home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted June 2, 2006

Book: New Religious Movements in the Catholic Church
Edited by Michael Hayes
Burns and Oats, NY, 2005. Pp. 182

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

This volume offers an understanding of the need and task of evangelization in the Catholic Church today from the perspective of the Ecclesial Movements, and includes details of the founders of movements, active members and those who have been responsible for articulating the specific insights of the movement. These new religious movements and communities are represented across the world in many different countries.

Some chapters simply outline the story of the movement thus for, and like all good stories they invite us to reflect and draw out key ideas. Some offer a reflection on the theological foundations of the movements; and some offer us a cultural and theological reflection on the Church and Christian life today through the particular perspective of the spirituality of that movement.

At the same time as this diversity there are common themes that bring these movements together. Either explicitly or implicitly they find a point of reference in the Second Vatican Council with its universal call to holiness and to the active apostolate.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Community of Sant' Egidio

The Community of Sant' Egidio began in Rome in 1968 when a group of high school students gathered to consider how to change the world through the Gospel. Today, it is a movement embracing 40,000 Christian laypeople in more than 60 countries throughout the world committed to prayer, solidarity, friendship with the poor, peace, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

The services of each community foster intimate friendships with the poor hidden away in the cities. The community's border-dissolving charisma has led to work in peacekeeping and mediation in conflicts worldwide, as well as a campaign against the death-penalty, and a nationwide AIDS treatment programme in Mozambique. The community also organizes the world's largest annual interfaith meetings: a task entrusted to it by the Pope, following the world prayer for peace in Assisi in 1986.

The Vatican has officially recognized the Community of Sant' Egidio as a public lay association.

. . . Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archibishop of Milan and an old friend of the community, recalls wandering the streets of Trastevere in the early 1970s. A Jesuit priest at the time, he was troubled by the division immediately after the Second Vatican Council between, on the one hand, those who favored commitment to the poor and the transformation of society, and those who, on the other hand, put their emphasis on spiritual growth and prayer. There must be some way, he thought, that these two could be brought together. Later he met some members of the community who invited hm to come and see them.

"Then I began to understand [he would later write], to appreciate this living synthesis of the primacy of God, of prayer, and of listening to the Word; of taking God's Word seriously and, at the same time, of dedicating oneself in a concrete, effective way to the poor; of studying society and its problems attentively and with discernment. What happened to me has surely happened to many others in much the same way, whether they later joined the community of Sant'Egidio, or became friends of it in many different ways, as occurred with Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla."

The community was unmistakeably a child of the Second Vatican Council, with its talk of the 'priesthood of the laity' and its call for Christians to return to the Scriptures. The year the students first met - 1968 - was also the time of student activism, of optimism, of revolution. Young people wanted to change the world.

So too did the community. But while it shared something of the 'spirit of 1968', the Sant'Egidio young people made a deliberate choice in favor of the Scriptures rather than ideology, rejecting both the Marxism of the time and the neoliberal capitalism which came later. Since 1989, some people might call this a 'postmodern' refutation of the metanarratives - liberalism, Marxism, fascism, secularism - which have characterized the modern project. But Riccardi, an historian by profession, prefers to describe it as an option for history over ideology. He was struck, he said, by a line in a Godard film - 'You have to move from existence to history." History, the theologian Yves Congar told Riccardi, creates a profound sense of reality: it teaches complexity; it creates memory. The Bible is, in this sense, history.

Sant'Egidio rejected, in other words, the dichotomy of student radicalism between pure thought and pure action. Sant' Egidio's path was the classic Christian radical one of contemplation in action. The divisions in the Church of the 1970s which bothered Martini - the false choice between, on the one hand, struggling for the Kingdom (which implied an option for left-wing politics) or, on the other, a refuge in spirituality, a concentration on interiority, which downplayed engagement with human structures - were not, therefore, the community's. Sant' Egidio took to its heart the famous words of Karl Barth that Christians should live 'with the Bible in one hand and newspapers in the other.'

Table of Contents:

1. The role of ecclesial movements and the new communities in the life of the church
Charles Whitehead

2. 'A church that is and works to be a church fo everyone, but particularly the poor'
Mario Marazziti and Austen Ivereigh

3. Consecrated families and the community of the beatitudes
Francois-Xavier Wallays

4. The life of the church: the sacramental method of evangelization
Javier Prades Lopez

5. The meaning of the organism of attachments for the church's evangelization
Bryan Cunningham

6. 'I will bless you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever': the L'arche experience of evangelization
Christine McGrievy

7. Christian initiation and the transmission of the faith
Kiko Arguello

8. The lay faithful and Christian life
Luis Fernanado Figari

9. Ecclesial movements and the Marian profile of the church
Chiara Lubich