The message from Madrid
Archbishop Jozef Michalik
The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that moves the world - Rainer Maria Rilke
In this year’s first meeting with the Readers of ‘Niedziela’ I would like to share the experiences that encouraged me during the gathering of families in Madrid, initiated by Cardinal Rouco Varela and the Neocatechumenal Way with its founder Kiko Argüello, a few days ago. Today the theme of the family has preoccupied the minds of many people in the whole world. Some want to destroy it, devastating its natural foundations, others defend its values. Many responsible people regard the problem of dying Europe, and partly the entire Western world – this phenomenon has spread to other continents – as obvious and alarming. But one cannot understand why those who have large media opportunities do not raise the alarm; why obvious facts remain silent. Furthermore, why people are bombarded with such nonsense and allegedly scientific hypotheses like the last one about the necessity to decrease the world population of one billion in order to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, which according to those pseudo-experts would be the only rescue in the light of the global warming.
However, let us return to the serious and worthy reflections. Perhaps the guarantee to save humankind in the world is to have 2.1 births per woman. 1.6 is alarming: such a society can be self-destructive. The parameter of 1.3 reveals the irrefutable truth that such a population will never survive, has no vital strength to replace the dying with the young. These indicators show a dramatic picture of the Old Continent; one can even say that it is an apocalyptic picture – Europe is simply dying. Poland, with its thoughtless drive to catch everything from the West, occupies the last but one place as far as the natural birth rate is concerned – the verdict is: biological extinction. Our parameter is 1.2. Only Spain with the indicator 1.1. is behind us, which is no comfort at all. Thus the situation is dramatic. That’s why those who think and are spiritually rich take steps to make people aware of the threat. This was the purpose of the meeting in Madrid which despite unfavourable weather gathered almost one million people, including many cardinals, bishops and first of all, families with many children, belonging to the Neocatechumenate from all over Europe (over 660 people came from Poland). We know well that dying Europe causes the inflow of migrants from the Muslim countries and from the African continent. So far they have worked with the old and the sick, individuals whose one child cannot care for them. The obvious thing is that in some sense these people will take over the important strategic places in concrete countries, which can be seen e.g. in Canada, France or Germany. The United States are ‘saved’ by migrants, too. But the problem grows since these people who have been brought in certain living standards must use the services of the poorer and these poorer are people from Asia or Africa, often Muslims, who luckily love life and have big families.
You will be witnesses
The manifestation and prayer in Madrid were the fourth occasion to hold a meeting, showing that there were Christian families with multiple children in Europe and that another child does not mean ‘misfortune’ but is accepted with love. That manifestation was also an expression of responsibility for the fate of the family, for the Church on our continent and for the fate of Europe. I was amazed to hear some testimonies, for instance we were invited to visit the Prado Museum. The director of the museum, which is one of the most important museums in the world, is an educated man and member of the Neocatechumenal community. He has seven children and his wife is expecting their eight child. Together with his wife they obliged themselves to go to Africa as catechists to preach the Gospel and give testimony about living God. They will leave their careers, will become poor because the Neocatechumenal community will support them when they preach what their conscience tells them, what they have been encouraged through prayer and what they have discerned in their hearts. We need such radical testimonies because people are not converted by arguments, logical statements, but by grace, love and witness of one’s life.
Man grows as an individual but man needs other people for his growth. The environment releases or lulls a genius in an individual. Each of us is a social being and whenever we are closed and when we reduce our relationships with other people we risk losing positive behaviours. True, creative development must take place in community, in society. Moreover, faith cannot be realised only in the individual dimension – I and Lord God – another man, the Church and the world must be inscribed in this relationship.
The Church and the world. Not only family but also enlarged environment because man does not live only within his four walls. Wherever he is he must learn and share with others the atmosphere of kindness for the truth, goodness, beauty, other people and the nature, the atmosphere of compassion for the suffering and the persecuted. In order to meet these requirements one must overcome his egoism, overcome his individual aim; enlarge the character of expectations, and the community is needed for that. Lord Jesus did not send one apostle to preach the good news of salvation. He sent them by twos or threes. In the situations that are especially dangerous for mankind there is the need to go beyond your thinking and reacting when we state: it is true that what we hear is real, is a dangerous reality but it will not affect us, our family is save. This is what the enemies of God’s order mean. In fact, they have always meant that – to establish their own order, enforce their principles of freedom and slavery, good and evil, to limit the Church and people who defend the world of values born from the Revelation to the church porch or, what is worse, ridicule them as chauvinists, bigots or obscurants. During the pastoral year with its theme, ‘Be witnesses of Love’ one should pick up witnesses and send them by twos and threes so that they are present in various situations and testify to the fact that Jesus lives and gives new life. The above-mentioned Spanish family of the director of the Prado Museum takes seriously Jesus’ command of the need of evangelisation but this command concerns us as well – everywhere we are, let us be Jesus’ witnesses through words, attitudes and deeds.
Looking for signposts
I think that this year our apostleship should follow two ways. On the one hand, it should be prayer and support for all kinds of appeals, manifestations, e.g. the continuous prayer crusade at the gate of people’s consciences and protest against abortion rights or the rights promoting immoral experiments of in vitro fertilisation. On the other hand, it should be the effort to arouse activities of scientists and people of culture. Let them present their opinions, including protests, to simple people, but above all let them proclaim the positive dimension of the value of life. I have been told the story of a woman who consciously chose gynaecology to resist all those nonsenses told by the advocates of abortion, free love and other forms of depravation. She could have chosen a more peaceful field of medicine but she obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit who wanted to make her an instrument of his presence in the world of human consciences. And one more remark – it is not right to become discouraged. We must still remember that we are stuck in a big intellectual gap, which communism ‘granted’ to the Polish society through two generations and then aggressive liberalism took over the legacy of communism. The totalitarian compulsion taught people not to express their views and convictions freely, and actually eliminated the opportunities. We must tirelessly make up for lost time.