The Church Universal 5 – The Neocatechumenal Way

By | August 17, 2019


♪ Fr. Joseph: Welcome to “The Church Universal” series, where we seek to tell the often untold story of the many groups, outreaches and apostolates in the Catholic Church, which are making a positive difference in the world through their charitable works and prayerful lives. Hello, I’m Fr. Joseph Mary. And as you well know, many today are abandoning their faith in the Church. My guests today have been very successful in stemming that tide and bringing about a, revitalization in the Christian life. They are present in 1000 dioceses and 125 nations, with over 25,000 communities in 6000 parishes. They are from the Neocatechumenal Way. Fr. Sebastian Garcia is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. Marco Vitrano is a seminarian in the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Newark. And Chris and Lauren Tolbin are in a Neocatechumenal community in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Welcome to all of you. Guests: Thank you, Father. Fr. Joseph: So, Chris and Lauren, we heard a little bit of rustling there, but not too bad at the introduction. Introduce us to your beautiful children. Chris: Sure. As you said, my name is Chris. This is my wife, Lauren. We’ve been married almost 10 years and with us are our 5 children. The oldest is Aaron whose 8, who I believe is excited to be here. Correct? Aaron: Yes. Chris: And then there’s Nathan, who is 7. He’s there on the end. Then we have Elizabeth and first girl, who is 5 years old and very excited to be in Kindergarten; Zachary, [Fr. Joseph laughs] who has his finger up his nose who is 3 and an inspiring minor and Genevieve who has just turned one and we’re expecting our 6th child. Really the reason we wanted to bring the kids on was simply because for us the fact of God’s existence is proof through these children, who wouldn’t exist had He not intervened. And so we brought them here to criminal chaos and hopefully, yeah, not interrupt too much. Fr. Joseph: A little joy, too. So, children always bring joy so we’re happy that you brought them with you today. Now, Fr. Sebastian, the word “Neocatechumenal” a — many people haven’t heard that word. What does that word mean? Fr. Sebastian: Well, you are very right when you say that actually a lot of people have problems pronouncing this word “Neocatechumenal Way.” But in a sense this word refers to the actual nature of what this “Way” is which is a Christian initiation. It’s a rediscovery of faith. After the Second Vatican Council the Church has seen the need of reinserting the experience of the catechumenate, which is where the Church has always initiated people into faith, into the parishes somehow — not so much only for the people that were not baptized, but also for the baptized people like a post-baptismal catechumenate. And that’s why the Congregation for Divine Worship agreed on naming this reality the “Neocatechumenal Way” as post-baptismal catechumenate as well. Fr. Joseph: So that was something that was present in the Early Church and today many people are baptized but perhaps they don’t have a full understanding of their faith. Fr. Sebastian: Absolutely. In fact, many times this is a reality we encounter in the parishes. When I was ordained in the Archdiocese of Newark, I saw that somehow the pastoral work of the parish only reaches a certain amount of people, but there is a bigger amount of people that live in the parish territory who have no Christian initiation whatsoever. For them to believe that Jesus Christ is in the priests or Jesus Christ is in the tabernacle or in the poor is not enough. It’s not enough somehow. So, I saw the need of; not me, but the Church has seen the need of rediscovering this as a reality that belongs to the Church. A Christian initiation to rediscover what faith is — faith as a Good News. And for this to happen somehow, you know that the Holy Spirit always acts in mysterious ways. God chose this man. His name was Kiko who in his…he was originally from Spain. He is actually still alive, was a painter and God allowed him to go through an existential crisis where he began to doubt about the existence of God. Everything became an absurdity in his live. He tried to live like this thinking “Well, maybe this is life. Let’s just go on through the motions and when I die, I die.” But he realized that he was unbearable. He needed to give an answer to his life. “Who is God? Does really Heaven exist?” And this has somehow this whole experience led through this crisis. God led Kiko to live amongst the Poor. What I am trying to say is that this was not born in the Church like a program. It was not just a bunch of theologians that got around a table and said, “Okay let’s create a Christian initiation somehow.” But it was a gift of the Holy Spirit and was born from the Poor in the slums of Madrid to be concrete, you know, amongst the gypsies. Fr. Joseph: He didn’t really have an intention really to go in there to preach, to evangelize, but just to be one with the Poor, isn’t that correct? Fr. Sebastian: Exactly, exactly. He was following the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld [OS] about the Little Brothers of Charles de Foucauld. And also you heard from the Pope at the time, John XXIII, that the renewal, this renewal that the Church was speaking about was going to come from the poor. So, that’s what he just went just to live amongst the poor, to be one of them, to be at the foot of the cross, as he usually said. And he somehow found the reality that people began to approach him and ask him somehow, “Tell us about Christ. Tell us about what you know about the Church.” And he started to speak to them but somehow he in this experience he discovered God inspired him a way of talking to these people who didn’t know how to read or write that somehow could relate to them somehow. He discovered a charismatic preaching which somehow began to change the lives of the people. And this, the Christian tripod that the Second Vatican Council speaks about many times throughout the different documents, the Word of God, the liturgy and the community, began to appear for these experiences. Fr. Joseph: It just kind of grew out of that initial experience. I remember reading it was an interview that he actually did on our Spanish site of EWTN, where it talked about the first time he had talked to I think a group of gypsies that he was talking about Adam and Eve and theology. And this woman came up to him and said, “Look, my father is dead. He’s not coming back. Nobody is coming back.” And he had this sense that we have to get back to the Kerygma, the basics, that Jesus rose from the dead. Fr. Sebastian: Absolutely. In fact, he discovered in this conversation that somehow the core of the Good News is that a man came back from the dead, that Christ is Risen. And this is what opened the ears of these people. And as a consequence, the Holy Spirit started acting in these people because Kiko – actually you can read it in his book, in “The Kerygma.” [OS] He wrote this book called “The Kerygma.” He never told these people to change their lives. I mean these people had, they follow lives with no morals. They were prostitutes, drunkards, murderers. Somehow their lives began to change – not because Kiko told them so but somehow it was the Holy Spirit acting in them. Eventually Archbishop Marcio, Archbishop of Madrid at the time, he heard about this experience and he realized that this is exactly what the Church was speaking about as a rediscovery of faith in the parishes. This reality somehow began to be brought to different parishes and it took the shape of a Christian initiation. This is the way it actually begin is through this catechetical synthesis that was discovered as a result of dialoguing with the gypsies, with the poor… Fr. Joseph: So it’s a dialogue nature that the catechesis takes place? Fr. Sebastian: Yes the catechesis was born from the actual dialogue with the poor. Like for example, like you just mentioned this lady saying, I mean, “Who is God for you? How do you know He exists? Is He blonde? Does He have blue eyes?” and so on and so forth — like in a very existential way. To tell you the truth my experience of the catechesis I believe it is an inspiration of the Holy Spirit because it speaks directly to the existential situation of man. And he sees then, it makes you see the need of being initiated into faith, the need of the Church, the need of being helped by the Church. Fr. Joseph: Those basic deep questions that everyone has. Yes. Well, let’s move onto Chris and Lauren here. Your children have moved on. But we’re happy that you’re still here to talk about why you got involved with the Neocatechumenal Way. Chris: Sure. I mean, so I got involved with the Neocatechumenal Way about 17 years ago. I think that as Fr. Sebastian was saying; this sort of catechetical work of the way which practically is done through a series of talks in the parish was one as he was saying that really spoke to the existential situation that I had. I mean I can tell you sincerely that the only reason that I find myself in Irondale, Alabama speaking with you today is because God chose this way to mark my life, to speak to me, to bring the Church to me. And to answer these questions which were constantly haunting me. “Who am I? What am I living for?” I can tell you that I mean we have 6 children. We had six children here but the blessed silence has come for me. [all chuckle] We had 6 children here, all are fruit of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t want to have any children. And I saw that through these catechesis, I heard a Good News. Out of this catechesis as Fr. Sebastian was mentioning, then there is formed a community, a community of people who together walk this way of initiation to be initiated to Faith, to see the Church as a mother that’s gestating in us, Jesus Christ. Fr. Joseph: And it’s a continuing process of formation. You’re never complete, is that right? Chris: You’re never complete. That’s true and as the Second Vatican Council says; Christian life walks on this tripod of 3 elements — the word of God, the liturgy and the community. And in this community of people, normal people – well, as normal as we are, so you can be the judge of that — where you begin to see that God actually acts in your life. I saw that I grew up in a very nice town in suburban New Jersey. I was not in the slums of Madrid. And we had a very nice picture on our house; everything looked great from the outside, the classic American family. My…2 parents, 2 children, 3 cats and we would go to Mass, we would smile. But deep down my family was falling apart. My parents’ marriage was dissolving. My sister and I hated each other. And when this Word of God came, it began to rebuild everything. My parents are still married to this day because God chose this way to meet them. Fr. Joseph: Your whole family became involved? Chris: My whole family became involved. I can tell you I met my wife through this way. In my upbringing I was taught something very, very simple which was that the Trinity that we lived by was not so much in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit but was in the name of a good education, a good job and a lot of money. These were the 3 ways to eternal life. My parents were trying to help me and I found myself my whole life compelled to do this and never satisfied. Always unhappy, always thinking; “I’ll be happy when I get into the best school.” And I got into one of the best schools and I wasn’t happy. I mean, “I’ll be happy if I get married.” I found a beautiful lady, who could stand more than 30 consecutive seconds of my presence. But I found was that somehow I was looking for life in everything but God. I went into marriage asking my wife to make me happy. She came in the marriage asking me to make her happy and somehow it didn’t take. And it was in the midst of all this that God gave me this answer, which was as you were saying before that someone came back from the dead. My situation was one just like Adam and Eve, where I thought that somehow my life, the problem of my life I could solve myself. I knew better than God how my life should be. I should have been this. I should have been that. And this, this, as soon as I say it the devil; “Yes, it’s true you know, I know better.” Then immediately I live for myself. Fr. Joseph: So, let’s not get to complicated. Let’s get back to the basics, right, the Kerygma that that’s very life giving. Now, Lauren, how has this Way enriched your own life? Lauren: Well, I grew up in the Church and I pretty much had a Catholic upbringing. But there was always this question in the back of my mind, “Is God enough? Is He enough?” I wanted a Christian marriage. I wanted a Christian family. I entered into the Neocatechumenal Way wanting these things, but the town just faced by most families today was just too much. There are the temptations, the challenges were too much for us to have, as Chris was saying, a comfortable lifestyle, to have it all. And I found myself not really believing that God was enough, not really believing that He could satisfy and make me happy. I was looking to my husband to make me happy. I was looking to my children to make me happy. Looking to the comforts of life to make me happy. Really what we found was that our marriage entered into a deep crisis. I needed the Church to be there and the Church was there for me in the Neocatechumenal Way. We were in a community that enlightened me as to the beauty and wisdom that the Church had to offer for the family. What did it mean to have a Christian family? What did it mean to have a Christian marriage, particularly through something that the Way speaks of as the 3 altars – the altar of the Eucharistic table, the altar of the family dinner table and the altar of the marriage bed. And that this was there to sort of catch us when we were in a very, very deep crisis to sort of point us in the right direction and feed us and nourish us, to experience the Eucharist that we could meet Christ in the presence of the Eucharist, in the Mass, shared in our community. And to me, Christ also, at the dinner table with our children, where we also pray, where we pray Morning Prayer together. These things nourished us and helped us and rebuilt our marriage in a really concrete way. I mean, especially for us, very selfish people after a couple of kids with him working all the time, I said “That’s it. I’m done.” Too, we started practicing Natural Family Planning to space out the kids because we didn’t have the tools that we needed to have a Christian marriage. But the Neocatechumenal Way enlightened us as to the beauty and the wisdom of the Church. With “Humanae Vitae” that Paul VI, the encyclical that Paul VI wrote, to experience that you receive life by giving your life. You receive happiness and joy by giving your life, to you experience the sacredness, the beauty of sex in the context of the way that God intended it. To be open to the children that He wants to give you. All of these things were gifts that the Neocatechumenal Way, that the Church through the Neocatechumenal way, bestowed on us to really enlighten the fundamental problem, which was that God was enough, that He was enough to satisfy us to make us happy. I can be happy having this 6th child, which if you had asked me 10 years ago when I got married would that, be possible? No, but with God everything is possible, anything is possible. And really this has rebuilt our marriage and has been you know a miracle. Fr. Joseph: Well, beautiful to see your enthusiasm about how this has enriched your own life. Now, Marco, you are a seminarian at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Newark, New Jersey. I wanted to ask you about the term ‘missionary.’ What makes the seminary or the Neocatechumenal Way missionary? Marco: Well, you know Father, as you said well, the seminary in the Neocatechumenal Way because this aspect of the seminary of the mission of the seminary is related to the missionary spirit of the Neocatechumenal Way. As the brothers and sister said here; somehow in the mission you discover your faith. In the mission you rediscover that Jesus Christ is useful for something — that He really intervenes in my life. That He changed my family; that He rebuilt the marriage of my parents; that He saved me from living a very selfish life, just for myself enjoying and then I’d been feeling miserable, alone. If God is useful, if God has done this in your life, if He saved you from something, then you need to go out and tell and say your experience. “This has been my experience.” Fr. Joseph: The Good News is not just for us individually, but it’s to be shared with others, right? Marco: So, in this sense there is a natural. It comes natural for you to go out or to be able or willing to go anywhere in the world or to go in the streets and say, “God loves you.” That God has been very important in my life because otherwise I wouldn’t be in a seminary, otherwise I wouldn’t be married or with 6 children. And so, we see the necessity you know the urgency to go out or to be willing to go wherever God wants us to go so we can announce this experience we received through this itinerary of Faith. Fr. Joseph: Beautiful. We’re going to look at a video now that your group has produced that talks about the great mission, where there was this whole impulse to go out into the city squares to bring that Good News of Jesus Christ. So, let’s look at that video now. Pope Francis: [OS] [OS] Fr. Joseph: 25,000 returning back to the practice of their faith — Chris, how did that happen? Chris: As Marco was saying; when you’ve received the Good News and you’ve heard something new, you need to announce it everywhere even to the most de-Christianized areas. In that clip you saw a picture of a giant head of Karl Marx. Fr. Joseph: Yes! I was wondering about that! Chris: That was Chemnitz in East Germany, which was used to be called Karl-Marx-Stadt where 95% of the people aren’t baptized. The Church has implanted Christian families to announce this Good News. Fr. Joseph: Wow! Awesome! Well, unfortunately we’ve come to the end of our program here. But Fr. Sebastian, if people want to learn more about the Neocatechumenal Way, what’s the best way for them to do that? Fr. Sebastian: Well, actually, that’s an interesting question because we are not, I mean, we are not presented to the parishes as a program or as a movement, but as an actual Christian initiation which belongs to the pastoral work of the parish. So, to answer your question, the best way for people to go would be addressing their pastors. To go and speak to the pastor and if he doesn’t have this itinerary of faith yet in his parish, maybe he can ask for it or refer it to somebody else to a different parish because it is a diocesan implementation of the Christian initiation. [OS] Fr. Joseph: It’s a resource for the parish, right and it’s in many parishes. Fr. Sebastian: But if anything if people would like to look for information of the Neocatechumenal Center in New Jersey. So, yeah, sure I would that would be my answer to your question. Fr. Joseph: Wonderful. Well, we appreciate you’re coming on to be on the show today to tell us a little bit about the Neocatechumenal Way. We wish you all the best in your work. Guests: Thank you, Fr. Joseph. Fr. Joseph: St. Paul writes that God gives a variety of gifts and inspires a variety of services for the common good. What gifts has He given to you? What service has He inspired in you? Perhaps you are called to help stem the tide of those abandoning the Faith and the Church and to revitalize the Christian faith in others by being part of the Neocatechumenal Way. May God bless and guide you. See you next time. [music]

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