Visit to the parish of St. Mary of Mercy May 1, 1983
St. John Paul II
Rome, May 1, 1983
After leaving the Pastoral Council hall, the Holy Father, passing through the Church and crossing the lower courtyard in which the celebration was to take place if the weather allowed, arrived at the small parish daycare where the members of the Neocatechumenal Communities of the parish were waiting for him. The song to Mary, the first who believed in the Lord, a typical hymn of the Neocatechumenal Communities, greeted John Paul II at his appearance on the premises. After a short “personal” presentation from each person with the Holy Father, one of the oldest in the community addressed to the Pope the following words:
“Holiness, almost four years ago, the journey of faith of the Neocatechumenal Communities began in this parish to discover the riches of Baptism that we have received as children. The Lord sent us people like us, our catechists, to bring us the announcement of the Risen Jesus Christ who has set us on the road and still keeps us together: poor and rich, workers and professionals, women and men, young and old, married and single , entire families; we have seen how it is possible to live together, in communion and in joy, nourishing ourselves with the Word of the Lord and with the Eucharist. We are seeing how the Lord is changing our lives and gives us peace and joy every day in every situation and fills our parish community with his gifts: your visit today makes us, above all, celebrate and then also the birth of a new community of 40 brothers that was formed a month ago and that has allowed us to see how the Holy Spirit can act through poor people like us. These brothers are starting the experience that we started 4 years ago. Personally, after having been away from the Church for 15 years, I came looking for a meaning in my life. In this way I have discovered that this meaning can only be given to me by Jesus Christ ».
The time came for a representative of the catechists to address the Pope: «Blessed Father, it is with immense joy that I present to you the group of catechists of this parish. For several years now, in obedience to the teachings of the Italian Episcopal Conference and following its indications, we have been pursuing a path of permanent catechesis, a path articulated in the sacramental catechesis of Communion, Confirmation and in the Postcommunion and Postconfirmation program. The difficulties owing to the limited collaboration of the families of the children, together with the small number of lay people involved in catechesis, sometimes lead us to be discouraged, but it is there that we experience how great the love of God is for us and how much that helps us to walk with our kids. The joy of having you among us today is great and is even greater because we are sure of receiving a word that will help us continue in our service to the youth.
After having heard these words, the Holy Father gave those present the following thoughts:
“I thank you for your words. The Catechumenal and Neocatechumenal reality and catechesis go together. Catechesis must be received first, then one becomes a catechumen to prepare for Baptism and then, once baptized and confirmed, one receives the strength of the Holy Spirit to transmit the faith in which one has been baptized. This means to catechize. Precisely the first speaker has underlined the Neocatechumenal nature of the group, because the catechumenal tradition of the early days of the Church was later replaced by the Baptism of children. These children cannot do the Neocatechumenal Way, they are too small, they have no use of reason, intelligence, knowledge. Then, as adults and young people, they can begin the way to discover the treasure of our Baptism. This is what you neocatechumens are doing. You do it with great commitment, with great enthusiasm, and you do it in various parishes in Rome, and not only in Rome but in all the parishes of the world. I wish you to continue on this path, to be faithful to the Holy Spirit, to carry his gifts and his light to others. To the catechists I want to say that they have made a commitment that comes from our Baptism and our Confirmation. When we become adult Christians, we must bear fruit and these fruits of faith are borne by bringing faith to others, illuminating the faith of others. This mission clearly is the primary mission of parents and family. The transmission of faith in the family is always fundamental. The family is said to be the domestic Church because that is where the faith is transmitted from parents to children, to young people. Naturally, catechists in the Church should also do this, not only parents and families. The parish must have its catechists. The priests are catechists in the parish, the nuns, if they have been prepared for this mission, there are also so many lay people who, first prepare themselves and then commit themselves to this task of the apostolate: the apostolate of the Word of God. You have sung about the faith of Mary who believed in the Word of the Lord. Truly Mary is the fullest example of Faith: she is the fullness of faith and Mary is also the first catechist. If we look at the catechetical work that she carries out in the world today and in all ages, we realize that it is immense. I wish you to look at the Mother of Christ, the first catechist, to imitate her while carrying out your mission as catechists. »