On 16 September last, the Meeting of Leaders of Movements, Associations of the Lay Faithful and New Communities took place in Rome. Convened by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life of the Holy See, this meeting is usually held annually, although last year it could not take place due to the pandemic. Thanks to the recent updating of data by the Dicastery, this is the first time that we as a Movement have received a direct invitation to participate. For this reason, the General Council made every effort to be present. Although a month has already passed since the meeting was held, the reflections shared in it deserve to be interiorised and meditated on calmly, because they are an important compass for our path as an ecclesial Movement.
The meeting focused on the recent Decree promulgated by the Holy See to regulate the provision of governance services in our lay organisations. This Decree establishes limits to the duration of the exercise of leadership positions at a general level - limits that in our Statutes are already complied with at a general level. Aware of the coldness of the juridical language that must necessarily be used in this type of document, the Dicastery wanted to explain to us the theological and ecclesial foundations that justified it, in a more familiar and familiar way.
As has been widely publicised, Pope Francis paid us an unexpected visit, which was not included in the schedule of the meeting. His presence in our midst, despite his recent arrival from his apostolic journey to Budapest and Slovakia, is a clear sign of the importance that Francis wants to give to the laity in the life of the Church and his concern that we be faithful to our vocation, to the mission entrusted to us and to our ecclesial communion.
In his extensive half-hour speech, Francis wanted to recognise and highlight the role of the laity and their important evangelising work in the midst of everyday realities, and to thank the role of the Movements and Associations of the laity for being the driving forces that have helped to encourage the laity to carry out this mission. But Francis also wanted to warn us about certain dangers and ways of functioning that can divert us from our path. Chief among these is "self-referentiality". A lay movement is a vehicle, a means given to us by the Spirit to serve the Church by bringing to fruition the charism we have been given. And if the Movement is a means, it cannot be our ultimate goal: the centre around which everything revolves. To use Francis' own words, being in a Movement cannot be "a tourist trip" that circles around itself without entering deeply into the stark realities of life. We cannot believe that simply by being part of one, we are good Christians. The Movement loses meaning if it leads us to conformism, if it becomes a closed entity that does not allow itself to be shaped by the Spirit, who renews our ways of doing and thinking in order to respond to new challenges. And this demands of us an attitude of constant humility, docility and conversion.
In the same vein, it is essential that the tasks of coordination and governance within the Movements be understood as a true service. Because there are two great temptations: the "desire for power" - believing ourselves to be indispensable, the only ones capable of interpreting or revealing the will of the Spirit in our respective charisms - and "disloyalty" - pursuing particular interests other than the fulfilment of God's will through service to others.
The lectures and experiences presented throughout the day built on these same ideas, explaining the nature and purpose of the decree, as well as some practical guidelines on how to adapt it to our present-day realities. It is fundamental to be clear that the charism that sustains each Movement and association is not the property of a person, but of the Spirit, who has given it to all those who form the Movement so that they can put it at the service of the mission of the Church. And it is the Spirit who must guide the path of the Movement, inspiring the whole community as to the steps to be taken and also who should be the people who energise this path at each specific moment. The rotation of the people who assume these tasks of government avoids stagnation and helps the Spirit to renew the life of the Movement through their different talents, which enrich it with new ideas, procedures and ways of acting. Undoubtedly, what was shared at the meeting will be of great help so that all the Lay Associations can grow in coherence with our vocation, and those of us who are carrying out the tasks of coordination can better orientate the service we are providing.
I do not want to fail to express my heartfelt thanks for the warm welcome and hospitality of the community of the General Curia of the Claretian Missionaries. As always, they generously offered us their house, in a new demonstration of the fraternity and family spirit that we share. The opportunity to be able to greet in person the members of the new General Government, and to have a fraternal encounter with Fr. Mathew Vattamatam after his re-election as Superior General was another gift of the Spirit in this whirlwind trip. Two intense days that were of enormous benefit to continue advancing in our communion with the Claretian family and with the Church.
Miguel Ángel Sosa Hernández
If you want to consult the Dicastery's Decree, click on this link:
And if you want to read Pope Francis' speech to the Movements, click on this link: