A Hot Movement in Roman Catholicism
The Catholics are beginning to beat Evangelicals at their own game. They are getting into door-to-door evangelism big time. In an outreach ministry called “The Way” started in Spain in 1964, there are now more than a million adherents in 6,000 parishes worldwide serving Christ in this way.
Jose and Maribel Martin, who moved from their birthplace in Madrid to South Philadelphia just to do this work of God, say that they didn’t come to Philly to proselytize but simply to share the “good news” about how God has changed their lives. They are immersed in a small group with other members of The Way that nurtures their spiritual development and encourages their zeal for evangelism. Like other participants in this movement, the Martins are not shy about their faith commitments and sometimes even go to public parks and sing as they witness for Christ.
The movement started 54 years ago because a painter and musician, Francisco “Kiko” Arguello, stepped in to help an abused mother of nine, endeavoring to protect her from her sometimes violent husband. In that troubled wife, Francisco says that he found “the crucified Christ.” Later, he joined up with a theologian, Carmen Hernandez, and together they formed a small Christian community that concentrated on ministering to the poor in Madrid’s slums. From that small group the movement has grown and today has spread around the world.
The members of The Way go through an eight-week course of study to prepare them for their ministry. They then attend study sessions every Wednesday and attend Mass in small groups on Saturdays. Their evangelistic zeal often irritates more staid Catholics in the traditional congregates in parishes where they worship. In 2008, however, Pope Benedict XVI provided “The Way” with the Vatican’s imprimatur. This gave them important legitimacy.
“The Way” has created controversy within Catholicism. In Japan, the Catholic Conference of Bishops issued a statement that the movement had created “confusion” and attempted to stop its activities – contending that The Way failed to respect Japanese Catholic culture. The movement also has caused controversy in the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Italy. This is no surprise to any who have read the book of Acts in the New Testament. As you read Acts, you will find that wherever the early Christians carried the “good news” about Jesus that they (in the words of scripture) “turned the world upside down” (Acts 12:6).
Those who are in the movement testify that their involvement has been transformative, deepening their faith and giving them a sense of Christ as a living presence in their lives like never before.
In the midst of all the bad news about what is happening to Catholic churches it is great to hear what God is doing through ordinary Catholic lay workers who are committed to evangelism in extra ordinary ways. If Red Letter Christians take the words of Jesus seriously and act on them we might imitate the people of The Way. Check out Mark 6:7-12 and then ask, “Is this what we are supposed to be doing?”