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Posted June 1, 2006

Everyone concedes that our church could have better, more effective church movements. Her areas for possible renewal are beyond counting and are fertile ground for planting new seeds of life for anyone with a creative mind and loving heart. The following are some thoughts about the meaning of a church movement. They are taken from the book: New Ecclesial Movements already cited on our website.

Movements as Response to Need

In a thoughtful presentation to the Bishops, gathered by Pope John Paul II in the year 1999 to reflect on the phenomenon of the new ecclesial movements, Guzman Carriquiry elucidated how the movements respond to certain needs which are core aspects of the mission of the Church.

In his view, one of the salient characteristics of the new movements is that they are a charismatic reality which "responds to a deeply felt need today for a rediscovery and revitalization of the Christian experience in the life of the Church. For him this is crucially important because some ecclesiastical structures and programs have become somewhat jaded or insipid in proposing Christ.

By means of the charisms "of the new movements, the presence of Christ becomes a living reality, a real presence, a source of newness, of capacity for affection and persuasion, just as the person of Jesus was for the apostles and the first disciples two thousand years ago . . .the movements are ways in which the event of Christ and is mystery in history, namely, the Church, encounter the life of persons, full of joy and hope, without reservations or inhibiting quibbles, of the truth that Jesus is Lord."

Moreover, the charisms enable an existential dynamic of communicating the faith in persuasive, convincing forms consolidated by a life of faith. Given the erosion of much of the Christian environment, which heretofore had been the norm in many societies, the encounter "with witnesses who are walking testimonies of the presence of Christ" is both fascinating and attractive. This is a vital characteristic of the new ecclesial movements which seek to meet man in the heart of his own milieu with a joyful witness to the living Lord.

Movements as a "Providential Response"

The poet T. S. Eliot characterized the society of the last century as being a "rootless generation" and in such an environment it is difficult if not impossible to build community. Some see the arrival of the new movements as a "providential response." Through the charism which calls individuals to follow Christ in a radical way, they are also infused with a "spiritual affinity" which bonds them into communities and movements, living representations of the Church, mysteries of communion in the very heart of humanity. They are "signs of the freedom of forms" which Pope John Paul II alluded to when addressing the Communion and Liberation Movement in 1984.

One of the great emphases of Vatican II was the call, not only to deepen the awareness of the ecclesiology of communion, but to steadfastly work for its realization. The movements embody the mystery of communion and propagate it on the basis of the strong appeal exerted by their community experiences. They seek to provide an antidote to the impersonalism and the fragmentation of many of the societies in which we live. The witness of authentic Christian love can be as compelling a testimony to communion today as it was in the lives of the first Christians.

Fraternity, a Core Characteristic

Characteristic of the new ecclesial movements is the conviction of being believers on the way together. Fraternity and fellowship are core elements of the new ecclesial movements. For some communities, the passage in the Sacred Scriptures, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, has become their primary text; only through Christ and in Him is true community and mutual fraternal like-mindedness possible. The experience of community life in the name of Jesus, however, is not an end in itself. It is from the beginning open to others. So the group, that is, the concrete community, can also be understood as a "Church in miniature." in this way, the designation of the Church as Communio can be translated into an experiential and visible reality.

Such a life in spiritual community is, therefore, stamped with a different sense of brother-sister fraternalism. This, by necessity, has a broad spectrum. It has the security and closeness of a small group, it also has the solidarity of larger communities, particularly in the Church; this means all embracing Catholicism and internationality. Brother-sister fraternalism becomes ministry to others. The way to God leads through the brother and the sister. With that purpose in mind, the various group meetings are intended to be an aid and encouragements, but especially the experience of not being alone in this endeavor, of being connected to others and of being supported by them, gives to the individuals new strength for their different duties. It can be argued that for today's materialistically minded and consumer oriented society, the orientation towards poverty, as it is being lived by members of the spiritual communities, is a particularly up-to-date testimony.

The experience of a vibrant community life, which is a hallmark of the new movements, prompts a renewed consciousness and experience of the sacramental. Eucharistic source as the only one capable of building the communio that the world is unable to create. They seek to confirm a fundamental precept of Christifideles laici that "in order to reconstruct the fabric of human society what is needed first of all is to remake the Christian fabric of ecclesial communities themselves."