Friday, December 09, 2011

New Ecclesial Movements and the Pastors

It has been for some time now that dioceses in the Philippines in setting up their pastoral programs in consonance with the desideratum expressed by PCPII has more often than not to contend with the existence of charismatic communities and other ecclesial movements. These are entities that have helped the parishioners to appreciate the variegated charisms that they have received from baptism, lived their Christian life with vitality, joy and enthusiasm, carried the love for neighbours in their day-to-day living, helping build up shelters for the homeless, taking care of the sick, proclaiming the good news to far flung barangays and urban slums. They are great Christians. And yet, they seem to be on their own, doing their own thing independently from the administration of the local church, gyrating around themselves without a bother with what is happening in the parish. Through the years they have created that impression that they are a parallel, if not rival, communities.
It is for this reason that the local Church authority has to seriously look into their nature, appreciate their existence, and consider the possibility of working harmoniously with them without stifling the fresh spiritual air that they have been enjoying. However, to welcome these ecclesial movements and faith communities into the working organizational structure of the same demands from the diocesan bishop and the parish priest the exercise of a high quality of leadership. This implies above all the study of the Magisterium’s recent pronouncements on new lay movements and ecclesial communities.
Blessed John Paul II who has meticulously followed the evolution of the movements and the fruits of renewal has made through the years some insightful conclusions. These conclusions could serve as excellent guidelines to local pastors in their approach to these movements.
First, John Paul II concluded that ecclesial movements are important for the Church. As he observed these movements are deeply rooted in the Church; nay, the Church herself is a movement. As early as 1981 he already applied the term “movement” to the Church. He said: “as you know the Church herself is a “movement” (John Paul II, Homily, 27 September 1981). And as such she participates in the dynamism of the Blessed Trinity who even up to now works and acts in the day-to-day history of man. In a mysterious way she dispenses the mystery of the eternal Love of Father, of his fatherly heart, from which the mission of the Son and of the Holy Spirit begins (cf. ibid). As a movement therefore the Church not only initiates the redemptive works of God in humanity, but is ever opened to the initiative of the Holy Spirit who causes irruptions in the hearts and consciences of the baptized. Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the bishops in 1999 made a sweeping observation that the Church is not just programs and organizations. She is shaped by her spirituality born in her openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He said: “It is important that the spiritual office, the priesthood, itself be understood and lived charismatically. The priest himself should be a ‘pneumatic,’ a homo spiritualis, a man awakened and driven by the Holy Spirit… It must not overinstitutionalize itself, but must always remain open to the Lord’s unforeseen, unplanned call” (Ratzinger,Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements).

Second, John Paul II saw that charism is vital to the Church’s life. At the origin of these ecclesial movements and faith communities there has always been a charism granted to the founder. It is a grace, a gift freely granted by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church. It is therefore a boon to the community and not a bane; not a threat to the institution but a support to it. John Paul II in his 2 March1987 address clearly said: “In the Church, both the institutional and the charismatic aspects, both the hierarchy and associations and movements of the faithful, are co-essential and share in fostering life, renewal and sanctification, though in different ways.”

Third, the late Pope observed that communities are the fruits of charism. Charism builds communities. It is of its nature to reach out to people and lead them to unite together, eventually forming them into associations. Charism therefore takes its root in communities. John Paul II finely described this reality when he said: “In the Church’s history we have continually witnessed the phenomenon of more or less vast groups of the faithful, which, under the a mysterious impulse of the Spirit, have been spontaneously moved to join together in pursuit of certain charitable or sanctifying ends “ (ibid., Address 2 March 1987). .

Fourth, these movements lead the members to deeply appreciate the sacrament of baptism which they had received. No matter the diversity of forms, these ecclesial movements are marked by a common awareness of the newness and radicality of life which baptismal grace awakens in them. They deeply realize what it means to be a baptized person, that is, a person who is committed to the mystery of communion with Christ and with their brethren. In sum, these movements do not affect only partial aspect of Christian life, but are new ways of living the Christian message.
Lastly, the late John Paul II emphasized on the need of the movements for complete communion with the Church. This communion with the Church is for the pope the critical path which the movements have to trod. In Christifideles Laici he said: “This journey requires of movements an ever stronger communion with the Pastors God has chosen and consecrated to gather and sanctify his people in the light of faith, hope, and charity, because no charism dispenses the person from reference and submission to the Pastor of the Church” (n. 24).

Ecclesial movements and new faith communities are there for the taking. They are precious gifts of God to the particular Churches, ever ready to be tapped and availed of.


Post a Comment

<< Home