Rome, June 22-26, 2022
Neocatechumenal Way 10th World Day of the Family in Rome June 2022

The 10th World Meeting of Families, organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the Diocese of Rome, was held in Rome from June 22-26, 2022.

Representing the Neocatechumenal Way were several families sent by different dioceses: Massimo and Patrizia Palloni, with 12 children (itinerant, on mission in Holland), Francesco and Seila Gennarini, with 9 children (itinerant, on mission in the USA), Dino and Roberta Furgione, with 9 children (itinerant, on mission in South Africa) and Presbyter Gianvito Sanfilippo (in charge of post-confirmation in the Neocatechumenal Way).

On the morning of Friday, June 24, various topics were discussed. The experience of Massimo and Patrizia Palloni was dedicated to the “Transmission of the faith to the youth of today”: Massimo briefly explained his experience as a son, about how he received the faith through his parents in the Way, and that along with his wife, who also is a daughter of neocatechumens, have together also transmitted the same faith to their 12 children. The following is the brief statement of Massimo and Patrizia:

Your Eminences and Most Reverend Excellencies, Delegates of the Episcopal Conferences and Movements, dear brothers and sisters:

We have been asked to speak on the theme “Transmitting the faith to today’s youth”, based on our personal experience. We thank you for this opportunity you have given us to give glory to God.

We are Massimo and Patrizia Palloni, from a Neocatechumenal community in Rome and itinerant missionaries in Holland for eighteen years. Our parents are also in community and through their experience, they have transmitted the faith to us. Therefore, we can speak of our personal experience as children – to whom their parents have transmitted the faith – and also as parents of our own twelve children, who are present here; they greet you and also thank you.

In our relationship with our parents, and today with our children, we have been guided by the Word that God gave to his people when he appeared on Mount Sinai:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Let these words, which I speak to you today, remain in your heart. You shall repeat them to your children, whether you are at home or on a journey, whether you lie down or get up” (Dt 6:4-7).

From the time we were young, our parents celebrated Sunday morning Lauds with us. After the singing of the psalms, a Bible reading was proclaimed and we were helped to see our lives in the light of the Word of God. Also from a very young age, this Word enlightened our relationships with our brothers, sisters and parents, allowing us to reconcile and talk about our sufferings. Our father would ask us, “How does this Word illuminate your reality today?”; this question echoes the first one found in the Bible, “Adam, where are you?” As Pope Francis has stated in Amoris Laetitia: “So the great question is not where the son is physically, with whom he is at this moment, but where he is in an existential sense.”[1] The Word of God becomes the paradigm of every human life, every word contained in it illumines our history: creation, Noah’s ark, the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham, the Exodus, the parables of the Gospels, etc. This Word has also illuminated our lives since we were children; it was an extraordinary bridge between parents and children, between different generations. Each one had the possibility to give his own experience. Thanks to the meeting in prayer, the Lord really helped us to understand “where we were”, to understand the sufferings of others and, very often, to reconcile. Lauds was always followed by a special meal to live Sunday to the fullest.

In addition, every year in the family we had an introduction to the great feasts prepared with great care, which marked the seasons and which we lived with the whole parish: Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost, Immaculate Conception… After First Communion, we participated regularly in the Eucharist in community, where we received special attention. This Eucharist, lived in the parish after the first vespers on Sunday, gradually pulled us away from the sins of Saturday night, which lead young people away from Christ. At the center of it all, there was the Holy Vigil of Easter, to which we were initiated and looked forward to. Thus, we were progressively introduced to the life of faith in the Church, while in our adolescence, we entered – together with other young people and adults – a parish community in order to continue our Christian initiation. In addition, periodically, we participated in pilgrimages and World Youth Days, where we were helped to reflect deeply on our vocation and received the word of the Holy Father. These encounters helped us to grow in our love for the Pope and for the whole Church.

Gradually, over the years, we have tasted the wonder of the Christian life. It has been handed down to us that at the center of the family there are three altars[2]: the first is the table of the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus Christ offers the sacrifice of his life and resurrection for our salvation; the second is the nuptial thalamus where, by offering themselves to one another, the Sacrament of Matrimony is fulfilled and the miracle of love and new life is given; the third is the table where the family gathers to eat, blessing the Lord for his gifts. Thus, each meal becomes a meeting where topics and problems encountered in life or at school are discussed, where everyone participates and communion is lived.

When we got married, we were very young, I was twenty-four years old and Patricia was twenty and, although we married with the best intentions to form a Christian family, we were faced with our weaknesses that endangered our union in the first years of marriage. In that difficult situation, what sustained us was our community made up of ordinary people who, like us, were living a journey of faith, and helped us to overcome our crises by speaking to us with sincerity and invited us to become aware of our mistakes, through contact with the Sacraments and the Word of God that illuminated our reality of sin. 

For us it was a new beginning, as at the wedding at Cana: after the “wine” of falling in love and loving each other based on our efforts had run out, Jesus Christ freely gave us the new, intoxicating wine of forgiveness. We have discovered that openness to life is not a burdensome law but the liberating freedom from selfishness, which when lacking, causes marriage to falter. To our great surprise, God has granted us to desire every child He has given us. The Lord has been greater than our sins and, despite our weaknesses and inabilities, we are here today with our twelve children who for us, are irrefutable proof of God’s faithfulness.  

Transmitting the faith to today’s young people: a task of crucial importance that is incumbent today on the Church and on every baptized person. We are immersed in a society in which God seems to have disappeared from the horizon. The rapid advance of secularization, the loss of the sense of God, the wounds of abortion and euthanasia are a daily threat to the faith of every person. The attack of the devil wants to destroy the family and young people: the epidemic of pornography via the Internet, which today has taken on global dimensions, drugs, confusion about identity, the gnostic vision that separates the person from his body. Pope Francis has defined the spread of the gender theory as a war: “Today there is a world war to destroy marriage […] but not with weapons, but with ideas”, “ideological colonizations that destroy”[3].

The time of adolescence and youth is perhaps the most difficult in the formation of a person: it is the time when the great physical, psychological and affective metamorphoses take place, when the horizon of social relationships widens (entry into high school, independence from the family, new friendships) and it is precisely in this delicate period, when relationships with parents become more conflictual, that young people must make fundamental decisions that will influence their whole life. Faced with these situations, the Holy Spirit has created another experience to help young people in parishes: the post-confirmation experience.

Today, many, many young people come from wounded families. An increasing percentage of children live with only one parent, most of them due to the separation of their parents, others due to situations outside of marriage. With more than 50% of marriages failing, without the support and help of the school, many young people find themselves without a firm foothold and lost. In a new post-confirmation experience, which many parish priests around the world, in communion with their bishops, have decided to start, small groups of young people are formed who meet with a proven and adult family of faith, capable of offering an authentic witness of service to these young people. The teenagers are attracted to the Christian family in which they see a living faith. In these groups the young people begin to read the Word of God, reflect on the commandments as a way of life, rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation and come into contact with the Christian life of a concrete family.

This experience is bearing impressive fruit in many parishes: the post-confirmation period, which is normally characterized by the abandonment of many young people, is becoming a blessing from the Lord thanks to this ministry, because the percentage of young people who continue to attend the parish after confirmation is very high. Moreover, the joy of these young people is communicative and becomes a testimony for schoolmates, friends, acquaintances, who in turn ask to live it by joining the groups and, in this way, many distant children come closer to the Church.

However, it is not a matter of finding a method or using a technique. No one can give what he has not received. In the “dictatorship of relativism” that surrounds us, with its new “laws” that divert the conscience of many young people, there is a “music” that their hearts will never fail to hear and recognize as the door to happiness, namely love. For this reason, in the pastoral care of young people, the witness of families who, having previously received the gratuitous love of Christ and of the Church, welcome these wounded young people into this love and present it to them as something living and current, and is of fundamental importance.  

The whole force of attraction of Christianity consists in the power of witness, as St. Paul VI affirmed: “Contemporary man listens more willingly to those who bear witness than to those who teach (…) or if he listens to those who teach, it is because they bear witness”[4].

Young people are not disinterested in the faith; if they are, it is because they do not see it, because they detest mediocrity and duplicity. If the truth is announced to them, if it is announced to them that they can leave the slavery of their “I”, that they can give themselves completely, they will follow us. Yes, if we prophesy this to young people, they will follow us in thousands!

And so we return to the original question: How to transmit the faith to today’s young people?

The Church today is going through a profound crisis that includes low participation in the Sunday precept, the low number of baptisms, marriages and sacraments, and the crisis of vocations. Certainly, it is not only a question of numbers, but it seems that everything is collapsing at a dizzying rate. Faced with this situation, we might be tempted to think that the answer is simply to find a program or a formula, perhaps based on moralistic exhortations.

In order to transmit the faith to young people, the faith of parents is necessary. We are here, not to say that we are great or that we have found a method, but because our parents have rediscovered a living faith that has helped them in their marriage and that they have passed on to us, their children. And our children are here for the same reason.

In order to rediscover the faith, a serious itinerary is needed that can develop in every believer the life-giving power of Baptism. This is what the Second Vatican Council promulgated in the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium[5] by reestablishing the catechumenate for unbaptized adults. The RCIA[6] – the document implementing the conciliar decision – extended the importance of that decision by affirming that the catechumenate can be adapted for Christians already baptized but who have not received the necessary baptismal initiation. This historic decision is also presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that “by its very nature, infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. It is not only a question of the need for post-baptismal instruction, but of the necessary development of baptismal grace in the growth of the person”[7].

In 1974, St. Paul VI recognized the fundamental importance of the post-baptismal catechumenate: “To live and promote this awakening is considered by you as a form of post-baptismal catechumenate, which can renew in today’s Christian communities those effects of maturity and deepening that in the early Church were realized in the period of preparation for Baptism. You do it later: the before or after, I would say, is secondary. The fact is that you look at the authenticity, the fullness, the coherence, the sincerity of the Christian life. And this has a very great merit, I repeat, which consoles us enormously” [8].

In the face of the dramatic crisis of the family and of young people, it is necessary to rediscover, through Christian initiation, the radical nature of the Gospel, as was the case with the first Christians in the midst of a pagan world.

Thank you!

[1] Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 261.

[2] cfr. Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 318.

[3] Francis, Address of the Holy Father during the meeting with priests and religious, in Tbilisi (Georgia), October 1, 2016.

[4] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41.

[5] As the Second Vatican Council promulgated in Sacrosanctum Concilium 64: “The adult catechumenate is to be divided into distinct stages, the practice of which will depend on the judgment of the local ordinary; thus the time of the catechumenate, established for suitable instruction, may be sanctified by the sacred rites, which are to be celebrated at successive times”. This was also later confirmed by the Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum (OICA) of 1972.

[6] RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), in Latin: OICA (Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum). RCIA, chapter IV.

[7] CCC, n. 1231.

[8] Paul VI addressing the Neocatechumenal Communities, Audience, May 8, 1974.