Over the centuries, the Holy Spirit has always suscitated new realities within the Church that serve as a response to the challenges faced by the Church in a certain period of time. It has been observed ever since the emergence of Christian communities as described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, but also in the monachism era, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, as well as in the mendicant movement in the 13th century, in the missionary congregations in the 15th and 16th centuries, in the congregations focused on charity in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in the secular institutes in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In modern times, the airs of the II Vatican Council (1962-1965) encouraged the emerging of “new forms of evangelical life”, among them, the Ecclesial Movements and the New Communities.
The New Communities firstly arose in France and in the USA in the seventies, becoming a world phenomenon. In Brazil, the first New Communities (2) arose in the eighties. And in the nineties, there was the emergence of countless New Communities that currently surpass the number of 500.
The Council requested a Church living in the world, able to attract it to Christ and respond to the challenges of the times. Pope John Paul II, in the memorable Vigil of Pentecost in 1998, called the Ecclesial Movements and the New Communities the “Providential response of the Spirit”. The reason why it happens is that through the New Communities and Ecclesial Movements, lay people who consecrate themselves to God by means of a specific charisma, and under the gift and radicality of such charisma, authentically live their Baptism within a world torn apart by secularism.
Two ecclesial originalities are observed in the New Communities:
- The first one is usually the fact that these groups are made up of men and women, priests and laity, celibates, married and single people who live in community, and follow their own lifestyle under the grace and spirituality of a specific charisma.
- Another originality is the consecration of laity, even couples, in the service of the Kingdom. Although is not exactly new within the Church – the third orders and the Benedictine oblates could be mentioned here – the consciousness of a consecration of life, including married people, who even make bonds (promises, commitments, etc) of obedience, poverty and chastity really is a originality within the Church.
The Document of Aparecida (4) devotes a subchapter to the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, which says: “The new movements and communities are a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. In them the faithful find the opportunity to be formed as Christians, growing, and committing themselves apostolically as true missionary disciples”.
The New Communities, nearly all of them arisen from Catholic Charismatic Renewal, bring in themselves some characteristics:
- Its own charisma, which is well defined;
- Its filial love and reverence to the Church through obedience to the Pope and Bishops and faithfulness to the Catholic doctrine;
- Its strong missionarity under the impulse of the new evangelization;
- Its communal living under two forms: covenant community and life community;
- Its specific calling for poverty and abandonment to Divine Providence;
- Its common and organized government lived under the grace of obedience;
- The presence of all status and realities of life: men and women, priests and laity, celibates, married and single people.
- Its intense appeal to the moral living according to the Magisterium of the Church, which is confirmed by the bond of chastity, according to one’s status of life.
- Its intense prayer life, personal as well as communal.
1. Post-Synodal Apostholic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (1996), no. 62.
2. Except for Canção Nova Community, founded in 1978.
3. In the messages from Pope Benedict XVI, in the pronouncements from Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and in the meetings of Catholic Fraternity, the New Communities have been called “Hope of the Church”.
4. Document of Aparecida (2007), no. 311