At times one forgets that Kiko Argüello is 74, an age in which one tends, as a rule, to conclude the cycle of one’s life and to begin another made up of memories and rest. Instead, he was at Livorno on Sunday afternoon, returning from continuous traveling between Spain, Austria and Italy, ready to proclaim the love of God in front of more than 10,000 youth gathered in the Palamodi Stadium.
“The greatest thing I can do is to proclaim the kerygma,” Argüello said. One cannot be still now, nor be “Christians of the living-room,” as Pope Francis says, but one must go everywhere to take this Good News “which saves men and the world.”
This is particularly important in a “secularized” city such as Livorno, Bishop Simone Giusti of Livorno told ZENIT. It is a “paradoxical” city, he said, where “35% of the children are not baptized and where there is a very high percentage of funerals and civil marriages,” but which at the same time “is a city that, although far from the parishes, has a great religious sense.”
What is needed, therefore, “is what the last Popes have called New Evangelization,” he added. Hence, “preaching such as Kiko’s is necessary at Livorno, as in the 60s on the outskirts of Madrid.” The Neocatechumenal Way, said the prelate, “is in fact a great gift of the Council for people to rediscover the Lord. And it seems to me that there are fruits,” he said.
The weather yesterday afternoon was of no help. Uninterrupted rain made a difficult trip for the buses not only from Tuscany but also from Lazio, Piedmont, Triveneto, Umbria, Liguria as well as from Sardinia, Switzerland and France. However, the deluge did not impede the youth of the Neocatechumenal Way from pouring into the city, beginning in the morning to sing and dance, attracting the attention of the citizens.
Some described then as “euphoric,” yet it cannot be denied that the Holy Spirit was in their midst when a scene is witnessed such as that of the distribution of more than 150 Rosaries to pray for the Missio ad gentes in France and Holland, in which countless lines of boys and girls (some younger than 15) virtually pushed one another to receive. Many raced towards the stage at the moment where 64 young men wished to respond to the call to the seminary and 90 young women who showed their readiness to go on mission to China. “For the first time in history, the women have beaten the men,” exclaimed Kiko.
Also mentioned were the many fruits of the Missions in 10,000 Squares worldwide, due in fact to young people ready to spend their Sunday afternoons sharing with those passing by the experience of their encounter with God. With “an average of four persons to every Square, there were at least 40,000 of the estranged who came back to the Church,” said Kiko. Real “miracles and works” that “Pope Francis very much appreciated,” when, meeting with the initiators of the Way at Domus Sanctae Marthae on May 18. Argüello also stated that he showed the Holy Father several photos of the missions. “The Holy Father warned me: After these fruits, now be attentive to the blows of the tail of the devil,” Argüello told the crowd of youth.
After the initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way began the meeting, a procession with an image of the Virgin Mary took place. The image was preceded by a gold crucifix while the seminarians of Redemptoris Mater of Florence, Trieste, Lugano and Pinerolo transported the image of the Madonna of Montenero, patroness of Tuscany, while Kiko and all those present sang “Victory, Eternal Life in the Risen Christ.”
It was followed by the proclamation of the kerygma. “We are not here to do a show,” exhorted Kiko, but to “say that here at Livorno, at 6:00 pm salvation arrived, the favorable time.” Because “the kerygma proclaims an act: that the Lord who knows you, your problems and your sufferings,” “sent His Son to suffer death, so that we would become one with Him, the first born of a new creation.”
The problem lies in having a “closed ear” to receive this news. In that case, warned Kiko, the relation between man and God is broken and one listens to the ‘counter-catechesis’ of the devil who “wants to convince you that God castrates you, limits you, and that you must be autonomous, seeking your happiness on your own.”
This leads “to the hell of non-being,” of not feeling loved; it generates death. “It is as being abandoned in the sidelines,” said Arguello, in an “abyss of suffering” that drives to tragic gestures.
“God allows this, because He also gives man the freedom to sin, in order to make him understand that he is not a puppet in His hands.” Above all God has “sent His only Son, He resurrected Him as a guarantee that sin is forgiven,” added the initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way. And in face of this kerygma “we must say yes or no like Mary.”
The same proclamation was confirmed by Bishop Giusti. In a strong Tuscan accent, the bishop made his listeners smile and moved them when speaking of miracles, of those events, that is, that demonstrate that “the Gospel is not a beautiful hope, but life that changes.” “What made it possible for Christianity to spread everywhere, with the preaching of a traitor like Peter or a persecutor like Paul?” asked the prelate: to believe in the miracles “that Christ wrought and that go beyond that “idol of death that seems omnipotent.”