Lebanese Young People Consider New Evangelization

Founder of the Easter Morning Watchmen on Seminar in Harissa

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By Robert Cheaib

BEIRUT, Lebanon, SEPT. 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A meeting was held at Harissa, a few miles from Beirut, to prepare young Lebanese people for the task of evangelization. It was planned as a prelude to Benedict XVI’s Sept. 14-16 visit to Lebanon.

The meeting was organized by Father Boulos Fahed of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary and held at the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon last Friday through Sunday. Among those directing the course was Father Daniel Ange, founder of “Jeunesse Lumiere,” and Father Gianni Castorani, founder of the “Easter Morning Watchmen” School of Evangelization (www.scuoladievangelizzazione.it).

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Castorani explained the purpose of the course.

ZENIT: Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have always met with young people during their apostolic visits. The meeting with John Paul II in 1997 is still alive in the minds of Lebanese young people. What was the objective of your preparatory meeting with young people?

Father Castorani: The main objective was to prepare them for the Holy Father’s arrival in the coming days. We wished to encourage them inasmuch as we know that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East that has a significant Christian presence. It’s important that these young people continue to stay in Lebanon to give their witness and carry out their work of evangelization. Hence, our objective was to encourage them, to console them, and to give them confidence. If Christian young people leave the country, a great void will be left. 

ZENIT: Those who know Daniel Ange know of his fondness for Lebanon. Can you tell us his story briefly and why he is bound to Lebanon with such love?

Father Castorani: Daniel Ange visited Lebanon for the first time in the 80s with the blessing and mandate of John Paul II. The Pope said to Daniel Ange this beautiful phrase: “Le Liban c’est la fille blesse de l’humanite (Lebanon is the wounded daughter of humanity).” Why is Lebanon “wounded”? Because the Lebanese people are very hospitable and their hospitality makes them become an attacked people. The Lebanese are a generous, hospitable, joyful people, a preferred people of the Lord.

Another important bond with Lebanon are the various Lebanese young people who were in France at the JL school to prepare themselves for evangelization. Then they returned to Lebanon to dedicate themselves to evangelization. One of them is a priest.

During his stay in Lebanon, Daniel Ange had intense experiences. For example, during the war, on a Christmas night, he celebrated Mass on the war front and that night was a night of peace. We saw it as a miracle.

ZENIT: You are dedicated to evangelization and even carry out evangelization with prostitutes. What did you wish to transmit to the young people of Lebanon.

Father Castorani: First of all, we wished to transmit the need for the New Evangelization. It was the great slogan of John Paul II’s pontificate. One of the objectives is to awaken young people to the New Evangelization. The School of Evangelization is part of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization and the purpose of our visit to Lebanon is to arouse this zeal.

Our School’s charism is that of contemplation/adoration and mission. We live in contemplation and every three months we go out on mission. We contemplate the face of Jesus and then go to take him to young people on the beaches, on the streets and in discotheques. Just as Mary Magdalen contemplated the Risen Christ on Easter morning, and went to announce this to the other disciples.  

The center of the mission is the testimony in which we recount our encounter with Christ in our life.

ZENIT: You have four pillars: prayer, community, formation and mission. How have you transmitted this in Lebanon?

Father Castorani: So many dedicate themselves to civil service with so much good will, but, as Christians, young people need to know that the first social service to be done is evangelization, as John Paul II said, because a church that carries out charity is important, but — as Mother Teresa said – we are not social workers. The Church exists to evangelize, as Paul VI said in Evangelii nuntiandi.

It’s not necessary to disassociate evangelization and charity; they are two dimensions that go together. Of what good is it to do social works if the essential, which is God, is not then given to people. De-Christianized Europe is losing its identity. Its economic crisis is only the epiphenomenon of a crisis of values, a crisis of faith. Hence our appeal to Lebanese young people is that they be formed and go through the streets to proclaim the Christ they have encountered and contemplated.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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