Visit of Pope John Paul II to the parish of Saint Timothy
S. John Paul II
Rome, February 10, 1980 *
The Holy Father entered the room, welcomed by the singing of those present, where the Neocatechumenal Communities, born in the parish, were gathered. Introduced by the pastor, who underlined how he himself, with the help of these brothers, has embarked on a new path of conversion, some catechumens gave their experience. Doménico, a middle-aged man, recalled how the catechumenal experience has made him discover the true dimension of Christianity, which is lived in reality and not just intellectual devotion, managing to overcome serious family difficulties. Elisabetta, 21, who matured with the discovery of God, has recounted her experience as a protester. A married woman and mother of four children has confessed how a phrase, “there will be a way for the hopeless”, she heard in a Church where she entered by chance, had saved her from anguish and suicide. Francesco has told how the free gift of God has made him discover the richness of life. After, a catechist, Giampiero Donnini, made it clear how the establishment of these Neocatechumenal Communities has been very important to the life of the parish, as they demonstrate themselves as a permanent structure where they can present a way to those who want an adult and mature faith.
Giving thanks for these profound and simple testimonies, the Pope remembers, as we well know, what the word catechumen means.
“But we must also say -The Holy Father continued – that this word has almost disappeared. The catechumens, particularly in traditionally Catholic towns, are the little children and babies. But these are not true catechumens because they cannot be prepared for Baptism. The catechumens of the first centuries were a very important reality in the Church: I believe that they did for the faith at that time, the Neocatechumenal Communities are doing today. But they do it because they were baptized by others at the beginning of their lives. The essence of the catechumenate is to prepare for Baptism: to prepare, in the full meaning of the word, is to be introduced into the mysteries of the Living God, because in Baptism you receive not only the name of Christian but also a share in Christ himself, in the mystery of the God living for man. The testimonies that you have presented all prove that there is a moment of grace, a moment of enlightenment, a time when you meet the living God who seeks to live in your life, to live your life. This is very precious for your personal experience of Christians, but above all it is of great value for apostolic formation.
This experience must be at the basis of all apostolic formation, in the formation of every catechist: not only to know formulas of faith and theology, but it is necessary to enter in contact with the mystery of divine life, opened to all of us through Jesus Christ. Only after a personal experience can you give testimony. I wish you to always deepen your faith and have joy with you always.»
(*) Cfr. «L’Osservatore Romano», 11-12 February 1980.