Catholic News Agency recently interviewed L.F. Figari, the founder of the Christian Life Movement (CLM), at the conclusion of the movement's third Plenary Meeting. The CLM is an international association of the faithful that was recognized by the Holy See in 1994.
With members in 25 countries around the world, the CLM is the largest ecclesial movement born in the Americas.
The third Plenary Meeting of the CLM, held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, brought together 250 delegates from 17 of the 25 countries where the movement is present worldwide. The theme for the gathering was, "I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide ( Jn. 15:16).”
Following the meeting, L.F. Figari spoke with CNA about the impact of Christian Life Movement and its decision to focus greater energy and resources on defending the right to life and human dignity.
The full interview follows.
CNA: The end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third has seen the rise of new lay charisms in the Church. The CLM is part of this phenomenon. How can we understand this historic event?
LFF: The Holy Spirit has never abandoned the Church. In every age He creates new answers and awakens new charisms in response to new situations and challenges. This has happened throughout history and continues to happen today. The laity form the bulk of the Church. For this reason it makes sense that the Spirit gives the laity the opportunity to be members of the institutions of communal life, in which they can live, deepen and celebrate the faith with which they have been blessed.
Especially in our day in which the reigning relativism has taken on so many forms, from muted secularism to aggressive and even authoritarian secularism, it is only natural that the laity have the opportunity to embrace those charisms with which they most identify themselves, which allow them to experience the encounter with the Lord Jesus, deepen in the truths of the faith and participate actively in the associations that those charisms acquire. It is also a way of safeguarding one’s own Catholic identity amidst so much contamination that is spread through globalization and through the media, which more often than not are very unhealthy.
Because of the weakness of Catholic identity, unfortunately very frequent today …the faithful must take steps to not fall victim to the relativistic whirlwind that is more present in some countries and places than in others…There are many schools where students from a young age are confronted with secularism and see their faith attacked in a clear assault on freedom in the name of an ideology. Many media outlets contribute as well. Legislation in some countries has taken on a secularist ideology constituting a de facto assault on religious freedom and proposing a social model that in the end is contrary to the human being, his rights, dignity and obviously his freedom to believe and practice his faith.
CNA: What do the CLM and its spirituality contribute to the life of the universal Church?
LFF: Every charism the Spirit brings forth is for the benefit of the entire Church. Every spiritual family that is blessed with a particular charism allows itself to be possessed by the Spirit and aspires to give expression to that in its own style and spirituality in unity and communion with the whole Church. Some are more profound and rational, some are more emotional, as is the case with human beings. The Christian Life Movement is born of searchers for the truth, of people who are firmly convinced that that search finds an answer in the Lord Jesus, who said of Himself: ‘I am the Truth.’ This encounter with the person of Jesus is the event that allows one to embrace the splendor of the truth, to receive the life that the Lord grants, and to live the love that, like a burning fire, springs forth from the interior to radiate to others … For members of the CLM, this encounter is not reduced to merely, let’s say, the emotional aspect, but rather touches the whole of the human person created by God…It nourishes his mind with the truths revealed by God and safeguarded in the deposit of the Church’s faith, without which the encounter risks losing consistency, permanence and firmness.
It touches the heart, calling it to adhere in love to the encountered Lord, and from Him, to all other human beings, without ignoring one’s own reality in which inescapable duties of charity exist. It translates into faith in action, which flows from a person excited about a vital event that has transformed his or her life, about a fire of love that struggles to radiate light and warmth, with the conviction that if you have something good you want others to have it and benefit from it, with the assurance that the faith of the Church is the greatest good that can be offered to a person.
Particularly today in the fundamental questions, such as, Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? (the Church's message) often only falls on the deaf ears of relativism or nihilism which, with the force of its emptiness, brings tension to a person and even grinds him up.
All of this that I am sharing with you has been developed in the overflowing channel of hope of Vatican II, following upon its drive for renewal in continuity with Tradition.
CNA: The CLM has just concluded its third Plenary Assembly. What importance has the event had in the life of this spiritual family?
LFF: Yes, the Christian Life Movement has concluded a series of joyful and vibrant days of faith, prayer, reflection, sharing, discussing apostolic experiences of life in different places in the world, of forging bonds of fraternal friendship between 250 delegates from countries on all five continents…An event of such magnitude and characteristics certainly has important consequences…The Sodalite Family, which includes the CLM, is enriched by an experience of such magnitude. Whatever benefits the part, benefits the whole. Moreover, very positive feedback of the beautiful and intense experience in Guayaquil will reach the different countries where the Sodalite family exists.
CNA: The CLM is characterized by its evangelization of young people, the poor, the culture and families. What are the challenges it faces in these areas?
LFF: The apostolate of the members of the Christian Life Movement is above all open to that which is universal. Each member, as a baptized believer, is invited to participate in the mission of the Church in accord with their own characteristics and state of life. Within this broad horizon, the CLM brings the testimony of Jesus to young people, the poor, serving them through human promotion and addressing the needs of hunger, health care and the culture, seeking to get at its roots, and to families. Each one of these human groups—young people, the poor, families, which obviously overlap, as well as the wide field of the culture—offer challenges that are ever new. I could go on, but we would be here for hours.
Let me just mention a few examples.
Young people are receiving less and less education and formation, not only because of educational or family problems, deficiencies or biases in the curriculum or in the materials at their disposition, but also because of habits formed from playing video games and spending time on the internet. All of these things foster a lack of critical thinking, reading and non-lineal discussion, to which we must add the bombardment of violent and eroticized advertisement. Obviously, in pointing these things out I am speaking in general terms, since as in everything there are exceptions.
The world is advancing in so many things, but the misery of so many brothers and sisters of ours is there, questioning the squandering of riches and the increasingly more aggressive consumerist culture. The process of dehumanization also affects them in their dignity.
The CLM opens its arms to these brothers and sisters and a large portion of its services and works are intended to help them on their life’s journey with a brotherly hand, offering material and spiritual help in solidarity and human promotion.
The issue of the culture is vast, and our creativity cannot produce enough responses to all of the challenges it presents.
The family is also a priority that has grave challenges, not only those that stem from gender ideology, relativism, laws that are permissive and do not protect and promote the family. But also those that stem from an urgent need to educate people to be husbands and wives, as well as to be mothers and fathers who respectfully promote the comprehensive growth of their children, their upbringing in the faith, the passing on of values and the education in character strength and the proper use of freedom. The family, called to be a cenacle of love, “the domestic church,” also demands much help. CLM initiatives to provide that help through institutes and educational and family programs are numerous.
CNA: At the beginning of this recent CLM assembly, a new apostolic emphasis for the movement was announced: the promotion of the life, dignity and rights of the human person. Why this new emphasis?
LFF: Today a process of dehumanization can be seen everywhere: life, human dignity and rights suffer mockery, manipulation and ferocious attacks. The revelation of God shows the scope of the reality of the human being. In the Lord Jesus the person finds his true identity. Not what he wants, what he likes or what he has been conditioned to believe by an avalanche of cognitive manipulation, but rather the truth about the human being which is discovered in the Eternal Word made man.
Jesus came to reveal to human beings our most profound identity, our dignity that stems from being created in the image and likeness of God. The rights that come from human nature and are not a concession or invention of the government or international associations.
There are many assaults on the human being, there is a lot of talk about the right to this or the right to that, but often these very formulations are assaults on the fundamental and inherent rights of the person. Before everything is the right to life, from conception to natural death. The arguments for canceling this right were exhausted with Nazism and the various forms of Communism. To say that a person has the right to take the life of another human being because he was born unwanted or was the result of some act of violence, is to fall to the level of backers of the ideas of Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin or Hitler. So much could be said about these absurdities!
But also together with the flagrant violence against life are the relativistic and dehumanizing ideologies that are the vanguard of the absolutisms and totalitarianism that are reappearing today with new faces. Many other rights that have their source in human nature flow from the right to life and the dignity of the human person. Today there is an increasing urgency to promote and protect these rights. The CLM has done a lot in this area in the past, but today we want to show we are attentive to such an important issue by making it one of the emphases or main fields of the work of evangelization of the members of the Christian Life Movement.