(English) Companions and witnesses

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Provisionality is one of the more peculiar characteristics of the Community Animation Service for a Better World.  Without any doubt, this particular characteristic has greatly influenced our vocation and mission, our people and our work.  It should not surprise us, therefore, that changes can happen within the Promoting Group.

In the first stages of the Exercises, we saw how they contributed to open horizons for many people and groups, at a specific eraof church and society.  We are able to recall significant events such as World War II, II Vatican Council, the events of May of 1968…

During these times and in those contexts, Fr. Lombardi and the Promoting Group of MBW were totally in tune with the signs of the times and of the fresh air sweeping through with new happenings both in society and the church.  The Vocation and Mission of the PG, according to Fr. Lombardi, “should always maintain the characteristic of “spiritual animation”, although always with the necessary contacts and updating with theologians, pastoralists and organizers.”  I personally attest to the fact that at the end of the 1970’s, and beginning of the 1980’s, there was a definite pastoral shift in the promoting group that ended in 2003 with the “Congress for Spirituality”, and that still continues in some local groups.

Definitely today, a globalized, pluri-cultural and pluri-religious world, provokes new questions. Bauman[1]was a sociologist that served as a reference for the new concepts of “liquid modern, liquid society or liquid love”, to define the current moment of history, in which the solid realities of our grandparents such as the value of work or marriage “‘til death do us part”, are no longer valid.  For Bauman, liquid life is such that “has been submitted to the influence of our neoliberal contexts that engender ungrounded persons who consume experiences and search out gurus”. People today, in general, are devoid of possibilities to answer to their most fundamental needs, in fact, they are not even allowed to think about the answers; also, everything is designed for a compulsive satisfaction of whims and fancies, that leave us all floating in air without any grounding whatsoever, without any support, without any deep meaning and motivation on which to stand on. This situation leads us to live as mere “consumers of experiences”.

What happens then when we find ourselves in life, facing serious difficulties or something that we know nothing about?  To whom do we turn?  Bauman speaks of “gurus”, to follow, support and offer a pseudo-security but from outside, externally, instead of inviting to navigate inside of ourselves.  There are so many of these gurus out there!

Strange as it may seem it is in this liquid society where a new space of spiritual animation unfolds; not to open new horizons with discourses, conferences and projects, but rather to be companions that encourage others to “inhabit their own home”, to delve inside, deep, and discover the meanings that emerge from experience and from their own grounding, and from there to meet and share other people, and life as well.  This is what we are aiming for with the Itineraries, which are leading us to a new expression of the Exercises.

It is not something new to appeal to “spiritual animation” in the Promoting Group, however I have founda certain resistance coming from some local groups that have experienced the Itineraries.  I feel the need to help, offering tools and ways to go from “preaching and presentation of projects to be true companions and witnesses. It is a great shift that needs to happen… to go from the “doing”, to “the being that does…”; from pastoral action to the inner experience that encourages our pastoral action…”

Paul VI said:  „Modern man[sic]listens more willinglytowitnessesthantoteachers, and if he does listen toteachers, it is becausethey are witnesses.” (EN41)

To merely transmit contents regarding “Spirituality of Communion”, seems an easy taskwhich is definitely not engaging.  All that is needed is to study, put ideas together, make a reasonable outline and maybe have the skill for public speaking. However, to transmit the meaning, the enthusiasm behind the “Spirituality of Communion”, is something that encourages each person search for meaning, it questions his or her deep intentions, it allows to understand that the meaning is not something that is doled out as an object or content.  The discovery of the true meaning, of the energy that underlies the “Spirituality of Communion” is a personal task, and with it comes a deeper sense of being. No one can live my life, however, others can be companions on this adventure.

How does this “companion also become a witness”? Our reference is to Jesus in the role that he takes on with the disciples of Emmaus as it appears in the story of the Gospel of Luke, 24,13-35, thatrecordsthatJesusappearedtotwo disciples whowerewalkingfromJerusalemto Emmaus. Jesus, as a companion, reaches the twowhowerewalking (community, friends, groups in itinerary),at the precise moment of their difficulty or confusion.  He gets close, he becomes interested in them, he walks at their rhythm, he opens the space for them to express what they were feeling.

Jesus is interested about what they are experiencing and offers a lifeline in order to help them to express themselves.  They show their feelings, their experience and the pain they are feeling.  They recall everything that had encouraged and inspired them, and now all is gone.  Their words were a cry of despair, “we believed, we hoped…”

In that space of trust in which they slowly entered, they felt embraced; Jesus the companion, offers a hopeful meaning of true life. Jesus rekindles in them the memory of love and broadens their horizons. His message of life helps the wayfarers to connect with the deepest realm of their hearts.

From that embrace, they are willing and able then to shift to alterity, to “the other”, and occupy themselves with the needs of Jesus, to welcome him to their home, to serve him with all they had available.  It is then, in this experience of sharing the pathway and the table, that they are able to affirm their faith and activate hope.

The companion with his “willingness to accompany”, provokes in them the trust that makes the shift possible, which is the capability to transcend, to embrace, towards solidarity, to make decisions, to return to the community.

For sharing

  • Do I feel the need to make any changes in my way of carrying out the service of MBW?
  • How do I live and feel Spiritual Animation in the various activities of MBW?


[1] Z. Bauman, Vida líquida. Barcelona, Paidós, 2005

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