ITINERANCY ‘84

Bogumił Gacka

Bogumił Gacka

Bogumił Gacka (1955-), an itinerant professor. Bogumił was born on March 6, 1955 in the town of Koło, Poland. He is the founding Editor of the biannual Personalism, Chairman of Christian Personalism – specialized in Systematic Theology and American Personalism at the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Warsaw, PL.

In September 1984 Fr. Bogumił, MIC was sent two by two as an itinerant catechist to proclaim the Gospel in Bologna, Italy. In his Itinerancy ’84 he gives his personal experience of the International Convivence at Porto San Giorgio, Italy and his itinerancy.

After publishing Bibliography of American Personalism (Lublin 1994) and American Personalism (Lublin 1995) he prepares Bibliography of European Personalism and European Personalism. In a biennal series he joins the International Conference on Persons.

In this era of itinerant catechists, I also had to become an itinerant. John Paul II

Jesus Christ made His way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Gospel. He also sent out two by two His apotles and disciples to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. This apostolic model of Evangelization turned out to be the most effective in the course of the centuries. It also remains the most effective in today’s era of secularization and globalization.

The method of Jesus’ action is not directed towards attracting crowds. Jesus reaches people by sending a person to a person, without additional means, aside from the successfailure categories, in complete freedom of either accepting or rejecting the Gospel. The apostles’ mission is effective because they base themselves on the Person who sends them and accompanies them.

The history of Christian Evangelization started with the sending out of the Twelve, two by two, who, according to St. Mark, were told by Jesus “to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses” (Mk 6:8). The next sending out into the world of the seventy-two disciples proceeded in a similar way. According to Luke, Jesus “sent them out ahead of Him in pairs, to all the towns and places He Himself would be visiting” (Lk 10:1).

This experience of proclaiming Christ has a long tradition: the first Evangelizers set out two by two, for example Paul and Barnabas, Barnabas and Mark, Paul and Silas, Timothy and Erastus, Priscilla and Aquila. In the 16th century Pope Gregory the Great sent out in pairs the first missionaries to England. The pairs of Iro-Scottish monks brought the Gospel to Ireland and Scandinavia. Cyril and Methodius proclaimed Christ among Slavs. St. Francis of Assisi instructed his disciples before sending them out on a mission, “In the name of Christ go two by two into the streets with all dignity, praying in your hearts to the Lord.” Today both consecrated and lay persons do so, inspired by God in a reality in the Catholic Church called the Neocatechumenal Way.

On many occasions in the last years the initiators of this Way: Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi have renewed the call of sending out into the world the men and women gathered during what is called a Convivence to proclaim the Gospel without taking anything with them except for the living, Personal presence of the Risen Lord. The following text is a record of a personal experience of such an event, called Itinerancy ’84.

During a Convivence which took place between 5 and 29 of September 1984 in Porto San Giorgio near Ancona in Italy, about a thousand of consecrated and lay itinerant catechists from many nations were sent into the whole world. Kiko Argüello, the initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, called the event “a historical, intercontinental Convivence.” We were sent two by two without money, to proclaim the Gospel in cities and villages, first to bishops and pastors, and then to all we would meet. Polish itinerant catechists were sent to Italy, myself and Giovanni Perini, an Italian, being drawn to the city of Bologna. Italian catechists would come up to me and say: corragio e avanti!

The Convivence began on September 5, about a quarter to midnight in a makeshift circus tent, which expressed the fragility of human life on earth and a call to remain alert. It brought to mind the words of St. Paul the Apostle: “For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world (spettacolo del mondo), to angels and human beings alike… We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment” (1 Cor 4:9,13).

Preparation

In the first days of the Convivence, we were being prepared for the itinerancy. On September 6, at 9 o’clock a.m., a Penitential Liturgy began in the tent. During the liturgy it was said that human life is, on the one hand, characterized by fragility and weakness but, on the other, by the Mercy of Living God. “It is not about you learning anything,” Kiko said to the catechists, “but about giving your body in service to the Lord.”

The Mystery of Passover is actualized continuously in every place: death is at work in us, but life in you; clouds turn into rain – the Lord makes Tau to the Father, the Father is in me and I am in the Father (cf. John 10:38; 14:10-11). Then Kiko said that according to St. Bernard putting off prayer is a work of the devil, while according to St. Anthony pride causes problems with maintaining chastity. After the liturgy lots were cast to make teams of two, two men or two women, who would spread the Word in China, Indonesia, India, USA and Canada.

On September 7, teams were drawn for the itinerancy among the nations of South America and Europe. Carmen Hernández and an Italian catechist were sent to Moscow. Kiko said: “When you have nothing to eat, Christ will be your food; when you have no place to sleep, Christ will be your bed.” We spent one day without eating or drinking because “this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21). We all read the Acts of the Apostles and prayed individually in the Center of the Servant of Yahweh, in Porto San Giorgio by the Adriatic Sea. During one of the liturgies, Giorgio Filippucci played the guitar and sang Shema Israel (Deut 6:4-9):

Shema Israel, Shema Israel,
Adonai Elohenu,
Adonai Ehad.
Hear, O Israel – Shema Israel Hear,
O Israel – Shema Israel
The Lord is our God – Adonai Elohenu
the Lord alone – Adonai Ehad.
you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your strength
Bind these words
at your wrist as a sign,
as a pendant on your forehead,
on the doorposts of your houses
and on your gates.
Hear, O Israel – Shema Israel Hear,
O Israel – Shema Israel
The Lord is our God – Adonai Elohenu
the Lord alone – Adonai Ehad.
Drill them into your children,
speak of them
at home and abroad,
when you are busy or at rest.
This is the greatest and the first
commandment,
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as
yourself,
observe them and you shall live forever.
Shema Israel, Shema Israel,
Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad.

Before the moment of commissioning, Kiko also read to us the latest document of the Holy See, signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, concerning certain aspects of liberation theology.

The commissioning of the itinerants

On September 10, 1984 Giovanni and presbyter Teofilo (the name given to me by my Italian companion) begin their itinerancy in the Name of Jesus. We go to Bologna on a crowded train with no place to sit, which immediately reminds me of the Gospel: “There was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). In Bologna we are greeted by little children with radiant faces, a large group of them standing on the platform and joyfully waving their hands, in the manner of the children who greeted Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey. These first signs of the Gospel awake in us the awareness that indeed Jesus is coming on this mission. All the money we have we give to a beggar in the street and remain without money (senza soldi), without food (senza mandgiare) and without home (senza casa): our only support is Jesus Christ, who sustains our lives. First we walk onto the top of the highest hill in the city to ask the Lord to liberate its inhabitants from demons and to bless it. We are hungry and spend the first night at the railway station, where the Red Brigades killed forty eight innocent people. For fear of death the benches by the shell hole after the explosion are always free. Christ, who has conquered death, gives us peace to go to sleep on those benches.

On September 11 we go to announce the Kerygma to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the archbishop of Bologna: “The peace of the Lord be with you! Christ is risen! He loves you and wants to live in you. Only this love, the love in the dimension of the cross, guarantees eternal life within you.” The Cardinal, surrounded by priests who have come to a meeting with their shepherd, blesses us as children of God. With this blessing we go to parishes to proclaim the Kerygma to pastors. One of them, Maurizio, accepts the Peace of the Lord and serves us lunch. We are then rejected in the cathedral. As the Lord says: “If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you” (Lk 10:6); so we have double Peace. Padre Franco, in turn, checks our ID’s, listens to the Kerygma and buys us dinner. The second night we spend on the platform and on a bench in the station waiting room.

On September 12 a pastor tells us after the Mass that he has no time to lose. We go hungry all day and are rejected several times. I think of Kiko’s words he said in the tent: “I desire to die in Jesus every day, thanks to which I live in the Risen Christ. Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body (2 Cor 4:10).” Another night at the Bologna railway station. About 5 o’clock in the morning, an exhausted Toscanian called Jean Paolo complains that he has not been given food by anyone. He listens to the Kerygma, accepts Peace and the Holy Spirit, thanks us and says that although he has not eaten for two days, he is back on his feet again.

On September 13, the day of St. John Chrysostom, many respond to the words of Annunciation, “Peace be with you, Jesus loves you,” with Certo, certo ‘Sure, sure.’ Two words often seen in gas stations accompany me in the itinerancy continually: Aperto (open) and Chiuso (closed). They express the attitudes of the pastors we meet. Until midday we go hungry but then an Oratorian called Giovanni receives us in the seminary, listens to the Kerygma and our testimonies, and invites us to lunch: if “they welcome you, eat what is set before you” (Lk 10:8). In the afternoon we meet a pastor who takes down our names for the bishop and shivers as he hears the Kerygma.

That night is wonderful: the fist one we spend in beds, in the Sanctuary of St. Luke and the Madonna. Giovanni Perini says to me: “Look, Teofilo: soap!” – as if it were a miraculous find on a scorched terrain. I contemplate in my heart what a wonderful thing soap is: a sign of God’s love. The first bath and clean sheets.

On September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we proclaim the Good News to many pastors and other people we meet. Eventually we reach the tomb of St. Dominic, who used to carry with him the Gospel according to Matthew and, as a sign of the Good News being proclaimed to pagans, is often portrayed with a dog (cf. Mt 15:21-28). The Dominicans do not welcome us. The following two nights we are hosted by Franciscans: they do welcome us.

Many monks and priests listen to the annunciation of the Good News, some of them with gratitude, others with surprise. We proclaim the Gospel, on the streets of Bologna, to drug addicts, many of whom listen attentively. The Holy Mass at 11 o’clock, then lunch and again a night at the station, with our breviaries doubling as bolsters. I am awake all night and feel like having ice-cold water poured over my back. I pray and offer the suffering to the Lord. The dawn finds me with a sore throat and fever.

When we set out on the morning of September 17, my heart begins to grumble: “None of this makes sense!” In the door of a rectory a woman tells us that the pastor is not in. I dare to ask: “Prego te la calda aqua” (”Please give me some hot water”) but she shakes her head. Giovanni says I’m ill and asks for a cup of hot tea for me but she refuses. It feels like being halved by a sword: I let myself think that no one in Poland would behave like that. We go away and pray for the woman but the grumbling in my heart grows bigger; I doubt whether it makes sense to go to the church if the pastor is not here. In the sacristy we meet two women – Giovanni asks them for a medication for me, to which they reply: “Go and buy it.” Then I blurt out with all the disgruntlement: “Noi siamo senza soldi!” (”We don’t have any money!”), as if the whole world was supposed to know about it! Then one of the women takes out some money and says: “Here you are!” I feel ashamed and recall what Kiko told us before we departed: “The moment you lose faith, you’ll see the Lord by your side helping you.” Then the woman exclaims with joy: “But surely, I can do it for you!” and quickly brings a Bayer aspirin from a pharmacy. As she is giving it to me, she suddenly says: “You must be hungry. Wait a minute,” and off she goes to get some food, not knowing anything about us. And as she is handing in a lot of food to us, she overcomes herself for the third time and says: “But surely, I can host you in my home.” When I hear the word home, the heavens open up for me! At her place she gives me a cup of tea and an aspirin. I think, “I must take two” but reprove myself: “Do as you’re told!” And the woman, worried we might leave, hurriedly prepares chicken soup and lunch, without asking about anything. On the shelf there is a Jerusalem Bible and a book with pictures from the Holy Land. I open the book and see a picture with the words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It feels like a pinch in the heart: I see at that moment what favor it is to proclaim the Gospel without money and desire to go two by two more, if only for one hour. When our host serves us lunch, eager to do so lest we should leave, I ask her name. “Olga,” she says. “It’s strange,” I think, “an Italian with a Russian name.” I realize the Lord has sent his angel and that an angel is someone by your side, your neighbor. (When we returned, many brothers and sisters told about a day of great suffering and the angels the Lord would send them to comfort them.) My illness and fever miraculously go away and I can go on proclaiming the Gospel without money.

On September 18 we meet a pastor who rejected Kiko and Carmen’s catecheses after the Penitential Liturgy. He calls one of his parishioners and says: “Look at them! They are crazy: they proclaim the Gospel without money.” Gabriela responds: “That’s what the Gospel actually says.” God evokes his great Love in our hearts and we say: “Padre, Jesus loves you truly!” His Love is greater than a rejection of catecheses. He goes away in peace, with an experience of Jesus’ true forgiveness. Then we are welcomed by an Augustinian pastor.

A few pastors accept the Good News on September 19. One of them, Don Giovanni, invites us, puts us up for the night and, as it starts to rain, gives us an old umbrella.

On September 20, we go in the rain to a few parishes and some people receive the Kerygma with joy. I remember this: it is evening and we enter a church; an old man, Don Luciano, comes in before us, as he is saying the rosary. On hearing the words of Annunciation, “The Peace of the Lord be with you! Christ is risen and loves you!,” he is overjoyed and praises the Lord. We do not find shelter anywhere: neither at the Franciscans, nor at a rectory, nor in a guesthouse, and so go back to the station waiting room – such is God’s will. Sometimes we stay up in the city’s main square until 11 p.m. and listen to someone play the harmonica. Whenever I hear the sound now, it feels like someone is touching my heart and reviving the experience of rejection (“He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity” – a prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, Isa 53:3) as well as the call and longing for authentic Gospel. Once we go to a trash bin to find some food. How difficult it is to take food out of a trash bin! Our pride does not let us do it, repels us from doing so. This experience helps me view beggars differently: how much humility they must have!

On September 21, the day of Matthew the Evangelist, very tired, we go to a park to pray and I ask for the grace of conversion.

Finally, on Saturday, September 22, we go to Calderara near Bologna to Father Francesco Cupini from Kiko and Carmen’s former team. When we enter the church, he says he thought we were photographers to take pictures at the wedding which was about to begin. “Yes,” says I, “the persons of itinerant catechists are like photographs: they show how Jesus is treated.” Full of gratitude for the wonders of the Lord we have experienced, I celebrate the Eucharist with neocatechumens.

Return

On the Sunday of September 23 we returned from our itinerancy to the tent at Porto San Giorgio near Ancona. Catechists sent to the whole world returned with great joy because “those who go forth weeping will return with cries of joy” (cf. Ps 126:6). They returned to the hill of the Suffering Servant of Yahwe with great happiness, telling the works of the Lord. All of them came back, no-one was missing although they had been itinerating in jeopardy, amongst the Camorra, in Cuba, Moscow or China. The Lord showed his power over death by making use of the little ones, defenseless like children. Catechists who worked in Holland barely had the strength to climb the hill, for in their mission they experienced rejection many times and were only offered two cups of coffee. In the tent we listened to the testimonies of many brothers and sisters translated simultaneously into several languages. A picture emerged of how Jesus is treated in the world and one could clearly see the scandal of This Love going down to earth. Catechists talked for hours about what this mission meant for them and for the local Churches, as well as about the situation of the Church as a whole. For example, a black catechist in France was asked by a French priest what black people were doing in France, to which he replied: “See, your country colonized mine in Africa and now in return I’m bringing you the Love and Peace of Jesus.” Then the priest said that in order to do that one must have credentials and demanded to be shown a mandate of the Church. The catechist replied that if Mary had demanded to see Gabriel’s credentials, Jesus would never have been born.

Carmen Hernandez, whose itinerancy was with an Italian catechist, talked about the reception they got from Patriarch Pimen of Moscow during a liturgy. They walked through the middle of the temple to Pimen and said: “Christ is risen!” (Christos voskries!) and the Lord continued to put wonderful words in their mouths. Patriarch Pimen rejoiced and said: “Give my greetings to the Holy Father John Paul II” and blessed them with a sign of the cross on their foreheads, which he made with a fragrant oil.

The scent of the anointing accompanied them throughout their itinerancy in the Russian capital. Carmen said in very strong words that she saw the insignificance of political agreements between Reagan and Gromyko in comparison with the power of the reconciliation between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. The catechists also went to the Lenin Memorial and discovered an underground passage between the memorial and the most beautiful St. Basil Church at the Red Square. For them it was, Carmen said, like a sign of the Passover from death to Resurrection and like a prophecy of the birth of Christian communities in the temple. In China, many presbyters and bishops received the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus’ Love to them with great joy. They accepted from the catechists the rosaries John Paul II gave them in audiences as a sign of unity with Peter. They cried and said they desired to be in unity with the Holy Father.

When we celebrated the Eucharist in a solemn way, there were first fruits of the Holy Land, brought by catechists and placed in a basket (cf. Deut 26:4-11; Josh 2:1-24 – the spies in the land of Canaan). Kiko said that God acts in history: this is the root of the faith of the Old Testament and the heart of the Church. The Word of God (verba et gesta Dei) are facts of God, therefore the Church, like Israel, always listens out for the Lord. Also, the Church helps us listen to the Word of God, i.e. to interpret facts. Finally, God respects the freedom of each person because He hates those who love violence (Ps 11). He never acts without you, without your consent, your freedom. Everyone needs signs; one cools down without seeing others. Therefore, when Christians die, life is at work in the world; the will of God in Jesus is life everlasting. When the Word about the dry bones from the prophet Ezekiel was proclaimed (Ezek 37), the deep silence in the tent helped me experience how the Lord, before our eyes, reconstructs His Church, the Ecclesia, as one Body and one Spirit, breaking the barriers between laymen and clerics, congregations of consecrated persons and families. She is one Organism with a mission to the world, the sacrament of salvation – Lumen Gentium, a sign of Unity and Love in mission. The Church, in the words of John Paul II, is a mystery of missionary communion. Kiko said that the greatest theophany of God on earth is the Servant of Yahweh, the Love that gives His life as an offering for sin. In the depths of the cross of every human being, one is always scandalized by suffering. But Abraham, confronted with the offering he was to make of Isaac, did not think evil about God: faith allowed him to see from afar the risen Jesus (cf. Heb 11:17-19). Kiko said to the itinerant catechists that one’s childhood prophetizes the whole life. When Jesus disappeared for three days in the temple, Mary was tried; then came three days of death and Jesus was regained in Resurrection. Death and Resurrection are anchors of our salvation. Kiko also said that true love does not flatter and that in the community of brothers, one changes from a ruined dog into a person.

As we listened to the itinerant catechists in the tent, we saw the Lord fulfill the Word of St. Paul from the First Letter to the Corinthians:

For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment. (1 Cor 4:9-13)

The meeting with Petrus

On September 25, there was a meeting of the itinerant catechists with the Holy Father John Paul II, who had just returned from his pilgrimage to Canada. The Pope said that „in this era of itinerant catechists, he also had to become an itinerant.”

During the meeting of the Holy Father with the Neocatechumenal Way on the evening of September 25, the courtyard of the Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo was turned into a presbytery. A podium was erected and a cross was installed on solid walls of fresh colors. There was also a lectern with the Gospel, a crucifix and an icon of Our Lady. Also carpets and flowers – gladioli in all colors, which gave the place a sacredness and solemnity, interspersed with prayers, songs, and silences.

Kiko sang Psalm 8, to which he had composed music. The psalm talks about the Majesty of the Creator and the dignity of every human being:

O Lord, our God,
How great is your name
throughout the earth, is your name,
above the heavens rises your love.
Through the mouths of babies
and of infants
you affirm your power, O Lord,
to reduce to silence enemies and rebels.
If I look at the heavens, the work of your
hands,
the moon and the stars which you have
set in place,
what is man that you care for him?
The son of man that you keep
him in mind?
And yet, And yet, you have
made him little less than the angels;
with glory and honor you have
crowned him.
You have put all things under his feet,
O Lord, our God.

Then we listened to the proclamation of the Gospel according to Luke, about Jesus sending the seventy two disciples:

After this the Lord appointed seventy(-two) others whom He sent ahead of Him two by two to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.

Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy(-two) returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name. Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.”

Turning to the disciples in private He said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Lk 10:1-24)

Kiko Argüello, initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, in calm and at times fervid voice, presented the latest experiences of the itinerants who were present. For two weeks, two by two, these “last ones,” these “children of the Kingdom” – he said, turning to the Holy Father – went to visit the nations of the world, carrying nothing but Christ, poor and crucified, stopping to announce the Good News to the poor, the misfits, to the priests in the great cities as well as in the forsaken lands of Africa and Asia, and announce in the faith that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Redeemer of man.

Kiko communicated to the Holy Father this communal experience of itinerancy, resembling to that of the Apostles in the Gospel, who, having preached the coming of the Kingdom, returned home happy, experiencing the strength of the presence of the Lord. In the different countries of Europe, North America, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania (the initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way also offered the Holy Father a well-detailed scheme of this itinerant experience of Evangelization), these new messengers of the Good News both suffered and rejoiced in the cause of the Gospel.

A couple from Rome, a young seminarian from Barcelona, an Italian girl, a Polish girl, a Spaniard and a young Italian priest recounted, amidst the participation and emotion of those present, their itinerant experience. It was, in essence, a public confession of the wonders that God works through His itinerants who immerse themselves in the world to shake it from its religious sleep and indifference.

From the great metropolis of New York to the favelas of Brazil, from the island of Cuba to China, from Italy to Scandinavia, these were the stages of a gospel story of our own times, experienced and testified to with the strength of faith and love. “They even took us for drug addicts,” said the young Polish girl in giving her own experience, “but then they understood that we had a Christian message to put to everyone with respect and with love”. The testimonial account also went into some of the particulars which reveal the power of God who guides those who entrust themselves to Him with a sincere heart.

After their witnesses, the Holy Father spoke:

Well then, I would like to give you one, two, maybe three conclusions. Let us see.

The first conclusion is that in your experiences and your conclusions I heard the authentic spirit of the disciples of Christ, who trust totally in the Lord. You say “itinerants” and you are itinerants, but this being itinerant means that above all Jesus makes His itinerancy inside you, and then He makes His itinerancy together with you towards others. The fact that you are itinerants is secondary, the main reality is that He is Itinerant and He wants to be Itinerant, not only to be present in the Church but also itinerant in the Church. The Church must be itinerant, always in motion, she is not only a Church already settled, organized, structured. The Church is walking towards people, towards communities, towards nations, towards believers and non-believers. These distinctions, these divisions are different for Christ than they are for us – and this is the first conclusion.

Then there is this truly Evangelical trust that characterizes your itinerancy, to go without anything, not placing one’s trust in oneself, but trusting totally in Providence, in what the Lord will do. Then also the humility – you said: “The Lord saved me, took me out of my sins, of my lack of faith and so I have received a great grace, a strength from the Lord, his power, and now I must walk announcing this power, in fact I must transfer this power to others.” The Lord is powerful – the Holy Father affirmed this by raising his voice – You must trust in the power of the Lord and want to experience this power for yourselves and also in others. The Lord is powerful in His death and Resurrection, powerful in His grace, powerful in the Holy Spirit.

Then the final conclusion is this: that I, since I became Bishop of Rome, Pope, in this age of itinerants, had to become itinerant myself a little. There is a parallel here, a similarity, but I must say that the itineraries that I make are much less severe than yours. It is true that they ask a lot from us, the schedule is rather exacting, but apart from that, we do not walk on our feet, – we go with Alitalia or AirCanada, then with Popemobile. I don’t think that you could accept this way of being itinerant! But I wonder: can I do otherwise? In all humility I confess to you that I cannot do it differently. So, let the Pope be itinerant as he is, and you carry on being itinerants in the way you are.

…Now let us sing! … Let us sing the song you always sing and one that I recognize you by - “Blessed are you who believed.

On my way back to Poland I visited for the first time The Generelate of the Congregation of Marians at 1 Via Corsica in Rome. The door was answered by Sister Anunciata, who took me to the Superior General, Father Fidelis Grabowski. The Father was moved by my story of the wonders of God and gave me an amber rosary which had come from the East. As I was heading for the Fiumicino Airport, the bus went round the Colosseum and I saw for the first time the place of the martyrdom of the first Christians.

Italy, September 1984
Translated by Adam Głaz

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