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To Evangelize is to Say that God is My Joy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 26 July 2007 06:46
Oswald Sorbino links to a really intriguing Crisis article from 2002:

No Ordinary Joy
How the Charismatic Renewal is Changing the French Church

This article describes the birth of two significant lay movements in the 1970's. The first is the Emmanuel community:

During this period of confusion and apparent decline, it seemed to many that only a return to a spirituality like that of the early Church would be able to bear new fruit. This is one way to interpret the birth of a small charismatic prayer group one evening in May 1972. The first Catholic group of its kind, it originally consisted of four young people brought together by a 58-year-old Catholic film critic in Paris. Ironically, the first meetings took place in a small apartment just a few yards from the café where Sartre’s existentialism was born. The film critic, Pierre Goursat, had just come back from a trip to the United States where he had seen the beginning of a charismatic movement in the American Church. With the encouragement of his spiritual father, Goursat organized a meditation on the charisms as they are evoked in the Acts of the Apostles, followed by a period of spontaneous prayer. The project was no more defined than that, Goursat’s very aim being to leave the group free to the invitations of the Holy Spirit. Little by little, the gifts of the Spirit began to appear. Some people sang in tongues, which others interpreted; all were astonished and overwhelmed by what they had seen and felt.

One year later, the group had grown from five to 500 members. According to Martine, one of the five original members, they felt as if they were "reliving the Pentecost."

Where the Spirit Is

Surprised by this unhoped-for growth, the original group spawned several smaller groups in Paris before moving into other cities in France. They called themselves the Emmanuel Community. With this name, Goursat wanted to indicate that the prayer groups were not meant to be social clubs turned in on themselves; they were called to become gifts of God to the world, to become new "Emmanuels" (God with us). In 1976, the Church gave the community official status. During the first few years of its existence, its members were married or single laypeople living in the world. Then religious vocations began to manifest themselves: First, there were just brothers and sisters of Emmanuel, but later, the community—which had its first headquarters on a barge in the Seine—decided, with the agreement of the bishops, to form its own priests.

If many young people see their faith come alive in the Emmanuel prayer groups, the community is also a source of renewal for older Christians. André, who recently became a grandfather, describes it as a "new youth." "I was a Sunday Christian," he says. "For me the faith was the Mass, a few holy days, and not getting into trouble during the rest of the week. In the prayer groups, I came to understand that a God who had given me His life—well, I could at least give Him mine. Now, even when I’m playing with my granddaughter, in a way it’s for Jesus."

The second is the Community of the Beatitudes, which has a branch in Denver:

The same period saw the birth of the Community of the Beatitudes. Brother Ephraim, the founder of the community, had struggled through all the contradictions and questions of his generation: Raised in a Protestant family, he had studied to become an artist before joining the community of Lanza Del Vasto, a utopian group that practices a kind of syncretic spirituality loosely tied to Eastern mysticism. After his conversion to Catholicism, Brother Ephraim started the Beatitudes community, which evolved through a series of forms between 1973 and 1981. Members live away from cities and towns in community houses that give material and spiritual support to those in need. Following a routine deeply rooted in prayer—especially eucharistic adoration—the lay and religious members of these houses are united by the same desire to live in the spirit of the beatitudes. The community now has houses in 25 dioceses in France and in 28 other dioceses around the world.\\

The common themes of these communities:

The call of the laity to holiness and making an inherited faith personal:

Significantly, both Brother Ephraim and Goursat founded their communities as laymen. Brother Ephraim is married. Goursat, who several times refused to be ordained as a priest, envisaged the lay life as a veritable vocation. Here one sees another of the features that characterize these communities, a feature that corresponds to one of the key intuitions of Vatican II: Both the Emmanuel and Beatitudes communities testify to the calling of all Christians—lay or religious—to holiness. To accept this calling, one must be willing to surrender himself to God in even the most ordinary circumstances. It is an idea that comes up again and again as Celine describes her spiritual journey: "For me, the charismatic renewal is above all—as the name itself suggests—a renewal. I understood that my faith was condemned to fade away if it was nothing but the preservation of a tradition. I had received the faith as a kind of inheritance from my family—and that is by itself a tremendous grace—but this community allowed me to make that faith my own, to make it the heart of all my personal commitments.

If the charismatic renewal is characterized by a spirituality of praise based on personal experience—as well as by a renewal in forms of liturgy and community—it’s also the movement within the French Church that insists most urgently on the importance of evangelization. For these communities, evangelization is a matter of letting the Word shine forth, not shutting it up in small clubs of polite company. This is what motivates members of Emmanuel to organize regular missions of evangelization. They gather in front of churches to sing and share their faith with passersby, inviting them inside to adore God in the Eucharist or to speak with a priest. Marie, who works for a job-placement agency, participates regularly in these missions. "To evangelize, to witness—whether it be in the community or in my professional life—is to say that God is my joy," she says. "Joy can’t be selfishly preserved; it is diffusive of itself. It’s like being in love and wanting to tell everyone all the time about the person you love."

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