From December 27-29th, the Plaza Colon in Madrid will receive thousands of parents, children and babies from all of Europe to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, the traditional event that wishes to honor and remember the importance of the family. Among the participants of the 7th Annual Family Day – which will reflect on the theme: “The family: A privileged place”, will be numerous members of the Neocatechumenal Way, led by the initiator, Kiko Argüello, who on Sunday, December 29th, will present as well those families who will be blessed before they depart to various missio ad gentes missions around the world. ZENIT met with Argüello who explained his participation at the event, as well as his affinity for Pope Francis, the importance of announcing the Kerygma and the upcoming audience of Pope Francis in the Paul VI Audience Hall on February 1st with the responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way and those families who will be going on mission.
ZENIT: What contribution with the Neocatechumenal Way give to Family Day this year?
Argüello: As we do every year, we have invited the families of the Way to be present and to give their witness. We, the responsibles of the Way, are surprised to see the disposition of so many families who offer themselves for the New Evangelization in the whole world. Almost one month ago, a convivence was held in which the “fate” of these families was decided. On one side we had the places in which a mission ad gentes was necessary (for example in Africa, Asia, and Europe) and the other side we had the names of these people. It was surprising because all of them were ready to go to the places that were drawn by lot. We would like to give witness to this. In addition, families from all over Europe will come to entrust their mission to the Holy Family of Nazareth, and Cardinal Rouco will impart a blessing on them during the Mass.
ZENIT: Where is this disposition of the families born from, this faith that you speak of, to go to announce the Gospel in every part of the world.
Argüello: It comes from the Christian initiation. It is important to bring an itinerary of Christian initiation in all the parishes, that is, planting the seed of our Baptism so that in all a new man may be born, a new creation. Saint Paul says that “Christ has died for all so that man may no longer live for himself.” The condemnation of man is being separated from God by original sin, which obliges him to live for himself. Man finds happiness only when his “I” is satisfied, yet he remains unsatisfied because he cannot give of himself, he cannot love as Christ loved us, giving his life on the Cross. These families, therefore, thanks to a path of Christian initiation, to a community that sustains them, to catecheses, to the Word of God, deepen their faith and begin to realize the desire that God inspires to leave, to give of themselves, which is a great thing.
ZENIT: On Sunday, you will present the families who will be leaving for the missio ad gentes and will be blessed on February 1st by Pope Francis. Who are these families?
Argüello: Almost all of them come from Europe, the majority from Italy and Spain. They are young families, with many small children, who will go in mission to various countries of Asia and Africa, or in areas of Europe that are completely secularized, where there is no presence of the Church: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Latvia, to name a few. In total there are roughly 40 missio ad gentes. Each one of them is composed of 4 families, a priest and a “socio” who accompanies him, who is usually a lay person or a seminarian. In the missio there are also older women who contribute to the evangelization and three young women who, without making any particular vow, offer themselves freely to help the families look after the young children. Those who know and see this small communities remain impressed with how they relate to one another. Jesus Christ said “Love one another as I have loved you and in this they will know that you are my disciples.” This is accomplished and it shakes the world, because the people seeing this loved are “touched” and wish to love as they do. We do catecheses in house of those non-baptized who are “delighted” in seeing all this, to breathe this air. It is a new form of evangelization that instead of starting from the religiosity of the people, from the temple, it starts from love.
ZENIT: In particular, the Way is concentrating on the mission in Asia? How is it going? Are their concrete fruits?
Argüello: We are truly enthusiastic about what God is doing in Asia.We see extraordinary things everyday. For example, in one missio ad gentes in India, during Christmas the families were meeting to sing Christmas songs of the Way. Some people in the area, hearing the songs, approached them and asked these brothers to enter into their house. The mayor of the city also approached them and wanted the families in mission to teach him these songs that he lived very much. Last year, a small “concert” was also organized with the songs of the Way that accompanied the representation of a live Nativity scene. Even this is evangelization, because these people knew nothing of Christianity…The presence of a father, a mother, of children is always a novelty in certain places. Christian marriage, when it is truly Christian, is surprising.
ZENIT: The evangelization in Asia was one of the principal issues by the Holy Father during your audience with him on September 5th. You have also met Pope Francis personally several times. What impression has the Pope made on you?
Argüello: This Pope leaves me speechless: he is a surprising person and his charism is brilliant. The first thing he told me when I met him was “What a great lío (to make a mess or shaking things up) you have made in the Church, you must continue to do so.” In the private audience in September, however, I told him: “Father, I am a sinner” and he replied: “Then we are both: you and I. He then added, “Courage, Kiko, you are responsible of an important charism, I respect whatever you decide.” I was very moved by these words of the Holy Father, as well as his love for the weakest, his insistence in “going out” to help and “bring attention” to the poor, the sick and the elderly. God speaks to the Church through these people. Moreover, I feel very united with the Holy Father for the name, chosen in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, a saint who I have always been bound to. In the shanty towns of Madrid, I would go around with a Bible, a guitar, an image of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and the portrait of St. Francis by Cimabue. Saint Francis has always been close to me, and has been my “protector”, and I am happy that the Pope has also chosen him as “patron”. Finally, I appreciate very much that the Pope is attacking clericalism and promoting the role of the laity in the Church. I pray for him, for his mission and that he may bear the criticism that is brought to him. There are many people who complain that Pope Francis is “desacralizing” the figure of the Pontiff and so on. God will help him and the Most Holy Virgin will give him strength.
ZENIT: What are your hopes for the February 1st Audience?
Argüello: I hope to present to the Pope the work that God is doing with the Way. Because it is about this: a work of God, not mine, nor of anyone else. The audience will also be an important occasion so that the Holy Father will get to know the families in mission, as it has already happened with the previous Popes who have sent more than 1,000 families. Blessed John Paul II, for example, has been great with us. When I was young I remained amazed, during a trip, by the reality of Scandinavia, and one day I told the Pope that this nation should be re-evangelized by sending families; he agreed and proposed to erect a Redemptoris Mater seminary. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was also an important figure for the Neocatechumenal Way and has always been close to the families in mission. Our charism can never be separated from the Successor of Peter; it would not survive…
ZENIT: In N. 164 of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes: “In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma; […]On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over…” The kerygma is the center of the evangelization that the Way has carried out for years. What effect has been made on you in reading these passage from the Apostolic Exhortation?
Argüello: It amazed me, because as many people know, last year I published a book entitled “The Kerygma”, which is a technical world used by Saint Paul when he announces that “God wish to save the world through the foolishness of preaching. The Apostle wrote it in greek, and instead of “preaching”, he uses this word “kerygma”. Christianity is first and foremost a news, that is realized when it is accepted. What the Pope says in his Apostolic Exhortation – the the catechist must always announce the kerygma – is done from the beginning in the Way. When we visit a community or meet people we always proclaim the love of Christ. Because we are all sinners and we all in need of a constant conversion and the announcement of the Gospel.[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]