Pope Francis told members of the Neocatechumenal Way that they have received a great charism to maintain. On Friday he spoke with them about Church unity, how to engage the world, and the difference between worldly and divine glory.
“You have accepted the call to evangelize: I bless the Lord for this, for the gift of the Way and for the gift of each of you,” he said March 18 at the Vatican's Paul VI hall.
The Church is not “an organization that seeks followers” or a group that merely follows the logic of its ideas, he said. Rather, the Church is “a mother who transmits the life received from Jesus.”
“The Church is our mother,” he stressed. “After baptism we no longer live as isolated individuals, but we have become men and women of communion, and we are called to be operators of communion in the world. Because Jesus not only founded the Church for us, but he founded us as Church.”
The Neocatechumenal Way was founded in Spain in 1964 by Francisco “Kiko” Argüello and Carmen Hernández. It provides “post-baptismal” Christian formation in small, parish-based communities. The movement claims to have a presence in 900 dioceses in 105 countries, with more than 20,000 communities in 6,000 parishes.
Since its foundation, the group has sometimes been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into Masses organized by the movement. These include practices such as lay preaching, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting, and the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.
Pope Francis said the Neocatechumenal Way has received “a great charism for the baptismal renewal of life” that can intensify communion with the Church, but warned that “this charism can deteriorate if you close in or if you boast about it, when you want to distinguish yourselves from the others.”
He praised “humble and obedient unity” as a way to safeguard their charism.
“If there is this, the Holy Spirit continues to operate, just as it did in Mary, who was open, humble and obedient,” he said.
Pope Francis reflected that the fruitfulness of the Church “is expressed through the ministry and the guidance of Pastors.”
The institution of the Church's pastors “is in fact a charisma,” he reflected, because it is “rooted in the same source, which is the Holy Spirit.”
The Pope encouraged the Neocatechumenal Way to quench their thirst from the fountain of the Holy Spirit while showing “delicacy and respect” for the whole Church, “because all grow together, harmonious and faithful.”
He reflected on Christ's prayer that his followers be “brought to perfection as one,” as he is one with God the Father.
“It is his last request before the Passion, the most heartfelt: that there be communion in the Church. Communion is essential.”
The Pope warned against specific temptations that harm the Church.
“God’s and man’s enemy, the devil, is no match for the Gospel. He cannot compete against the humble power of prayer and the Sacraments, but can do much harm to the Church by tempting our humanity,” the Pope continued.
“The devil provokes pride, being judgmental of others, he causes closures and divisions. He himself is 'the divider” and often starts off by making us believe that we are good, perhaps better than others: thus the land is ready for the sowing of discord. It is the temptation of all communities and can it can insinuate itself even in the most beautiful charism.”
Pope Francis reflected on the “new glory” of Christ. While worldly glory comes from secular importance, admiration, and success, God’s glory is revealed on the Cross. This glory “shines out” and wins no gain or applause.
“This is the only glory that makes the Gospel fruitful,” the Pope said, adding that the Church is fruitful only when it imitates God’s merciful love.
“It is humble, it’s like the rain on the earth, like the air we breathe, like a small seed that bears fruit in silence.”
God so loved the world that he sent his Son, Pope Francis recalled from the Gospel of John.
“He who loves does not stay away, but goes towards,” he said. “God is not attracted by worldliness, in fact, he detests it; but he loves the world he has created, and he loves his children in the world, just as they are, wherever they live, even if they are ‘far away’.”
“Show the children the tender gaze of the Father and consider the realities you will encounter as a gift,” he continued. He encouraged the Neocatechumenal Way members to become familiar with local cultures and languages and respect local customs, “recognizing the seeds of grace which the Spirit has already spread.”
If the good news of the Gospel is not at the forefront, he warned, “faith risks becoming a cold and lifeless doctrine.”
The Pope also thanked the Neocatechumenal Way for their efforts to evangelize as families, calling this “a proclamation of life” and “a beautiful witness.”