New Spiritual Communities and Movements

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Introduction: New Forms of Evangelical Life as a Gift of the Holy Spirit and as a "Sign of the Times"

If one inquires about particularly conspicuous signs of hope in today's Church, the new spiritual communities or movements are very often being mentioned. This is certainly justified since, as a whole, they represent an authentic Christian answer to the challenge of the cultural situation of the faith (cp. Medard Kehl SJ, "Communio" - a Paling Vision? In Voices of the Times, Journal no. 7/1997,453).

The Council documents have always stressed the community of the entire People of God in the mission and calling of the Church in the midst of the world. Also the bishops' synods of the last decades have acknowledged the community of the Church as a gift of the Spirit in the multitude of charisms and forms of life: The Calling and Mission of the Laity> (1987), Priestly Formation in Relation to the Present Times (1990) and The Consecrated Life (1994).

In the following presentation, I will try to evaluate the new spiritual communities and movements; particular emphasis will be given to important features and common key elements, but also to possible dangers and difficulties. The considerations should also illustrate a central canonical statement of the Church, which, so to speak, could be used as a preamble to all forms of lay apostolates. In the 1983 new Code of Canon Law, it says in Canon 215: "The faithful are permitted to freely found and conduct associations for purpose of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian calling in the world and to hold meetings in order to pursue these interests in common." This right to found associations and coalitions was already laid down in the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the lay apostolate Apostolicam Actuositatem (cf. AA, 19). It represents the legal basis for all associations of persons within the Church, from incidental meetings up to the highest forms of communal life, such as orders and secular institutes.

 


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