On March 18, 2019 – the eve of the Solemnity of Saint Joseph – Fr Mario Pezzi, from the international responsible team for the Neocatechumenal Way, celebrates 50 years of his priestly ordination. During also almost 50 years, Fr Mario has accompanied Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández in this charism inspired by the Holy Spirit and recognized by the Church.
On the occasion of this anniversary, on March 19, Fr. Mario celebrated a Eucharist at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome. He was accompanied by Kiko, María Ascensión Romero (member of the team responsible for the Camino since 2018), as well as by the rector of the seminary and the formators. Numerous priests also participated, some seminarians and special guests.
On April 8, also to celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination, Fr. Mario presided over another Eucharist in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Madrid. Kiko and María Ascension were again present, as well as the rector and the team of formators, and priests, seminarians and also some special guests.
The homily that Fr. Mario Pezzi gave at the Thanksgiving Eucharist for his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination:
Thanksgiving to God for the fifty years of priestly ordination
Dear brothers, first of all, I thank Kiko and Maria Ascension for their presence, the rector and the formators of the Redemptoris Mater seminary, to the priests and seminarians present, to the personal guests and to those who have wanted to join me, to give thanks to God for the gift of the 50 (fiftieth) anniversary of my Presbyterial Ordination.
50 years ago, I was ordained in the parish of Saints Peter and Paul, in Gottolengo, Brescia, on the afternoon of the 18th of March, accompanied by my parents and relatives, my superiors and Comboni brothers and many parishioners. I was ordained by the Auxiliary Bishop of Brescia, Monsignor Pietro Gazzoli, being Pastor Don Francesco Vergine, who, by the grace of God, ended his days as spiritual director of the Redemptoris Mater in Rome. The next day, the 19th of March, solemnity of Saint Joseph, I celebrated my First Mass.
“How will I repay the Lord for all the good that He has done? I will raise the Cup of Salvation, and I will invoke the name of the Lord”. In this solemn Eucharistic celebration, together we will raise the Cup of Salvation and we will thank God for all his benefits in these 50 years.
To thank the Lord, after fifty years of priesthood, I am almost forced to share with you some facts of my life. Being close to Kiko, I have learned to speak in brushstrokes, I hope it is not too heavy. I come from a humble family, in my life I have had no extraordinary gifts, visions or revelations, but from my early years I have felt the presence of the Lord who has filled me with so many gifts, has guided and led me by the hand since the first years of life until I met Kiko and Carmen, the Neocatechumenal Way in my community of San Juan de Dios, until I became the priest of Kiko and Carmen’s team since the summer of 1971.
Many times in these years I have asked myself why the Lord has called me to carry out the priestly ministry, on the team of Kiko and Carmen: the only answer I have found is in the fantasy and the sense of humor of the Lord, who likes to do things by breaking our human plans.
I am a person of fragile constitution, educated for a regular and orderly life, without special skills or gifts, I would say that I am a normal person, set to collaborate with two giants of the faith, Kiko and Carmen, whom God has filled with numerous special gifts, in view of his mission in the Church today.
Suddenly jumping into a bohemian lifestyle, without fixed schedules, constant changes and unpredictablity, living day by day, allowing ourselves to be guided by the will of God.
In the first years, I passed through moments of crisis, but the certainty that he was God has always helped me, through the events of my history since childhood, which he was using to prepare me to be the Presbyter of the team of the Initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, even though many times I did not feel up to the height of the mission. Today, after fifty years of my priestly ordination, without too much presumption, I am sure of it.
The first reading is from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”
I chose the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, because I had chosen it for my first Mass fifty years ago, the day after the Ordination.
“El espíritu del Señor está sobre mí,
porque el Señor me ha ungido.
Él me envió a llevar la buena noticia a los pobres,
a vendar los corazones heridos,
a proclamar la liberación a los cautivos
y la libertad a los prisioneros,
a proclamar un año de gracia del Señor;
para alegrar a los afligidos de Sion”
Since my formative years, I was surprised to be able to participate in the same Power of Jesus Christ who, communicating it to the apostles, said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The idea of being able to tell a person “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace”, the power to make present and participate in the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Celebration of the Eucharist, I have always seen it as a great gift of the Lord.
In these years, celebrating together with Kiko and Carmen, the different steps/stages that mark the Neocatechumenal itinerary, I have always been surprised to see the Power of Jesus Christ who was acting before our eyes, gradually changing the people’s lives, rebuilding those destroyed, strengthening marriages, allowing the openness to life and education to the faith of the children, missionary zeal. Many times I have thought: I wish the Church realized the power that the Lord has given her to generate children of God!, as Carmen said so often, from reopening the bosom of the Church, the baptismal font, which has the power to bury the old man and give birth to the children of God for our time.
The Gospel of Matthew: Saint Joseph and the birth of Jesus
In recent years, sometimes I have asked myself what it meant to have been ordained on the eve of the solemnity of St. Joseph. On the occasion of the celebration of my 25 (twenty-fifth) anniversary of my Presbyterial Ordination, the Lord illuminated the figure of Saint Joseph and his closeness to my life as priest, in the team of Kiko and Carmen.
As we have heard in the Gospel of today, St. Joseph found himself in a tragically embarrassing situation, when he discovered that the Virgin Mary, his wife, upon returning from her visit with her cousin Elizabeth, was pregnant.
Imagine the suffering and the long silences of Joseph and Mary, in a humanly incomprehensible situation. The Gospel says: “Joseph, her husband, who was a just man and wanting to repudiate her, decided to divorce her secretly. ” Only an angel of the Lord, who appears to him in a dream, says: «Do not be afraid to receive Mary, as your wife, because what has been generated in her comes from the Holy Spirit.”, which restores the serenity between Joseph and Mary.
In regards to this story, Kiko and Carmen told us about a Midrash, in which Joseph, after the dream, says to Mary: “But how could you not tell me before? I would have believed! ”. And Mary responds: «And who was I, to interfere between you and God?”.
I have told you about this Midrash because I think that here lies the secret of the team of initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko and Carmen. As I mentioned the day of the funeral of Carmen, each of them has had a strong personal relationship with God, trying to obey His Will, even when there were situations of apparent conflict. And along with them, in these fifty years, I too have learned to obey God every day.
Pope Saint John Paul II in the Encyclical “Redemptoris Custos”, on the figure of Joseph, affirmed that he was a man who did not want to lead his life, to carry out his own life project but to allow himself to be led by the Lord. The Virgin Mary replied to the Angel: “Let it be done to me according to your Word”; and later, at the wedding in Galilee, she said to the servants “Do what he tells you.” Joseph, to the Angel who visits him three times and manifests the will of God, regarding taking Mary as wife, when fleeing to Egypt and then when he returns to Nazareth, he doesn’t say anything in response, but he does act: he obeys.
I also, keeping my distance, like Joseph, was involved in a story that was beyond me: I too have been called by God to recognize that on the Way, that it did not come from me, it was not my son, the work of the Holy Spirit. A mission that, although in the shade, it was very important. For this reason, the presence of the priest in the Way, even if he does not appear as a factotum, is very important, because it is he who recognizes the work of the Lord and has the mission to unite the Charism with the Institution of the Church.
Today’s liturgy shows us that we find ourselves inserted into a story that is beyond us, a story of salvation that God has made with a specific people, the people of Israel, and a promise to David a descendence, and Joseph is the bond that binds Jesus to the genealogy of David, of Israel. So also through us, the Lord sends his salvation, his love to this generation. For this reason today, I want to sing with all the strength I have left in the Eucharist, to thank the Lord, together with all of you. In Israel’s history, full of sins and infidelities, shines His fidelity and His love, and also in our history His fidelity shines about our sins. I too, today as I bless and I give thanks for so many gifts, I ask for forgiveness for my many resistances, infidelities and sins and I ask for the gift of humility.
To all of you, I ask for the help of your prayer, so that the Lord helps Kiko, and me too, to complete the mission entrusted to us, with the help of Maria Ascension.