Speech of H. E. Monsignor Joseph Marciante
Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rome
at the fourth National Convention of the Apostolic Movement
On the theme:
“The evangelizing mission of the Apostolic Movement and the New Evangelization”
Rome, December 2, 2009 – Auditorium Conciliazione
I accepted heartily the invitation also to say thank you to the Apostolic Movement, because, it really has been a strong, even if silent, humble and discreet presence in my St. Roman Martyr parish; so I could not but come to this meeting and also offer you my word; it is my way to tell it tonight, thanks.
The Apostolic Movement, you heard it, was founded by an inspiration delivered to Mrs. Maria Marino, at the end of the seventies. I like the word inspiration, not in the sense of a product, fruit of a personal idea, but in the sense of an inspiration of the Spirit, which has the characteristics of a vocation and a mission.
The mission is of “reminding the Gospel of Jesus that the world has forgotten” and thus opening the way of salvation through conversion. I like to make derive the word remind from the Latin recall Recordare derived from cor, the heart, because to the Romans the memory resided in the heart; and therefore, reminding mans returning to the heart. I think the Gospel only through the heart, and then we will see the meaning of this word, only through the heart can transform a person’s life.
In the New Testament, often the recall is related to the announcement, to the witness. For us, the disciples of Jesus, the memory is linked to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to remind, making it alive the gift of the Spirit in order not to feel ashamed of the testimony to give to our Lord. Therefore, the mission triggers a movement. The definition of this mission as a movement, not only sets a new ecclesial entity but well expresses the idea of a Church on the move for a new evangelization. The movement then is apostolic in the first meaning of mandated, sent to announce, but also in the sense of grounded in the teaching of the Apostles; therefore in full ecclesial communion with the apostolic succession with the Pope and the Bishops.
When Monsignor Di Bruno, read some dates, that of November 3, 1979, the birth of the Apostolic Movement and that of 1978, the election of Pope John Paul II, I saw a link, a truly extraordinary plan. But before that, December 8, 1975 Pope Paul VI signed the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangeli nunzianti” to give results to the objectives of Vatican II and that the Pope himself summed up in the task of making the Church better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the humanity of the twentieth century. From here, the renewed appeals of John Paul II for a new evangelization in the countries of ancient Christianity, especially Europe and the Americas, affected by indifference, secularism and atheism, etc..
We can consider the Apostolic Letter “New Millennium Ineunte” of January 6th 2001, the Magna Carta of the new evangelization. That is what the Pope says in n. 40: in recent years I have so often repeated the appeal of the new evangelization, I underline it now, especially, to indicate that we must rekindle in us the impetus of the beginnings, letting ourselves be permeated by the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost”. We must revive in us the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I did not preach the Gospel.” The Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa” of 28 June 2003, is an explicit heartfelt call to re-evangelize the old continent. Listen to this cry of the Pope “Church in Europe, the new evangelization is the task set before you.”
In various parts of Europe, there is the need of a first proclamation of the Gospel, because the number of children, families, of Christian traditions, who have not received baptism increases, and also for the significant presence of other religions. Therefore, next to a new evangelization, today a first proclamation of the Gospel should be set. Everywhere, there is a need for a renewed proclamation for those who are baptized: here is the new evangelization. Many Europeans, the number 47 Ecclesia in Europe says, many contemporary Europeans think they know what Christianity is, but they do not really know it. Often, even the elements, the same fundamentals of the faith are no longer known. Many of the baptized live as if Christ did not exist; the gestures and signs of the faith are repeated, especially through the practice of worship, but they are not corresponded by a real acceptance of the contents of faith and an adherence to the person of Jesus.
In my opinion, here lies the heart of the new evangelization, to the great certainties of the faith, in many a vague or a little demanding religious sentiment has succeeded; various forms of agnosticism and practical atheism that serve to widen the gap between faith and life are spread. Several people let themselves be affected by the spirit of an immanent humanism, which has weakened the faith, leading them often, unfortunately, to abandon it completely.
This abandonment even today is militant; we are witnessing a sort of secularist interpretation of the Christian faith that erodes it and to which a deep crisis of the conscience and the Christian moral practice are linked. Pope Benedict XVI several times in his speeches revives the new evangelization, a well-known theme as evidenced in a speech given when he was still a Cardinal, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one the occasion of the catechist and religion teacher convention during the great jubilee, 10 December 2000, on this speech I shall return later on.
The three encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritatis in Veritate, are an example of new evangelization. In fact, in my opinion the Pope uses an extraordinary method, which is the method of the new evangelization. First, he collects the questions, he collects criticisms, develops them in the current historical and cultural context, answers with the proposal of the faith recalling the tradition, the roots and I would say above all the witnesses. Above all, Benedict XVI exhorts us to the coherence and to a permanent education for an authentic reform of our lives, so that the new evangelization is not simply just a catchy slogan, but is translated into reality; this interesting speech was made at the hearing in Castel Gandolfo, 19 August 2009.
I am now proposing you a reflection, contemplating them as some disciples of Emmaus, where we can see a style of evangelization attentive of the person. While they were talking and discussing together, the evangelist Luke says, “Jesus himself drew near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him and he said to them: What is this conversation you two are you holding along the way?, they stopped looking sad.”
Following the example of Jesus you need to know how to approach the men of today, walking with them and listening to what is in their hearts. The first task of the new evangelization in my opinion, is not to immediately provide answers, but to listen, to know how to listen to the questions, giving attention to the other. An attitude of listening, which means understanding the issues that a culture asks itself, also means to no longer be strangers to the other, to his culture; but bringing oneself inside the life, the issue of culture, the joys and anxieties of others; this way nothing becomes extraneous, but everything belongs to us.
Thinking about the dialogue between the two disciples of Emmaus, it seems to me to recognize also the dialogue of the so called postmodern man, where in this dialogue, first of all, not the sheep, but the person got lost. I think this is a key issue for entering into a dialogue with the world of today, in order to be able to give a new message, a new announcement. In fact, at this time, at the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era, the Church is called to understand the crisis of this modernity and to seize the background elements and enter the labor of the so-called post-modernity. We are in a certain sense, we are witnessing the displacement of the Western man; a deep sense of loss seems to have taken possession of man especially the European one. He looks like a shipwrecked man, completely abandoned to the fruits of the present and confused about the future. The loss leads to the renunciation of the reflection of the very rationality of the reaction and above all of the assumption of responsibility. At this point I quote an art critic Anselm Admeier, who makes a really interesting analysis through art and sees art as a forerunner of the modern cultural movements, calling precisely this possibility a prophetic function of art. The art itself has a prophetic function in the sense that the new in art anticipates the cultural changes. In art, the soul of an age never puts on a mask; in fact, it reaches to the heart of life and reveals its mysteries. Art moves away from the center, this historian says. Art moves away from man, humanity, from the right measure and the symptoms are registered especially in the new, in the address provided by the succession of new dominant themes that find in the total disturbance their diagnosis.
Let us see what is troubled in art. The relationship of man with God is troubled, man’s relationship with himself, with his fellow man, with time and finally with the spiritual sphere. The innermost core of this perturbation lies in the separation between God and man; and in the proclamation of the autonomous man. Maybe we heard this parable, it is very old, in some respects, but that is what an acute analysis of the historic says: the mediation between God and man is missing, that is, faith in man as God’s image is lacking, without which the idea of man cannot continue to exist. The perturbation designated as loss of the center can be sought in the loss of the mediator between man and God. Man closing up toward heaven opens up to all but all also reject him as an alien; nature and history also shirk his dominion because they die. The fight against loneliness becomes man’s hell where the ghosts of his existential anguish emerge and the outcome of this struggle is the atomization of man who becomes more and more an island.
The topic of the crisis of modernity is today the object of debate, both in the theological an in the philosophical, sociological and anthropological fields. Each of these disciplines with its own specific method, tries to give an interpretation, at the same time searches for the causes of the crisis and tries to predict its possible developments especially after the fall of the strong regimes and of the optimism towards the region of unlimited progress. Postmodernism does not have yet the ability to formulate new contents and new values but expresses in some respects awareness of the limits of modernity. The crisis of the great ideologies, of cultural certainties led to give great value to science and technology, but they also do not know how to give clear answers to the need for identity of the persons and their social and ethical loss. Today, technology has many means, but it has no ends and this is the great drama, the big problem. Postmodernism is defining itself as the general weakening of the secular faith in the universality of human reason; the degradation of the metaphysics of strong thought; the dissociation between scientific knowledge and all other knowledge, sizzling specialization and strong utilitarianism. The post-modern man has no claim to discover absolute values but is content with making a heartfelt hermeneutics of the present whose root is nothingness and not being; adapting to its precariousness and suggesting only weak theories questioning the very human subjectivity. These are the analysis, the ideas of some philosophers; and today, they reaffirm and tell us, think Liotardo, think in favour of Italy at Vattimo.
Another tradition examines the crisis of modernity through another register, the so-called polimitia or surpassing of monotheism. What is polimitia? It is the condition of society in which not a mono-myth, but many myths are in reciprocal competition. A competitive game that has several small stories that are opposed to the so-called grand narratives of modernity, restoring a polytheism which is abandonment of modern life and Christianity. The belief that more faiths make no faith, more truths make no truth and more justices make up an anarchy, takes root. It is the climate, we can say a cultural one, we breathe in our days, in our times. All this turns into intolerance until you get to a new totalitarianism, and here, we have in this regard, are all the more clear the words of Cardinal Ratzinger in the Mass pro-electing the Roman pontiff when he says: a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self and its desires is about to build up. People try to get out of this temptation, accepting plurality, compromises, partial reasons, temporary explanations resorting to the same principle of tolerance, the order constitutes a danger, the contrast, a possibility for being there: because only difference and contrast are able to preserve from the catastrophic reality of the so-called monism. You well understand that we are here, we can say in the Fucol pendulum; therefore from making this monism absolute now we come to this atomized polimitia which many sociologists are speaking us of.
The other tradition, is the one of the radical and narcissistic man. The radical individualism emphasizes exclusively the private sphere of the individual at the expense of the social sphere. The ego is completely free from moral constraints and only the feelings act as a guide to him for the actions; the ego becomes atomized, indifferent to everything around it, and therefore it is incapable of social and political engagement. Here lies, we can say at the base, the crisis of political disengagement, especially of the new generations. In particular, the idea that love means putting the interests of others above our own is condemned as authoritarian and repressive and the thesis that self-denial and sacrifice are central components of love is devaluated. In this view, the moral concept of value, of sacrifice, are emptied of their effective content.
So we can say that the radical man is an individual and not a person. The ego of radical anthropology is a pure naked and outer being, for itself without consciousness of the other; in that a being in itself the radical subject makes it impossible any form of love. In fact, people are not loved, but pleasures are looked for in the denial of the communal nature of human love. The search for the other as a companion for pleasure, does not reveal anything, but confirms the very loneliness, the same solitude. Then, the radical man is autonomous, since he invokes rights and does not accept duties; freedom becomes the possibility to satisfy needs, desires, passions and whatever is a good that society must guarantee him. The radical man privatizes the concept of happiness in maximizing the satisfaction of desire, and here he finds as ally the so-called consumer society. The radical man finds in the contract and not in the law, the only possibility of relationship with the other since he does not recognize a common good on the individual one and the radical society; there is a fight for the realization of all needs, especially the sexual one, the most full of meaning of human needs, at the same time there is a struggle for the emancipation of the political sphere and the religious one the most hostile to the liberalization of sex. In the radical culture the dimension of love and otherness is lacking.
The culture of narcissism is also an individualist culture. Living the present is the dominant obsession, living for the selves not for the predecessors or posterity. The society of narcissism is characterized by therapy and especially by the Freudian therapy, for which health coincides with the abandonment of inhibitions and the immediate gratification of every impulse; haunted by the anxiety of personal failure in the analysis he seeks a religion, a way of life, hoping to find in the therapeutic relationship an external support to his fantasies of omnipotence and eternal youth. Through an analysis, a great psychoanalyst, according to me Hilman; says that through the analyzing man looks back and does not look around him; it is interesting this definition that comes from a psychoanalyst of the same school as Freud.
I conclude this brief analysis with a brightly present statement of Vladimir Soloviov; in some aspects, he is also a forerunner of this social and cultural climate we are living in. The individual self-interest, the casual fact, the narrow particular, the atomism of life, of science and art, are the last word of Western civilization; he writes this on the divine humanity and other writings.
Let’s go to the second part, always running through a bit of the Gospel of Luke: “and beginning from Moses and all the prophets, he explained them with all scriptures whatever concerned him.” The first section that characterizes the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples is the total discretion. Luke marks clearly as usual the meeting with a sequence of attitudes, approaches, walks with them, addresses them the word in the form of a question. His art is that of coupling those lost lives again to the experience and faces of the history of salvation. Here, in my opinion, lies the process even of the new evangelization. In this time of transition we seem to understand that the man of today expresses some profound questions through his loneliness and his anxiety, through his disorientation and his lack of a center that gives unity to his life. As disciples of Emmaus, even all our questions seem some interrupted paths because we never get to face a fundamental point which is that of the human person.
In fact, man is reduced to a tool of technology, economy, pleasure; he is not understood in his true identity and as a result we experience the darkening of his conscience and the loss of joy and hope. Man finds himself thinking about being the only subject with a right to exist; and today he finds himself alone, an individual among many individuals; but this also becomes a problem, he feels a prisoner of himself, he feels a nothing and asks himself: who am I if the other is not there to recognize me? And who is the other if I do not recognize him? The experience of the nothingness tells only the absence of the you. Who will answer him? Who will answer this fundamental question of the man of today?
The task of the new evangelization is that of opening the human person beyond itself, to the whole truth and to a rationality, to the absolute. The principal mysteries of the Christian faith, the mystery of the unity and of the Trinity of God, the mystery of the divine humanity of Christ, the Paschal Mystery, contain an ideological principle for the anchoring of a new concept of the person and the possibility of a renewed Christian proclamation in Europe. The center of this principle is the person open to the communion. Proclaiming Christ to our contemporaries means inserting them at the heart of the life of the man of today. In fact, Christ is no stranger to his problems, but enters into them and with his presence he opens the heart of man and pushes it beyond, pushes it beyond the limits that he has given himself. He announces a man’s life open to different dimensions extending it and enlarging it to overcome all the reductions of whatever nature they may be.
In my opinion, here lies the heart so that it can enter, today, in the man we called postmodern, in the man of our times; the Gospel message can enter. Like Christ man also in order to be fully himself as a person, has to make the passage of chenosis, the Easter from the individual to the person; that is, he must come down, get out, let himself down into the you, let himself down into the other person, so as the Son joined humanity, not by constraint, but by a will of gift.
In the person, there exists a center that is called heart and Jesus warms up, this dimension of the person, so much so that, at some point, the disciples say: “Did we not feel as he spoke to us that our hearts warmed up?”. And here, I think, is the center that we have to touch in the man our contemporary brother. From the heart slow to believe, that is closed, off, to the warmed, inflamed and dilated heart, there is a passage and the passage is that of love. The human person and the person of Christ, have in common the reality of the heart that is the point of contact between man and God. The person unfolds and is understood only in love; Christ explains himself in love, in him the historical experience of humanity becomes the unfolding of God’s love. Love in this case is bliss, it is an exodus, and all the person is called to this exit from the self to be able to understand itself. The history of the person as that of mankind is a history of exodus, it is an exodus from the self in order to reach another, to enter into a love relationship; but if you reflect on it even in God there is a history exodus, the Son does his exodus from the bosom of the Father and weds humanity and here is where, later, the redemption of man takes place. When the individual through Christ discover himself a person he begins to enter into communion.
“When he was at table with them, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, then their eyes opened, they recognized him.” The communion that finds its center in the Eucharist is the goal of the person; this way, it becomes agape because it is a place of welcome and gift that does not destroy the identity of the other despite making itself one and merging with it. In the communion the mystery of the Trinity, of the divine humanity, of Passover, and of the human person are reflected. In communion we recognize each other, the human person assumes its true face, the self finds its partner which is the you in order to realize the us. I conclude the last part “they immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem and then they referred what had happened on the road and how they had recognized him in the breaking of the bread.” The Church is the bride of the Lamb which does always memory in the mystery of the Eucharist and of the communion.
The new evangelization in the heart of our culture, must come from a credible subject. The Pope was telling us, in one of the conventions in the diocese of Rome: the new evangelization must come from a reliable company, that gains experience of communion. The person that evangelizes must have a rootedness in Christ that transforms the person and the community always enlarging them toward new receptions. The text of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which I mentioned at the beginning, I am recalling it now because it gives an interesting perspective to the development of our work of evangelization. As usual, the Pope begins with interrogating through a question: How does this becoming a man get realized? How do you learn the art of living? What is the road to happiness? And then, he develops the theme in the context of today, evangelizing means showing this way, teaching the art of living, the deepest poverty and the inability of joy, the tedium of life considered absurd and contradictory. Today, this poverty is widespread in quite different forms, both in the materially rich countries and also in poor countries. Before moving on to the contents of the new evangelization, the Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, in this speech, provides two notes on the structure and method of the new evangelization; I called the first note, the strength of the mustard seed.
The kingdom of God always begins in humility, it is ultimately God who becomes smaller, who descends under the signs of the small, of the humble, of the hidden and simple. The Pope says: new evangelization cannot mean attracting immediately with new, more refined methods the great masses that have turned away from the Church; no, it is not this the premise of the new evangelization, but daring, once again with the humility of the small grain; leaving it to God how much and how it will grow.
Interesting at a methodological level, but I think it is nice seeing even in the Apostolic Movement, that small groups, small realities, little by little, slowly warm up the hearts of so many fellow travelers. Great things always begin from the small seed and mass movements are always ephemeral. The important thing is that the little yeast, the new evangelization must under go the ministry of the mustard seed and do not expect to immediately produce the big tree. Here a great temptation for the new evangelization, the temptation of impatience can insinuate itself, which is the temptation of success and large numbers. The communities of Paul were small communities, leaven in the dough, pregnant of the future of the world.
The other note, which is discussed in this discourse on the new evangelization, is the form of life of the new evangelizer. From this type of structure derived the method of the new evangelization that Ratzinger defines with a term, I would say most interesting, the term is expropriation. We want to serve in the people humanity, giving space to the one who is life this expropriation of his own self, offering it to Christ for the salvation of men; it is the fundamental condition of true commitment to the Gospel. The model of the evangelizer is the Son, this would be the Christological form of evangelization, that does not speak in his name, as instead does the antichrist; here is the difference between Christ and the antichrist. The antichrist speaks on his behalf, Christ speaks instead in the name of the Father, that is he speaks in the communion.
Living in listening and becoming voice of the Father and then model, it is the Spirit that does not speak for itself, but says what he heard, this would be the pneumatological form of evangelization. And finally, there is the ecclesiological form of evangelization since the life of Risen Christ and the life of the Spirit are communicated in the Church. Not speaking in one’s own name means speaking in the mission of the Church; here lies the expropriation the Pope spoke of, but without this expropriation one cannot evangelize, it seems to me a condition more than a note.
Finally, the law of the fruitfulness of the grain of wheat. In the prayer, in the passion, there is the event of the expropriation of the self. The word of proclamation must always bathe in an intense life of prayer. Benedict XVI says, Jesus did not redeem the world through beautiful words, but with his suffering and his death. His passion is the inexhaustible source of life for the world. The passion gives strength to his word; we cannot give life to others without giving our lives. So, at the beginning of the Church; the same for Paul: his fruitfulness was tied to the suffering, communion and passion with Christ; the same for Peter called to shepherd, that is to give his life as a mother who cannot bring to life the child without suffering and every birth requires suffering. Finally, the content of the announcement which is the theme of the conversion and then we return here with this last theme, in the mission of the Apostolic Movement.
According to Ratzinger, there is no access to Jesus Christ without the Baptist, the link is given by the same word announced by the precursor of Christ, “Repent.” The conversion is proposed in the double personal and community movement; conversion is to question one’s own, the common way of living and taking sides; getting out of the homologation, that is, out of everybody does the same. Conversion is seeing your life through the eyes of God, it is getting out of self approval, discovering and accepting one’s own intelligence, diligence of others and of the other, of his forgiveness and his friendship. In the continuity between John the Baptist and Jesus I see a double action. After all, John makes us kneel down because he forces us to know our limits, Jesus gets us up and opens us at the entrance to the Kingdom; in fact, the keyword of the proclamation of Jesus is Kingdom of God; that is, all changes if there is God. Therefore, the new evangelization is the proclamation that in Christ, God is there; only in Christ and through Christ the theme of God truly becomes concrete.
Dear friends, I conclude by saying that it is only with the life experience with God that also our existence appears in all its evidence. Therefore, today realities like movements, like schools of prayer and community of prayers are so important. From the experience of prayer, particularly, begins the discipleship which is not merely the imitation of the man Jesus, but an assimilation; Christ has a hearing life since man is not satisfied with an under level solution of divinization, the Pope says. If the sequel is a union to his love at the same time is sharing in the mystery of the cross; Jesus loves on the cross. I would say on the cross Jesus loves as a God, he loves as a God. On the cross we experience the love that has the power of transforming life. Who omits the cross, omits the very essence of Christianity. Here, only this way we can say not only through the first step, we were able to open the person, welcoming the nucleus of the new evangelization of the person; but with the second step we somehow managed to open this person in solitude, to open him to the communion through Christ. This, my dear I wish to the Apostolic Movement, so that it can make man pass from that slow heart the evangelist Luke spoke of, can make man pass with a warmed up heart, warmed by the opening of the person to full communion, warmed by the presence of the movement itself, within the limits of man.
Greetings to all