
glimpse of a new structure for the local Church, formed of small Christian communities
like an organic body which, in the measure in which faith blossoms within her, brings
charismas to maturity and requires ministries to help, to serve and to make such a renewal
possible, since they are the means willed by God to make his Church grow constantly (Eph
4:11; I Cor 12). So we are seeing the charismas which make the complete Christ present;
Christ the Apostle, the Prophet, the Deacon, the Pastor, the Teacher, faithful to the
Father, united with his Church, compassionate towards all who suffer, etc. And these
charismas appear in every community: in the presbyter, in the responsibles (for whom we
have requested the diaconate), in the itinerant and local catechists, in the virgins,
widows, married couples, etc).
The Spirit of the Way
The primary objective aimed at in this
Neocatechumenate or initiation to the faith is the formation of the community. The latter,
at first, is very imperfect, for it is always conditioned by the adherence of the
individual to the Word. Then, little by little, our own defects come to our aid, obliging
us to constantly rethink our faith. Our inability to love others, that is, to accept what
destroys us in them, namely their faults, raises a great question mark for us. To love
begins to appear like the destruction of our self, that is, of what is our security. To
love means to die, and our tragedy is that we do not want to die. To love the other when
he is different from me will always mean a leap in the dark, it will mean to have overcome
The second chapter of the letter to the Hebrews
(Heb 2, 14f), says that all his life man is enslaved to evil and the devil because of his
fear of death: for this reason Jesus Christ has come `to destroy through death the lord of
death, the devil, and to set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives
by the fear of death.' (Hebrews 2, 14f)
If to love means really to transcend ourselves
totally in the other, that is, to die to our self (and all of us are subjected to the
devil during our lives because we are afraid of death), it is clear that if death has not
been overcome in us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we cannot love. What then will
the sign be that we have risen with Christ? A love over and above death, love in the
dimension of the cross, love for the enemy, `as I have loved you.' (Jn 13:34-35) `By this
love everyone will know that you are my disciples.' This is why it is necessary to be born
from God, to receive through the Holy spirit the new life of Christ risen from the dead.
`We know that we have passed out of death into life, and of this we can be sure because we
love the brothers.' (1 John 3,14).
Where are these communities born?
Where are they born, these communities which
make the Risen Christ present by radiating the love they have gratuitously received? The
answer is: in the parish, which seems the most suitable place for the local Church to
appear as the `sacrament of salvation', without creating a parallel Church, without
destroying anything, gradually taking on the reality of the Church of today and the period
of transition through which she is going.
The mission of the parish
Today, most traditional Christians live their
faith at a childish level as is clearly shown by the divorce between religion and life in
them. Hence the absolute necessity for a serious process of conversion which takes place
in our everyday experience. It is a time, guided by the Word of God and by celebrations of
Penance and the Eucharist, and lived within the concrete framework of a community, to
experience Christ the Saviour, to experience the Kingdom of God which is reaching out to
us, and to experience the joy of peace.
To arrive at this, it is necessary to give
signs of faith in the surrounding situation, signs which make Christ present and credible,
and signs which clearly show the man in the street that Christ loves him to the point of
being ready to free him from his alienation, from his suffering, from death.
`Just as I have loved you, you must also love
one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my
disciples.' ` Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the
world (the man in the street) may believe it was you who sent me.'
The signs of faith call the parish to
conversion. Through the love and unity of these communities the whole parish is called to
conversion so that it can be seen that where these communities have been formed, the
parish has been revolutionised in a positive way. The signs they create around them raise
questions marks and as a result call many people who were far from the Church to enter
similar communities in the parish. In this way, a new parochial structure has begun to
appear; without destroying the existing one, it makes all brothers aware of the absolute
need today for a deepening of the faith.
It is the return to the community, to the people of God of the early Church: communities
in which the signs of love in the dimension of the Cross and of perfect unity act as
yeast, light, and salt, on the surrounding environment. Once again, the cry, `See how they
love one another' arises among men, calling them to conversion.
How the Way begins
When a parish priest wishes to start this
Catechumenal Way in his parish, he contacts parishes in which Neocatechumenal Communities
already exist. Once he is aware of what the way is about, and if he agrees to be involved
in it himself, he asks for catechists to be sent to him. They undertake to begin the
Neocatechumenate, and to guide it in communion with him. The catechists also speak to all
the priests in the parish, presenting to them the necessity of undertaking a pastoral work
of evangelisation in the parish, through a post-baptismal catechumenate. Then they meet
the various parish groups. Finally, they issue an invitation to all the faithful during
Sunday Mass. The team of catechists is made up of a priest who guarantees the orthodoxy
and the ecclesiality of the announcement, a couple, and a young man, who make up a small
community of evangelisation.
First stage: the Kerigma
The first stage is the kerygma, the
proclamation of salvation, which is developed by means of a direct and existential
dialogue, which looks at the impact of Christianity on the lives of the people. The
catecheses are based on a tripod upon which the whole catechumenate will be based:
Once the community has been formed, the second
stage is started; the precatechumenate. This is a period of kenosis in which each of the
brothers tests his faith by walking together with the others, also imperfect and sinners,
in the newness of a concrete community which acts as a mirror, to show each one clearly
his own reality, thus calling them to conversion.
In this labour, the community needs a word to enlighten it about its reality and to help
it. Thus it celebrates the Word of God once a week, on appropriate themes - water, lamb,
bride etc.- as an initiation into the language of the bible. The Sunday Eucharist is
celebrated on Saturday evenings.2 Once a month the sacrament of Penance is celebrated. On
one Sunday every month there is a retreat to give everyone the opportunity to freely talk
about their own experience of the Word, to say how much it has influenced their lives: at
work, in the family, in sexual matters, in social relationships, in connection with money,
After about two years, the catechists who watched over the beginning of the community
return, and in a three day retreat, prepare it for the first scrutiny for the passage to
the catechumenate. In this scrutiny, in the presence of the bishop, the first part of
their Baptism is put before the people, so that they can say `Amen' and so that the grace
that this sacrament conferred on them may grow and work. Thus the door of the
catechumenate is opened to them.
Second stage: the post-baptismal
The catechumenate consists of two periods.
During the first one, the community perseveres with the Word, the Eucharist, and brotherly
communion, experiencing the power of Christ, who leads the Neocatechumens to put God at
the centre of their lives, gradually stripping themselves, but without effort, of all
idols (money, career, affections), while they keep watch, like the virgins waiting for the
bridegroom. After about another year, the catechists return to prepare the scrutiny for
the final entry into the catechumenate, so that if the first scrutiny could be compared to
a door opening, at the second scrutiny the door closes. The catechumens are now initiated
by the catechists into deep and daily individual prayer, with the presentation of the
psalms to them. Then, through the Traditio and Reditio Symboli, they discover how the
Baptism that was once given to them by the Church makes them people who are sent,
witnessing to their faith where they work, in their families, and above all by working in
the parish in an apostolate made explicit in the announcement of the Gospel, two by two,
in the houses of their neighbourhood, and in the work of parish catechesis, etc.
At this stage of the Way, the members of the
community become responsible for transmitting their faith to their children. So three
kinds of meetings take place: one in the family with the participation of the children,
another meeting is in the community, and finally there are meetings of all the parish
communities for the great feasts, like the Passover Vigil. We have discovered that the
greatest joy and the centre of our life is in the celebration of Easter, in a great vigil
which lasts until the rising of the morning star.
After this, the discovery of how baptism makes
us children of God takes place through the rediscovery and the study of the Our Father in
the context of deep and wonderful prayer in which we are taught to cry `Abba, Father!'
Third stage: election and the renewal of the
The period of the post-baptismal catechumenate
leads the Neocatechumens to simplicity, to make themselves small, to abandon themselves to
the will of the Father. This will enable them - always guided by the catechists in close
union with the parish priest - to pass, by means of this abandon, to a spirituality of
praise and thanksgiving. They are then ready to start on the last stage of the way:
election and the renewal of the baptismal promises. So they have passed through the three
fundamental stages of Christian life: humility (precatechumenate), simplicity
(post-baptismal catechumenate) and praise (election and the renewal of baptismal
The Family of Nazareth: image of the
Nicodemus asks Jesus,`How can a man be born
when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' (John
This sentence illustrates the spirit of the
Neocatechumenal Communities: to return to the womb of the church, to go back to our
Mother, the Virgin, so that she may regenerate in us the seed that we carry within us of
baptism, and make it to grow. We call this time of gestation and growth, the
Neocatechumenate. Mary, the image of the Church and of every Christian, receives the
announcement of a joyous good news: the Messiah will be born in you. After she has
accepted these words the holy Spirit covers her with his shadow and begins the gestation
of the new creature: Christ Jesus, who will gradually be formed until the day of his birth
in Bethlehem. Annunciation, gestation, birth and hidden life in the little community of
Nazareth where the child will grow until he reaches the age to undertake the mission that
his Father has entrusted to him: these are the stages through which we ourselves wish to
pass, convinced that, through them, the Church can be renewed, in order to give an answer
to the new times and serve the modern world.
Christ, who has been constituted by God
life-giving spirit, the first-born of a new creation, makes his work of salvation
accessible to the world in the Koinonia, in the Agape of a people resurrected by him in a
Church, a community of men who love one another, because of the Spirit shed over them,
that is, the Holy Spirit.
The Neocatechumenate presents itself as a
period of gestation, in the womb of the Church. In these people who, like Mary, say their
`Amen' to the annunciation of the Saviour, the Word begins to generate a new creation, the
work of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is presented as a Mother who begets,
gives birth, and brings up her children until they reach the stature of the new man of
whom St Paul says, `It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me.' (Gal 2:20)
And this community, in which Christ makes himself visible, lives in humility, simplicity
and praise, like the Holy Family of Nazareth, aware that it has a task to carry out: to
give Christ time to grow in it in order to carry out the mission entrusted to him by God,
the mission of the Servant of Yahweh.