Contributions of the AMM to the New Evangelization - Part II
By: Bishop Alfonso Cabezas Aristizábal, CM
This Assembly is carried out in the context of promoting the evangelization process of the Holy Spirit and doing this in light of the more than fifty years since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, the recently celebrated Year of Faith and the gathering of the Bishops to discuss the theme of the New Evangelization. All of this, however, has been gathered together in the wonderful Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, whose program and orientation I now propose to share with you.
I will provide some broad brushstrokes on this theme that is both vast and challenging. These points are developed from my perspective as a Latino and I also bring into this perspective my ministerial experience in New York and Africa. In presenting these points I am also guided by our fundamental theme, the pastoral activity of the Miraculous Medal Association as it is involved today in the evangelization of the world.
[1.] In his 2012 letter on the feast of the Miraculous Medal, the superior general encouraged the Miraculous Medal Association to engage in the new evangelization in various manners: by studying and deepening our understanding of the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church; by giving life to the Church’s social doctrine through charitable activity on behalf of those who are poor and by continuing to encourage home visits with the image of Our lady of the Miraculous Medal.
[2.] More than one hundred years after the pontifical approval of the Miraculous Medal Association we gather together as participants in this First General Assembly. Indeed, we gather together at a very special time in the life of the Church, a time that has been referred to as a change of epoch, a time that, in the words of Pope Francis, is marked by a new phase of evangelization (EG, #1). Therefore we enter more fully into his inspirational teaching in order to delineate our proper role in this new evangelization. All of our plans ought to be in harmony with those of the other branches of the Vincentian Family as well as with the more universal plans of our respective diocese and parish … all of which have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and have provided an impetus to men and women to engage in the process of evangelizing the world during this new era of history (Vincentian Marian Youth Association, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, A.I.C., Legion of Mary, MISEVI, Missionaries of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Militant Sons and Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc.).
[3.] In order to understand the spirit of the new evangelization we need to reflect on the Mother of the evangelizing Church … that Church that was born at the foot of the cross and sent throughout the world on Pentecost. As we, the members of the Miraculous Medal Association, reflect on our more than one hundred years of history, we become aware of the fact that Mary is our mother; aware of the fact that Mary, through the intermediary of Saint Catherine, entrusted us with a mission that comes from God. We are invited to accept the Miraculous Medal, to wear the Medal, to give the Medal to people, especially the poor, sinners, the infirm and those in need … all those persons whom we encounter in our ministry. Why? Jesus entrusted Mary to his disciples and Mary, like a good Mother, has given Jesus to us. At the foot of the cross, at the high point of the new creation, Christ brought us to Mary (#285) and now we, today, at this time of the new evangelization, are once again brought to Mary in order to move out and engage in a renewed evangelization … an evangelization like that which she impelled in 1830 during a time of great change that followed the French Revolution and its resulting consequences that were felt throughout Europe and throughout the world (events of 1830-1840-1870).
[4.] The Pope expects and requests that all groups will devote the necessary effort to advance along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are (#26). This conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit who asks us to deepen, within the Church and within our Association, our convictions with regard to conversion which in turn creates a desire for renewal. Indeed, it is this desire for renewal that has brought us together in this First General Assembly. The Second Vatican Council presented ecclesial conversion as openness to a constant self-renewal born of fidelity to Christ. Therefore, we ought to have the courage to examine our structures to see if they are animated by a spirit that is life-giving, sustaining and renewing. Without a new and authentic gospel spirit, any new structure will be brought to destruction within a short period of time (#26).
[5.] Our Association is a source of enrichment for the Church and has been raised up by the Spirit for the purpose of evangelizing different areas and sectors, always, however, in harmony with the local parish and integrated into the overall pastoral activity of the particular church in order to avoid becoming nomads without roots (#29). Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: we have always done it this way. In this Assembly we ought to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization of our Association (#33). Let us say “yes” to the new relationships brought about by Christ and thus avoid isolation and internal struggles (#87-90). Let us say “yes” to the challenge of the missionary Marian spirituality (#78) that the Blessed Mother requested when she appeared to Saint Catherine. Let us say “no” to selfishness and spiritual sloth (81); “no” to a sterile pessimism (#81); “no” to spiritual worldliness (#93).
[6.] This new stage of evangelization ought to emphasize the charism of the mission of the laity in the Church, especially women and youth. Indeed, the specialized committed ministers should be at the service of the laity (#102-106). At the same time experience tells us that wherever there is life, fervor and a desire to bring Christ to others, young people will embrace the path of special consecration (#107). Moving, therefore, in that direction, let us contemplate and enrich this process of the new evangelization. In doing so let us listen to young people and the elderly, sensitive to their love of Mary and sensitive to the fact that both the young and the elderly represent a source of hope for every people (#108). The challenges that appear in this Assembly exist to be overcome. Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor (#109).
[7.] In the first part of this presentation I referred to the ecclesial context of popular piety in which we can situate the apparitions that occurred on the Rue-du-Bac and the gift of the Miraculous Medal to the Vincentian Family and to the whole Church. Perhaps it was our Vincentian charism of privileged love toward the poor that attracted God’s mercy and that brought about the bestowal of this wonderful gift from Mary. This popular belief incarnated in the culture of the simple and poor people proved to be fertile ground for planting the message of the Blessed Mother through the Miraculous Medal. The simple and poor people are our lords and masters and we have attempted to serve them from the time of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise. Indeed, it is with and through these people that we, as members of the Miraculous Medal Association, ought to promote the new evangelization (this is the same method that Mary utilized) (#122-124).
Underlying this popular piety is an active evangelizing power which we should not underestimate (#126). Mary gave us the “theological place” which from 1830 has promoted a process of evangelization incarnated in the new culture which came into existence after the fall of the ancien régime during the French Revolution. Popular piety, on the one hand, has involved catechesis, a profound teaching of the kerygma founded on symbols and realities and open to a long mystagogical journey that has often been neglected in our pastoral ministry and yet is is always most necessary at critical moments of change in civilization or eras (#163-168). It is part of our reflection and prayer as we engage in the process of evangelization during this new era of the Church’s history. On the other hand, popular piety can be viewed as an impetus for a renewed and bold praxis with regard to presenting the Medal and its Christ-centered, Marian and ecclesial message as we continue to go out to the peripheries of the world. Thus we reach out to the material poor, to those who are exploited and in exile, to immigrants, to those who are trampled upon by the members of a society that idolizes money and discards those human beings who have not yet been poor and the elderly who are apparently useless (#177-258).
[8.] The Church began this process of evangelization when it was sent out into the world as a result of the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (#260). Today, in this Assembly, we ought to invoke once again the Holy Spirit so that he come and renew our Association, to stir and impel us to go forth boldly to evangelize people (#261) with the popular but simple instrument of the Miraculous Medal, the gift and the treasure that Mary has entrusted to us and that today we ought to utilize in the way that she has asked us.
Just as the Holy Spirit is in the midst of the people of God, so also is Mary. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (#284). The fruits of this Assembly are in relation to our docility to this reality of Mary, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal who was continually docile to the presence of the Spirit in her life. This same virtue of docility was practiced by Saint Catherine throughout the many days of her life.
 How can we integrate the Miraculous Medal Association into the other movements of evangelization, doing so in the context of the universal church, diocese, and parish and in a manner that is more open to the laity, especially women and youth?
 To which poor people does the Blessed Mother send us and how are we invited to accompany those poor men and women in our respective countries (mindful of the fact that the poor are more sensitive with regard to popular piety)?
 How can we be bold and creative as we reconsider the objectives, the structures, the style and the evangelizing methodology of our Association?
 What specifically does it mean for us to be in a continual state of mission?
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM