On the Pillars of the Lay Mission (Part 2)

Interview With Founder of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae

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By Carmen Elena Villa

LIMA, Peru, MARCH 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Ecclesial movements can help Catholics live according to God’s plan, and receive the formation they need to pursue holiness in daily life, affirms Luis Fernando Figari.

Figari is the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a society of apostolic life born in Peru in 1971 and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Its members are laymen and priests who live with full availability for the apostolate.

He also founded the Christian Life Movement, the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God in addition to other associations that are part of what is called the Sodalit Family. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Here, Figari speaks with ZENIT about how relativism is affecting formation and what needs to be done about it.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.

Q: You mention in your book [“Formation and Mission,” soon to be published in English] the four ruptures that man lives in his reality of sin: with God, with oneself, with others and with creation. In what way can man, in the heart of the new ecclesial movements, live reconciliation in his life in each one of these four ambits?

Figari: Above all, I wouldn’t say that the reality of the human being is only sin. It is also a reality of grace, of growth in the faith, of fidelity to the divine plan, of a hunger for holiness, of desiring to encounter oneself with Jesus and to reach the fullness of eternal life in the communion of love.

It is true that in the world in which we find ourselves the consequences of the first sin are made painfully manifest, but there is also the awe-inspiring mystery of God’s love that comes to meet the human being in the Incarnation and in the ascensional dynamic of the Resurrection and the Ascension, nourishing the hope of the traveler in search of eternity.

It seems fitting to remember that Péguy evoked the value of hope, and though naming her “a little girl, nothing at all,” linking her to faith and charity, poeticized that together with them, hope “will endure worlds.” The reconciliation brought by the Lord Jesus offers all men and women of the Church a concrete path of hope, a path that embraces divine mercy, gifts that come from God.

The theme of reconciliation has its origin in Scripture. In the New Testament is found the reconciling key: Jesus. God sends the Reconciler to the world.

St. Paul can be considered the first exponent of a theology of reconciliation. The pontifical magisterium reflects this profound reality. Contemporarily — a period that we are going to extend retrospectively to Leo XIII with whom the 20th century begun — references to reconciliation are recurrent in the teachings of the Popes. These reach a significant peak from the pontificate of Pope Paul VI until the present day.

“As I listen to the outcry of man,” said Pope John Paul II a few years ago, “and see how, throughout life’s circumstances, he manifests a longing for reconciliation with God, with himself and with his neighbor, I have thought, by the Lord’s grace and inspiration, to vigorously propose this original gift of the Church which is reconciliation.”

His teachings have allowed for an important deepening of the theological and pastoral reflection of reconciliation, especially in Latin America. The Servant of God took a fundamental anthropological approximation to the relations of the human being, which suffer on account of rupture. Faced with this reality he proposed an invaluable key for the man of today when speaking of what he called the “fourfold reconciliation.”

For a culture weighed down by forces of rupture, of secularism, consumerism, materialism and other tendencies of this type that threaten the very identity of the human person, reconciliation has the virtuality of directing itself to the entire man. This certainly facilitates a response to the gifts received.

The human being finds himself called to commit himself from a lived faith, from the encounter with the Lord Jesus to overcome the ruptures that wound him and that make his unhappiness that much more burdensome.

Reconciliation comes loaded with hope, encouraging and helping the person to reconcile with God, with himself, with his fellow humans and all of creation, lending it the meaning that it has in the divine plan. Each person is invited to live reconciliation, in his own vocation, in the characteristics of life to which he is called.

The movements, like all other realities of the Church, are ambits to live in concrete, situated reality, reconciliation, a gift of God in Christ Jesus. The ecclesial movements that hold a greater existential emphasis in reconciliation will better help their members to live its fundamental anthropological dimensions and to receive its strength, aimed at healing the ruptures.

Q: In your writings you always refer to the presence of Mary. How do you find that she encourages and guides the new reality of ecclesial movements, particularly in the Sodalit Family?

Figari: It is no novelty that the Virgin Mary illuminates the realities of Christian life, her being the perfect disciple of her Son, the Lord Jesus.

In a book that I read while doing my theological studies I came across a thought that strongly impacted me: “In Mary is manifest who Christ is.” Later it impressed me to hear the bishops who came together in Puebla say that the Church, “turns to Mary so that the Gospel takes on more flesh, grows closer to the heart of Latin America.” They are intense words that evoke Chapter 8 of “Lumen Gentium.”

All of this — it was as if it began forming a spring, and on the other hand from the beginnings of my pilgrimage of faith there erupted with extraordinary potency in my consciousness the words of Christ from the heights of the cross. His testament was driven into the depths of my heart: “Behold, your Mother.” It was precisely the path of filial love that was opened and its inerasable seal marked me profoundly.

It is Christ himself who points out his Mother and offers her to us as our Mother. How [could I] not advance along the path of love that the Reconciler himself pointed out? I didn’t have to ponder much, and from that moment recognizing the Marian dimension of Christian life has been increasingly fundamental in my life of faith.

This experience, or one like it, ought to be one for every son and daughter of the Church. Her touch upon the movements, precisely on account of their ecclesial nature, cannot be diluted or hidden. The Sodalit Family, born in the celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, intensely lives filial piety toward the Most Holy Virgin. Drawing closer to Mary we discover that she is full of Jesus. Everything in her invites us to center ourselves in the Lord Jesus.

Q: Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, says in the presentation of your book that the formation of lay Christians is passing through a neuralgic moment because of the influence of relativism. How do you believe that the ecclesial movements can be for their members centers of ecclesial formation, fidelity to the truth, and to the pontifical magisterium?

Figari: Today, Pilate’s skeptical question is widespread: What is truth? The irony is evident: the blindness of he who forms the question and who is also in the presence of truth itself, the Lord Jesus.

In today’s times, there has come into question the possibility of accessing the truth and even the existence of truth itself. In all of this there is an impressive lack of realism. Relativism and subjectivism are becoming for many the customary mode of thinking.

There is also an aggressive sensualism that collaborates in this destructive process. But, the human being is a seeker of truth; it is something that he has rooted in his being. This is a characteristic and a necessi

The Petrine ministry revindicates human reason in these times of irrationality and renouncement of what is human. In this sense the Popes faithfully repeat that human reason is open to the search for the truth in all things of this world, as well as to the illumination of supernatural truth, that comes to meet him through the faith of the Church, illuminating his earthly pilgrimage.

Here, it is evident that that they follow the example of the Lord Jesus, who faced with people who lived lies, error, and faraway from reality, responded by helping them discover themselves and go forward in the search of the truth of things, of reality.

Committing himself in the search for truth leads the baptized person to encounter himself with the mystery of the Church, to love the Church, to listen to her teachings and to follow her when she points out the route to find the Lord Jesus. While traveling this course of life the person discovers the symphony of the truth, and listening to it, he will come upon the Lord’s words to Peter, and will discover the importance of the pontifical magisterium in order to advance through this life to its definitive end.

With Peter and under Peter, a strong accent common in ecclesial movements, one learns to live the happiness of Christian life and to unfurl oneself according to the plan of God, which directs one toward a full conformation with Christ. It is from this experience of encounter and of faith, of love and of fidelity, that one feels the urgency of sharing this lived experience and the ardor of the evangelization.

Q: Recently in Lima there was the 1st Congress of Sodalit Spirituality. Can you tell us a bit what this experience meant for this spiritual family?

Figari: That’s correct, a little while ago culminated this impacting event. There, for five days more than 1,200 people arrived from different countries in the Archdiocese of Lima.

The first thing that comes to mind is that it has been an immense blessing not only for the spiritual family but also for the Church. The Sodalit Family is deeply rooted in the Church and its members without a doubt understand that the gifts received are not only for them but are open to the entire Church.

That is precisely the meaning of charisms, that they don’t enclose upon themselves but extend to the entire People of God for the edification of all. They have been days of intense prayer, of reflection, of admiration, of immense gratitude to God, giver of all good. It has been a beautiful opportunity to deepen in some facets that constitute the spirituality itself in the great framework of the Catholic spirituality.

The diverse pieces of art that accompanied the congress — paintings, photography, beautiful and numerous sculptures of terra cotta and alabaster, together with music — were also an occasion to comprehend that Catholic art not only hasn’t disappeared, but that from its vitality and creativity it seeks to reflect today the mysteries of the faith and the beauty of God’s creation. Faced with so many blessings I think that every member of the spiritual family born around the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae ought to lift up to God a profound offering of thanks.

[Translation by Adam Ureneck]

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Part 1 of this interview: http://www.zenit.org/article-25324?l=english

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