39 years ago in 1975 (just a month after I was ordained a priest), I heard Pope Paul VI say to us at the first International Charismatic Renewal Congress held in St.Peter’s Basilica, Rome: “This Renewal ought to rejuvenate the world, give it back a spirituality, reopen its closed lips to prayer and open its mouth to song, to joy, to hymns, and to witnessing … Those who do not belong to your Movement should unite themselves with you, so that they too might nourish themselves on the enthusiasm and spiritual energy with which we must live our religion. For today, either one lives one’s faith with devotion, depth, energy and joy, or that faith will die out!”
(L’Osservatore Romano, 29-5-75).
Prophetic words indeed! “Either one lives one’s faith with devotion, depth, energy and joy, or that faith will die out!” Sadly, the latter is what we are seeing today in the worldwide Church. (According to various statistics, the faith is dying out in many Western countries). In your own country Australia, the President of the Bishops Conference, Abp. Wilson of Adelaide, told Vatican Radio just last month (October 2011) that the greatest challenge facing the Church in Australia is convincing people of the importance faith must have in their everyday lives. He stated, “The greatest challenge facing Australia is the influential power of secular views of life, so that people believe it is possible to live a fulfilled life without belief in God, and many people think that faith and the experiences of living in the Church are irrelevant to them in their lives.”
To respond to this sad situation, he said the leaders of the Church must return “over and over again to the freshness of the power of the Gospel, and the freshness of the relationship with Jesus that should be the centre of our lives.”
Happily, on the other hand, several Spiritual Ecclesial Movements (Jesus Youth for example) are helping millions of people to live their faith “with enthusiasm and spiritual energy.” Bl. John Paul II declared, “One of the Spirit’s gifts to our age is certainly the flowering of ecclesial movements, which from the very beginning of my Pontificate I have continued to identify as a reason for hope for the Church and for mankind …” (Vigil of Pentecost, 1996).
Our dear late Pope had high praise for us: “As you celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, I willingly join you in giving praise to God for the many fruits which it has borne in the life of the Church. The emergence of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church …” (L’O.R., 14 Mar 1992).
At an earlier audience granted to the international leaders of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, where again I was present as the Chairman of the ICCRS Council in Rome, John Paul II declared, “The vigour and fruitfulness of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal certainly attest to the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church after the Second Vatican Council …Because of the Spirit, the Church preserves a continual youthful vitality, and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is an eloquent manifestation of this vitality today, a bold statement of ‘what the Spirit is saying to the Churches’ as we approach the end of the Second Millennium…” (14 May, 1987).
Pope Benedict XVI too is saying similar things too today, and he and the Vatican are surely thinking highly of the Jesus Youth Missionary Movement too! Jesus Youth is a Sign of Joy and Hope in the Church today, and is called to continue to be so! At your last year’s 25th Jubilee celebrations in Cochin, many cardinals, bishops and priests, and lay people too, gave thanks to God for his marvellous deeds among you all. JYI has helped many young Catholics to experience a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” that is, to personally experience the graces of Christian discipleship: an intense love for and commitment to Jesus as one’s personal Saviour and Lord; a childlike trust in and loving obedience to the Father; an openness to the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit; and deep commitment to the Body of Christ, the Church.
So please continue to grow stronger in the Spirit! Do not allow the insidious winds of secularisation, hedonism, materialism, etc., “quench the Spirit” in you, as they seem to be doing in many youth and adults of your country. Let Jesus make you the “salt” and “light” and “leaven” of the Gospel! Then you yourselves will experience deep fulfilment in becoming more and more worthy of the name, Jesus Youth!
FR. FIORELLO MASCARENHAS, SJ
Fr. Fio, as he is popularly known, is the Co-Director of the Catholic Bible Institute, Mumbai, India. He was Instrumental in helping the ICCRS become the driving force in international evangelisation and renewal that it is today, He worked as its resident Director from 1981-1984, and became Chairman of its international Council in 1984. He has visited over 80 countries to preach at Leaders Seminars, Clergy Retreats and Charismatic