During an audience on Friday, March 6, Pope Francis will send 31 new missio ad gentes, a total of 200 families with 600 children. Of these missio ad gentes, 16 will be sent to Europe, 4 to America, 9 to Asia and 2 to Oceania. Each one is made up of a priest and three or four families with numerous children, including older children, who will make a Christian community present. They are families that for many years have followed a Neocatechumenal itinerary to rediscover their Baptism.
The missio ad gentes are called by Bishops to make an implantatio ecclesiae in areas where the Church does not exist or where it cannot reach people. The Bishop gives a missio to a priest, he entrusts to him an area that is generally secularized and gives him the faculty to baptize, marry, give the Sacraments, celebrate the Eucharist, etc. The Bishop has a contract with the responsibles of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, which guarantees the presence of these families and to care for them, so that they are not a weight for the diocese.
There is a Christian community behind each one of these families: the community of their parishes of origin, which helps them, pays for their trips, stays in contact with them, so that the community is involved in the evangelization. If a family does not find work, the community helps them until they do. To begin the Mission, these families look for a building where they can meet and form the community; they look for work, a place to live and their children begin to study in the local school. As time passes, the children invite their schoolmates and friends to their homes, and the latter marvel at seeing a Christian family: the majority of these children’s parents are separated, so they are surprised to see a numerous family, with the father and mother together. The parents make contact with their neighbors and acquaintances. Every week the families go out into the streets to sing with guitars and they carry out a mission in a public place where they meet other people. After some time, they invite people they know to listen to some catecheses: many are people who have left the Church; others are not baptized and they begin the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of preparation for Baptism. All the missio ad gentes have already formed one or more communities of pagans.
Kiko Argüello, initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, explained the role of the missio ad gentes.
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Today we are faced with a new era. There was a period in which the first evangelization was carried out by itinerant Bishops, such as Paul and Barnabas. The second evangelization was done by monks, Saint Boniface, Saint Columba, Saint Benedict. Then we come to the Middle Ages, from a feudal regime to a bourgeois regime. Then the cities appear, the bourgeoisie, money. Saint Francis’ father, [Pietro] Bernardone, was very rich and traded with France. However, in face of a new era, God awakens charisms to respond to this situation: the Mendicant Orders, because the Church runs the danger of installing herself. Then God inspired Saint Francis to go barefoot, without money, and Saint Dominic Guzman. After the Mendicant Orders we come to another era, which is the moment of Trent and Lutheranism, the step to modernity, the discovery of America: man is at the center of everything; there is a revolution of mentality and philosophy. And God awakens other charisms, such as the Jesuits. After the French Revolution, many Religious Orders arose that evangelized the whole world.
Today, we are faced with another new era, but there is a novelty: it is for the laity, for families to evangelize, but not as a discovery or an idea, but as a necessity because many people are no longer religious. This era was preceded by two World Wars, with 60 million dead, which caused a great nihilism and then new atheist philosophies: a whole situation by which man has become secularized little by little. In front of this situation, in the Symposium of European Bishops in 1985, Saint John Paul II said that there was a need to return to the very first apostolic model. When the first Christians had to leave the synagogues, they gathered in homes to receive the Apostles’ instruction, for the breaking of the bread and for prayer, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. We think that this forms part of the very first apostolic model. So, following what Saint John Paul II said, these missio ad gentes, meet in homes amid the non-baptized.
In the Gospel, Jesus Christ says: “love one another as I have loved you.” There is a surprising point here for the world. Christ gave his life for us when we were his enemies. Well, there is a new quality of love here, something that in general is not seen anywhere, because the concern for justice, or rather the way we understand justice, impedes us from loving our enemy. Sartre said: the other is hell. In many modern nations today, people live alone. Relations with others is becoming ever more difficult. 78% of people in Scandinavia live alone; after having lived five or six experiences, they end up alone. This makes us see the difficulty of relating in love. So these people are surprised to see the relations of love in these families. Love one another as I have loved you, and in this love they will know, the pagans that are around you, that you are disciples of Jesus Christ. And he also adds: if you are perfectly one, the world will believe. That is, if your relationship reaches a unity like that of the Most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son, perfectly one in the Holy Spirit, the world will believe.
But, who will bring about this unity? The Holy Spirit that is given to us, and when the Holy Spirit descends upon a Christian, this unity of the Trinity becomes visible and the moral miracle appears, the Church appears as a sacrament of salvation for the world. We carry out missio ad gentes in the midst of many people estranged from the Church; we present this reality, which is the Church, with the love of the Most Holy Trinity. Families that are formed; that have 14, 17, 20 years of experience of the Way; Christian families that can show what the Church is today. The evangelization we are carrying forward in China and Asia also passes through these families. Today, we witness an enormous number of suicides, the crisis of relationships in the family, every four minutes a marriage breaks down in Italy and in Spain. The crisis of relationships that destroys so many families, makes the relationship of love of these Christian families a news, an event of the New Evangelization. The Neocatechumenal Way shows this new relationship of love, because all men desire to love. There are so many people who commit suicide because for many years they haven’t loved anyone. It’s difficult to live without love. If one doesn’t feel loved by anyone, life without love is hell. That’s why the world awaits us.