Private audience for sending one hundred families for the “New Evangelization” 3-1-1991
St. John Paul II
Rome, January 3, 1991 *
«FAMILIES EVANGELIZE FAMILIES» One hundred families of the Neocatechumenal Way have been sent by the Holy Father to twenty-four nations on five continents in the course of an audience in which one hundred and ten families were also present that are already on mission and another three hundred willing to leave. They were accompanied by one hundred and twenty seminarians from the Diocesan seminary “Redemptoris Mater” and around ten thousand brothers from the communities. Kiko introduction:
“Dear and most reverend Father, we come now from Porto San Giorgio from the meeting tent that you, two years ago, honored and sanctified with your presence. We have been preparing for seven days with a conversion retreat of one thousand four hundred brothers.
The families that two years ago were sent to the poorest areas of Latin America (to the “Pueblos Jóvenes”, to the shanty towns of Guayaquil, Ecuador and to so many other places …) have come, also to the periphery of Europe, such as Hamburg, and in some neighborhoods of Amsterdam (Holland), as well as New York (to the Bronx) and we have seen a little together their experience: they all come with their eyes full of light, of love, of the tenderness of Our Lord Jesus Christ who He has been close to us in the midst of so much suffering and he has helped us a lot. Everyone has decided to return: they have told impressive experiences and how God has tested them and prepared them for the mission. In these two years of “incarnation”, many have gone to the countries without knowing the language, for example in Japan, and we have done so, precisely, to go as the last ones (one who does not know the language is a poor person). And indeed, it has been very effective because the people who were around them gave goods to these families, they have come to meet them, they have helped them and their mission has been easier, making present the immense mystery of the Family of Nazareth. In many places, these families have begun to catechize, have been able to announce Jesus Christ, and small Christian communities have been formed, with pagan people, as in China (Taiwan) in a completely pagan village. A small community of eleven people has been born with four catechumens.
Now we have so many requests from bishops, even bishops that families had previously asked for and that after two or three years (some have been on mission for four years) they have seen the fruit, especially in Latin America facing the “sects”.
These families have gone to areas in which there were literally no parishes, where there are no churches for want of clergy. They have had so much fruit that the bishops ask us for more families: we have so many requests that we had to make a small selection. We have asked the first communities in Spain, whose families have sufficient preparation, with more than fourteen years of preparation, and many have offered themselves. It is somewhat surprising, with their children and ready to go where the Church sees fit; there where the family is destroyed, they are willing to make a real presence of the Christian family and we are amazed at their generosity, of this ardor that is in them, because many know that they go, many of them, to martyrdom, go in a situation of huge difficulties. We have four hundred new families that have offered; we have met with those already on mission and with other itinerants, the number we have had is of a thousand people.
The seminarians from the “Redemptoris Mater” in Rome are also present, it has been a wonderful preparation for them to hear these families, their difficulties, etc. We have been until last night, almost until three in the morning. All the day of yesterday, we have used to see, analyze the “requests”. In order to send families we have requested an official letter from each bishop and that the bishop is responsible for helping them at home, etc.
In the end we have chosen another hundred families: here are the brothers who have already been assigned, who are ready to leave and they will leave: six families for Russia, for Moscow; four for Belarus; two for Georgia; two for Yugoslavia; six new families for Germany (there are already eighteen families requested by the bishops); four for Austria; three for Holland (to continue the wonderful work these brothers are doing in Holland, requested by the bishops); two for England; two for France; later, in the United States, bishops have asked for nineteen families, on the outskirts, especially to start a pastoral work among the “blacks”, where the Catholic Church encounters difficulties: in this way they have requests the Cardinal of Washington, of Dallas, of San Antonio, of Texas, etc. In Central and Latin America, for example, in Chile, in Colombia (2 families), another in Ecuador, two in Venezuela, three in Mexico. In Asia: ten families in Japan; five in china nationalist; in Africa: four in Zambia; four in Cameroon; Coast of Ivory, Ethiopia, and Australia.
In total there are one hundred and four families with four hundred and nine children; all “little ones”, some not so small small. When these families have children of fifteen or sixteen years we have asked them if they were willing to accompany their parents. We have seen, in this sense, enormous generosity in these youngsters and how they want the good of their parents… Well, regarding the mission… we have heard the families who have returned: they say that the first evangelizers have been their children (in Japan, in China, in Holland …) in schools, in schools, with moms … it has been beautiful. These children, let’s say they are, the spearhead of the New Evangelization done through families. Also, their children give testimony with their “friends”, they take their friends home… for example, Japanese families find their home always invaded by children Japanese, friends of their children, who already know the language that they learn quickly. Through their children families become friends with the other Japanese families. This facilitates the evangelization of these families that are all non-christian, all pagan, who are very interested and impressed by this way of “living the family”, seeing the table as an altar, where the father (transmits) passes the faith to the children, the nuptial thalamus is also an altar where new children are given life .
A new culture appears, a new wonderful reality, so much so that we are surprised … Father, I don’t want to go any further, I just want to say that we are impressed by the fact that everyone wanted to leave: of these four hundred families, only one hundred could leave, but they all wanted to leave. I said to them: but do you realize? Do you know that you are going to very poor and very difficult areas? We were all excited by the ardor, by the desire for martyrdom, by the supernatural “force” that was in our midst …”
After the sung proclamation of the conclusion of the Gospel of Saint Mark, the Holy Father has addressed those present:
“Dear brothers and sisters! 1. In the light of Christmas we have found the Savior; we have contemplated the wonders that God has worked; we have been invited to accept the gift of Salvation and spread it among our brothers. It is from this mystical embrace with the Incarnate Word that our desire to evangelize is born. An all the more urgent desire, since we live moments of difficult social changes. We are, in fact, as before a change of history, projected into the future loaded with expectations and hopes, but threatened by concerns and fears, that ram into man in his deepest structure. Man invokes peace, serenity, asks for help and solidarity; has a need of Love. You need Christ.
The work of those who, like you, consecrates their entire existence and all their resources, both physical and spiritual, to evangelization is wonderful. You are convinced that only Jesus can fulfill people’s expectations, and for this reason do not hesitate to abandon everything and set out on a journey through the ways of the world, thus witnessing the living presence of the Redeemer among us and the power of his saving Word. . Be grateful to the Providence that has chosen you and keep constantly listening to the Spirit; persevere in prayer and in the practice of virtues. Be messengers of reconciliation and apostles of brotherhood and service. The Lord, who asks you for total availability, thus associates you with the mystery of Redemption in the world.
2. I cannot help stressing, with immense joy, that your evangelizing desire pushes you mainly towards families. Perhaps, at this time, doesn’t the family need to be evangelized again to discover its role as the primary cell in the Christian community, the domestic Church, within which it is possible to live the primordial experience of meeting with God? How the current situation of the family crisis suffers! It is not easy to think of a better future if the domestic home does not return to being a privileged place of welcoming life and growth of the person: a school of human wisdom and spiritual formation. With a happy spirit I greet among you the numerous family nuclei that are already on mission in the most de-Christianized areas of the planet; I also greet the couples preparing to leave. Yes, families evangelize families!
May the Lord make you instruments of his mercy everywhere; May his grace always accompany you.
I gladly give the crucifix to all those who are called to be present, itinerants at the service of the Gospel, in other countries. Trust in God and, resisting any difficulties, become ‘ambassadors for Christ, as if God were exhorting you through us’ (2 Cor 5:19). You live in cordial obedience and filial communion with the Shepherds, being members of a living body: The Church. It is they who invite and welcome you. It is to them that you must show docility and trust; It is from his directives that the will of the Lord is involved in order to your special mission.
The task that awaits you – the New Evangelization – asks you to present with new enthusiasm and with renewed methods the eternal and immutable content of the heritage of our Christian faith. It is not – you know very well – to present a doctrine, but to find the Savior in a personal and profound way. I invoke Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, to assist you on this path; I entrust to her, Star of the New Evangelization, each one of you, your communities and everyone you meet.
Now, in the name of the Lord, I urge you to depart with courage and to be ardent testimonies of the Gospel everywhere. I bless you with all my heart ». “This that I have said was a response to his beautiful and realistic ‘Christianly and neocatechumenally’ introduction. The introductions must always have a continuation: we have it now here in the Paul VI Classroom, but then you have to continue it on your paths of itinerant families, in families evangelized deeply in the Neocatechumenate that embraces all human life, embraces the evangelized or evangelizing family life.
I wish you a good journey: the itinerant Pope, the itinerants!”
(*) Cfr. «L’Osservatore Romano», 4 January 1991.