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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Lambs among wolves

Total trust in the Lord: Catholics of the Neocatechumenal Way are taking their faith to the streets of Australia - without money or even the certainty of a bed for the night. Yet, as Fr Anthony Trafford recounts, their experiences are filled with signs that God really provides.

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A man holds a crucifix distributed by a Neocatechumenal community. Photo: CNS, Max Rossi, Reuters.

Perhaps during the first week of December you were surprised to meet two men or two women on the streets, perhaps around your parish.

They were on a mission to give their witness of Jesus Christ to whomsoever they met – bishops, priests, and people in all kinds of situations and all over Australia. They went asking for nothing, but willing to lose their lives a little for Christ, whose love they have met in their lives.

They were 60 pairs in total – priests and seminarians, and married or single men and women – and they managed to visit some 19 dioceses during that week. They were happy to give freely what they have received at no cost, the good news that is salvation: the announcement of Jesus Christ which, when proclaimed and believed, bears fruit in a life transformed.

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The Gospels describe how Jesus sent his disciples two by two into every town and place where he was to come. He told them he was sending them out like lambs among wolves, and they should go without purse and without haversack … and such has been the tradition of the Church: when two go together relying on God to provide, they are already a sign that there is a love between them which is not of this world: God exists and is real! His love is enough and always provides!

So, was this true? Or is it all make-believe? It is true that some of them slept outside sometimes, finding a bit of shelter where they could. Sometimes they were not believed or rejected quite roughly. They accepted that Christ who suffered for them would be their bed and they would rest in him.

People were most surprised that they did not even carry a phone – because it seems impossible to live without a mobile today. But, believe it or not, there is life after mobiles … And these little ones who go without the normal securities bear witness just by their presence that what they announce is the truth – because they have no ulterior motive, no second intention and certainly no power.

If others suffer as they have suffered (because of their sins), it is worthwhile announcing to them that there is another way of living, and that freedom lies in renouncing our sins and following Christ.

They spoke with all kinds of people in the streets, in their homes and in or around all kinds of churches. They also found many churches closed …”

These missionaries are not fanatics or way-out evangelicals. They are ordinary Catholics who have been part of the Neocatechumenal Way for a number of years.

In their parishes around Australia they are being helped gradually to re-discover the amazing riches of their baptism, among which is the fact that we are prophets.
This means that we have, by our baptism, something important and serious to say to the people of our generation.

Priests of the Neocatechumenal Way, at left, bless those going on mission. Photo: courtesy, Redemptoris Mater Seminary

The Church is nourishing that baptismal life within them which so often remains dormant and invisible – as recommended by the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1231).
They all met together in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Sydney for three days of conversion, prayer and preparation, before being sent out with a blessing.

A week later, after many wonderful adventures and interventions by the Lord, they returned to share together the events and experiences of the week, and above all to express their gratitude ‘for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children’.

Their joy was palpable as they returned to share their experiences with each other: all were tired, and some hungry. But they had seen that God really provides, often in surprising, wonderful ways.

They were able to answer Jesus’ question to the apostles as they did: Did you lack anything? The answer was: No! Because, truly, they had cold nights and comfortable nights, hunger and fine meals, rejection and hospitality!

They spoke with all kinds of people in the streets, in their homes, and in or around all kinds of churches. They also found many churches closed and unavailable for prayer, while in many cases nobody knew where the parish priest could be found.

An icon, above, is held aloft as Pope Francis leaves a papal audience with members of the Neocatechumenal Way at the Vatican in 2016. Photo: CNS, Max Rossi, Reuters.

They met and shared their life with the homeless and the poorest in society, very like St Charles de Foucauld on whose feast day they had met to begin this experience.

They demanded nothing but received in abundance, accepting whatever the Lord wanted for them. They went as witnesses, free from the tyranny of money which totally grips society.

They were conscious that they had a treasure – that with them came the Kingdom of God and a life nobody could steal from them.

Their happiness was solely in announcing the kerygma (the preaching or proclamation of the Gospel) which has a power of its own, that of our Saviour, crucified and risen.

Fr Trafford is an itinerant catechist of the Neocatechumenal Way

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