“You have opened a fissure in my breast, Lord. It is a dark abyss, a universe that longs for you. I lose myself in it and suffer.”
“Grant me to love you very much, Lord.”
“The Christian’s weapon is prayer.”
These are some of the prayers, reflections, poems and thoughts that Kiko Argüello annotated in a small notebook over the course of nearly 25 years and which have now been published in a book. “Annotations,” the title of the volume of the initiator of the Neo-Catechumenal Way – the second after the 2012 “The Kerygma in the Shacks with the Poor — was published by Cantagalli with a Preface by Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez, president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference.
The book was presented in late November at Rome’s Olympic Theater by Argüello himself together with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and with Graziano Delrio, Minister of Infrastructures and Transports. Before the meeting, Argüello gave an exclusive interview to ZENIT.
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ZENIT: How would you describe your book? And what was the need to publish these reflections that in parts are so intimate?
Argüello: They were the sufferings I had, moments of spiritual “regurgitation,” of outburst, during which I began to have a dialogue with myself writing in a notebook. I wrote these annotations year after year … I never thought of publishing them! From 1988 I carried these papers in my bag and given that they were being destroyed I asked a friend to transfer them onto a computer. He said to me: “Kiko, these are very intense, why don’t you publish them? It would do much good to the brothers of the Way, because your soul is <revealed> here.” I thought about it and also on the instigation of BAC (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos) [Library of Christian Authors], I then decided to write the book, which I consider a sort of “spiritual testament,” a gift for my Communities founded at Madrid, at Rome <and> in the world, which I love very much. Here it is (he shows me the volume). I am embarrassed to read it because it is very intimate … But perhaps it will do someone good. In that case, blessed be the Lord!
ZENIT: Did Carmen’s death in July contribute to it in some way? [Carmen Hernández, the co-initiator of the Neo-Catechumenal Way]
Argüello: It certainly sped up the publication, because it made me realize that soon I will also die. Then I thought that someone might find these sheets. Who would publish them? Who would present them? Perhaps, I reflected, it’s better that I do so before dying.
ZENIT: In connection with Carmen, there are so many without and within the Way who wonder if she will be replaced …
Argüello: We thought about it and weighed thousands of hypothesis, but we decided not, while I and Father Mario (Pezzi, the priest <and> third leader of the international team of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, ndr) are in <good> health, we go forward as two apostles. Some brothers help us in evangelization and in other everyday practical things. But we are not thinking of replacing Carmen, also because she is irreplaceable.
ZENIT: Do you miss her?
Argüello: O yes and not a little.
ZENIT: What memories do you have of her who was your companion of evangelization for such a long time?
Argüello: Carmen was wonderful. <She had> an immense love for Christ. God joined us and prepared us for this great work among the poor. We took Christian initiation to the parishes, at least to those who wanted it, and people discovered what it means to be Christians. To be Christians is the greatest thing there can be in life. It is participation in Christ’s life, in divine life, in the love of God who loves in an astonishing way to the point of dying crucified as the least of the earth.
ZENIT: In a few years the Neo-Catechumenal Way will celebrate its 50th anniversary. What is the first thing that comes to mind in reviewing this half-century?
Argüello: I think above all of the fact that, together with Carmen, we travelled throughout the world: the whole of America, the whole of Asia, the whole of Europe preaching the Gospel in Churches, in Squares, in Stadiums. How many young people we met – thousands! How many vocations to the priesthood, to consecrated life, to the mission the Lord awakened! Truly, God did not want us to stop for an instant … He did everything, with His zeal to save humanity, and we were only instruments.
ZENIT: Are you satisfied?
Argüello: Yes, I’m happy, but always suffering! I consider myself a sinner, a poor thing, I don’t know why God gives me these sentiments …
ZENIT: Honestly, what do you believe is the contribution that the Way has given to the Church?
Argüello: It was the popes themselves who always recognized the great contribution of the Neo-Catechumenal Way to the Church, not least Pope Francis who loves us very much and has described it as “a gift.” I believe that the Way also served to come out of the limits of clericalism that, as the Holy Father often says, is one of the “cancers” of the Church. Fifty years after the Council, there are so many who do not endure a layman saying certain things; it’s an anomaly, or that the Lord can give a charism to a layman, because this means to have “power.” This still makes us suffer somewhat today, but Christ suffered much more than us.
ZENIT: Is a novelty foreseen for the future?
Argüello: The future? The future is in God’s hands! We continue with evangelization in the parishes: there are so many new ones in the world that have opened the doors to this reality of Christian initiation, and then, the missio ad gentes, which are an aid especially for families, so that they remain united.
ZENIT: Does evangelization continue in Asia?
Argüello: Absolutely! The Pope has already sent some 400 families to Asia: Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam and also, little by little, China is opening up. A few days ago I was speaking with the Archbishop of Beijing who said to me: “We need you, because we have an urgent need for a new catechumenate.” They have opened so many churches, but there are Chinese that know nothing about Christ, about Christianity; they don’t know how to educate them, how to bring them close to the Church …. I said: “We are preparing 20,000 priests for the Church in China, but we are still very few, what to do? On the other hand, what are 20,000 priests for more than 300,000 Churches? Nothing. China is immense, but now it is in a kayros moment, it is in need of apostles. And we try, in so far as possible, to foster evangelization. I said we are preparing a group for China, in the Redemptoris Mater seminaries, to take Jesus Christ <there>. In China, in fact, now there is only money … Money, money, money …And, as the Pope always says, money is anti-God.
ZENIT: Instead in Europe, he has said on several occasions, there is a risk of apostasy …
Argüello: No, no, there isn’t a risk of apostasy; Europe is already in apostasy. And this is a grave fact, it’s the preparation of the anti-Christ. In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul says: “First there will be rebellion and then the man of lawlessness will be revealed,” but “the Lord will slay him with the breath of His mouth.” We think that this breath is the proclamation of the kerygma. Therefore, for the coming months we are preparing a mission worldwide of thousands of apostles who, two by two, “without a purse or money,” will proclaim the love of God on the street.[Translation by ZENIT]