New Religious Movements in the Catholic Church: Grass Roots, Mission and Evangelization.  Edited by Michael A. Hayes.  London/New York:  Burns & Oats, 2005.

In 1998, three-hundred thousand members of the new ecclesial movements gathered in Rome on Pentecost Sunday.  In 2003-04, St. Mary's College, Twickenham, sponsored a conference on the new ecclesial movements, such as the Community of Saint Egidio, the Community of the Beatitudes, Communion and Liberation, Schoenstatt, l'Arche, Neocatechumenate Way, Sodalitium Cristianae Vitae, the Focolare.  Almost all these movements were founded after Vatican II as a response to the council's "universal call to holiness."  They are predominantly lay groups, seeking a "deeper spirituality," with emphasis on the Christian values in marriage and family, and commitment to community life in the Church.

Although these organizations may not have a Marian title or a specific Marian devotion, almost all have "Marian profile" embedded within their spirit and structure.  Fr. Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, spoke of the "Mariological focus" of the Christian life and the reality of the Chruch.  All Christians are called to embrace reality all the way to its mysterious origin in Christ, and to live this adherence to the mystery as a new creation.  This unlimited and unconditional capacity to embrace the real identifies Mary's stance in the world.  "The Virgin totally respected the freedom of God by 'saving' his freedom . . . She obeyed God because she respected His freedom without imposing her own methods."

The founder of Schoenstatt, Fr. Joseph Kentenich, wished to replace "mechanistic thinking" with an organism of attachments - which was to include persons, places, things, ideas.  Central to this organism of attachments is Mary - as mother, as companion on the journey, as the one who helps to solidify the qualities of those attachments.  For the Sodalitium, Mary is the "paradigmatic Christian layperson," both in prayer and in living the Gospel words.  For Focolare, the image of Mary offers a spirituality "all hers" - communitarian, universal, promoting unity within communion.  The Marian profile present within and lived by these ecclesial movements may well illustrate Cardinal Newman's sentiment:  "In all times, the laity has been the measure of the Catholic spirit."


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