KIKO ARGÜELLO INTERVIEWED IN EWTN
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Kiko Argüello, many thanks for your courtesy in agreeing to this interview; I know you are not an interview type of person, you are camera shy, you don’t like to talk about yourself, but I have been told that thanks to Mother Angelica you have agreed to share these minutes with all our audience. We thank you therefore in the name of our Lord, of Mother Angelica and of all the Spanish speaking people that are with us now. Welcome Kiko.
Kiko Argüello: Thank you.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Let’s go to the very beginning. You are Spanish, born in…
Kiko Argüello: León.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Near the Peaks of Europe, where the mountain ranges start. How did you end up going to Madrid?
Kiko Argüello: My family moved when I was two; my father was a lawyer and he moved to Madrid.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: So, you are practically a native of Madrid. What is your professional training?
Kiko Argüello: I am a painter by profession. I did Bachelor studies first and then I studied Fine Arts in the University. After finishing I made many exhibitions; my career is that of a professional painter.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: So, there are paintings around, done by you as a painter.
Kiko Argüello: I received a National Extraordinary Prize in Spain.
EWTN/ Pepe Alonso: I am not a great expert in painting, but in your field, what is your projection?
Kiko Argüello: I did modern painting then, later there came a moment in which I left it all to go live among the poor.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Whoa, let’s see… let’s digest this; a painter who has earned his fame, that has his clientele, and then suddenly decides to abandon it all and go off with the poor. Why?
Kiko Argüello: It is a very important history. When I entered the Fine Arts University I had an experience, an existential crisis, we could say. I realized that the faith my parents —who are Catholic— had transmitted to me was not enough. As any youth, I had many questions: How is it possible that we live in a world full of injustices when inside we have a desire for justice? This made me search for other roads. I completely abandoned church practice. The Fine Arts environment at the time was all “leftist”, atheistic-Marxist style; but I was never communist and used to tell my friends they were communists: “I don’t understand how you can imagine a communist paradise without injustices if you can’t give an answer to history, to a man who, maybe on a ship, a black man taken in Africa, died unjustly…” And that made me think that it was not so.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Something you mentioned struck me; as you enter this crisis, this soul searching, you leave the church, you act as if there were no possible answer there. You dismiss it and go looking elsewhere.
Kiko Argüello: Yes, because somehow I couldn’t find... I had to weak a formation: preparation for first communion and a subject called religion in high school, but not enough for all my philosophical and existential soul searching: Who am I, who created me, why do we live? I couldn’t find good answers. The thing is that I perceived that Christians had no answer to the problems I was going through at that moment.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: You were, more or less, going through what Gandhi was when he was asked about Catholicism and said: I love the religion, but Catholics are not convincing.
Kiko Argüello: So, it happened that I had a theater group in Fine Arts, and through the theater I learned something of the philosophy of Sartre (“The Closed Door”, “”The flies”, etc.) and in the end Sartre gives us an answer: that the world is absurd, everything is absurd; that we have a craving for justice and live in an unjust world because everything is absurd. I tried to live this reality consciously, existentially, let us say, God does not exist; If God does not exist, I have to accept that at one time I did not exist, that I now exist, and that tomorrow I won’t exist, without the need to invent a heaven for myself or any superior thing. I tried to live the reality of atheism in this mentality. In a way, heaven closed down for me and I tried to live dedicating myself to art. I won a National Extraordinary Prize and came out in television, I was on the media; and I was surprised to learn that it meant absolutely nothing to me. In the end I asked myself: but, people, how can they live if I can’t?
The world had turned to ashes for me. Why live? Who created you? Are we alone in the Universe? In this dilemma, in this very strong existential crisis, I somehow found a way. There is a philosopher, Bergson, who says that intuition is a better way of knowing than reason. In some way, this, for me, was a small light. I mean, supposing Bergson is right, and that intuition is a form, deeper that reason itself, of arriving at truth. And, surprised, I found that deep inside my artist’s intuition did not accept the absurdity of existence; I was aware of the beauty of a tree, of the beauty of things; there is something there that can’t be absurd. Then, if the absurd is not the truth, if there is a reason for being… the next step was: then somebody created us. Then I called out to this Somebody: If you exist, if there is a God who has created me, speak to me, tell me who I am, what I have to do with my life. And, on calling God, I had a very deep encounter with Him in the depth of my being. I remember that I cried and cried, my tears flowed ceaselessly and I was surprised: Why do I cry? I realized that it is as when a person is condemned to death, on the way to his death, and when he is about to be killed they suddenly say: YOU ARE FREE.
At that moment I was born again because God existed, something inside told me God loved me. And most surprisingly… because deep down, in my crisis I knew that I would kill myself, that I lived a vegetative life, I’d get up and say: to live, for what?: To paint. And why paint?: To make money. What for if nothing satisfies me? I knew that sooner or later I’d shoot myself, I’d kill myself. During this kenosis, this descent, this process, I had this encounter. And in this encounter I was surprised to discover that there was something in me that told me that God existed. But it was not a rational thing. Latter, Reading St. Paul, he said that “the Spirit of Christ gives witness to our spirit…” In other words, the Spirit of Christ gave witness inside of me, not only that God loved me, but that I was a son of God. And with great surprise I found that during this deep encounter with the Lord —because I was willing to become a Buddhist, or Protestant— I discovered that this God that appeared in my heart, in my deepest soul, was Jesus Christ, the Jesus Christ of the Catholic Church.
Then I went to a priest and told him that I wanted to be a Christian. He says to me: Is it that you are not baptized? I answered: -Yes, yes, I am baptized. –Then what do you want, confession? I realized that I needed a deeper Christian education. He then invited me to participate in a “Cursillo de Cristiandad”. I went to a “Cursillo” and the “cursillos” helped me. There I saw lay witnessing, many prejudices against the Church, which I had acquired with all the time at the university in a leftist environment, were removed. Then they trained me as a catechist, as a teacher of “Cursillos” and I started to give “Cursillos”. At that time I formed a group of artists with sculptures and architects, that took the name of “Gremio 62”, for the renewal of sacred art. I received a scholarship from the March Foundation to find points of coincidence between Protestant and Catholic art. With a Dominican theologian and an architect we made a tour of Europe with an eye for the Council. I got to know the liturgical renovation that was going on. I was in Paris, I studied with Le Corbusier, I went to Finland. During this trip I had a very important encounter, due to the fact that before the trip we went to the Monegros desert because the Dominican knew Father Boyaume, founder of the Little Friars of Foucld.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Let’s get our geography straight. Where is the Monegros desert?
Kiko Argüello: It is near Zaragoza, in Spain. There are some caves there. Faher Boyaume is the founder of the Little Friars of Foucld. Charles Foucauld is in the process of being beatified. There I learned the history of this monk that went to live in Tamanrasset and that wanted to live the hidden life of Christ in Nazareth, in silence. I was very impressed at the time. When I returned from this trip I had to serve time in the military, I was in Africa doing my military service, which was also an important experience. I had a very important experience on returning from that trip and before going to Africa. On that occasion I went home for a day to spend Christmas with my parents. On Christmas day I found the service woman, the cook crying in the kitchen. I asked her: What’s wrong? She answered that they had jailed her husband because he was a drunk, that he would hit their son and had wanted to kill him. She spilled over and told me about this tragedy that greatly impressed me, and asked me if I could help her. I was so impressed that next day, the day after Christmas I decided to go see her. She lived in a miserable shanty in the outskirts of Madrid. I saw her husband who had been released from jail. He was almost always drunk, had 9 children. I was suddenly confronted with a terrifying spectacle of misery. I decided to help her. I took her husband to the “Cursillos” and he stopped drinking for a while, but then returned to his drinking. Each time her husband got drunk again and there was a spectacle at her house this woman would call me because I was the only one her husband would listen to and calm down. In the end I came to realize: And if God is calling me to go live with this family in order to keep this man from getting drunk any more? An I went to live with them. They set up a cot for me in the kitchen —I remember they had some cats there— and in that miserable environment I had a much more important encounter, a second stage: I discovered the suffering of the innocent. There were some awful people there: a woman with Parkinson’s who begged for alms whose husband had abandoned; another woman was sprawled out… I had known the French existentialism —there is a book by Camus called “The Plague”— put forward the problem of the suffering of the innocent. The Holy Spirit told me that there was a presence of the crucified Christ in those who suffered.
Later, when I had to go to Africa to serve my military tour of duty, there in Africa the Lord was stalking me. I thought: If Christ were to return again —to return in his second coming— I would like to have him find me at the feet of the poor that are crucified by suffering. With this Idea that was talking me… In other words, the Lord was calling me —I had set up the sacred arts group, was a teacher of “Cursillos”, I had a studio, I had a bunch of things, the Lord was pursuing me—; In the end I left it all and decided to go live among the poorest.
I met a social worker who told me of a ghetto, of Palomeras Altas, where there was a wooden shanty, a place of gypsies and tinkers (quinquis). Quinquies is, in Spain, the name for a kind of wanderer that are not of the gypsy race, who go through the towns fixing pots; they are called “quinquilleros” (tinkers), from “quincalla”, that have been chased much by the police because they steal, etc. Finally I came to see clearly that God was calling me to leave it all and go there to live. I had Charles of Foucald in the background; I went to live there willing to place myself at the feet of the poorest, as one who lays at the feet of the real Eucharistic Presence.
I remember that there were a bunch of dogs at the shanty, It was biting cold and the dogs warmed me. I went with my Bible and my guitar. I slept on the ground. Those were my thoughts as I went there; and there God had another much more impressive plan.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: Let’s get to that plan. But I want to make two kinds of questions. On that Christmas, when you discover the needs of this family and then make the decision to go live with them in order to help them, what was your family’s reaction? I ask this because there are many parents that; when a son or a daughter try to answer a call from God, often find an obstacle, much opposition. What was your family’s reaction?
Kiko Argüello: You can imagine; they didn’t understand. My fater thought that I was crazy. My father had seen me receive the prize for painting, that I had given exhibitions in Holland, that I gave an exhibition of sacred art in France, invited by the Minister of Cultural Relations, that I had made much money. Suddenly he saw me throw my carrier out the window and go off to live among gypsies; they didn’t understand. But I had no option but to be faithful to God.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: And now, after all these years...
Kiko Argüello: My parents are dead.
EWTN/ Pepe Alonso: But they got to see fruits of your apostolate, in other words, they are now joyous in Heaven…
Kiko Argüello: Yes, yes, my parents entered the Neocatechumenal Way.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: I interrupted you, we were talking of your next step in your life of answering the Lord.
Kiko Argüello: There in the shanties the gypsies would see me with the guitar, I was a question mark, who is this? They thought I was a Protestant because I always carried a Bible; some thought that I had made a vow to God to live there among the poor, it was not understood. And they came to talk with me. They started asking me questions; they wanted to know who I was. I would open the scriptures, talk to them, they came to pray with me, gradually, a certain atmosphere was taking shape. I soon realized that underneath… —they were all people that did not know how to read or write, they were wanderers that went from town to town, with a special culture in that sense, and I had a different way of speaking— I realized that my way of preaching was not working. But they, oddly, asked me to talk to them of Jesus Christ.
Later I met Carmen Hernández there. She was a missionary that the Bishop of Oruro, in Bolivia, had met, and he wanted some missionaries to conduct a mission with the miners of Oruro. She was searching for a lay group and met me through a sister of hers. She came to the shanties and was impressed. With the intention of recruiting me for Oruro, she got a shanty a kilometer away, in another shanty town. She went there with a friend and started frequenting our group. I held meetings at my shack where the gypsies that wanted me to talk to them of Jesus would come. I didn’t know how to talk to them of Jesus Christ. They would ask, but how had the Apostles preached? The Apostles could not preach with conferences and cultural trappings; imagine Peter as a fisherman, John… The poor have helped me. There was a gypsy that was leader of a band, a whole clan of gypsies, who had been in a correctional institution. He knew how to read and write. One day he came to speak to me, he asked me what God said in the Bible about fighting, because he had a clash with another gypsy band. Then I read him the Sermon of the Mount that said: “Love your enemies. If someone slaps your right cheek turn your left to him…” an he was enormously impressed that there was something like that in the Bible. Later I gave “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” to this gypsy, and we became good friends; he is now in the Way, he has thirteen children, they have been on mission as a family, he was first responsible of the first community that was formed among the poor.
Now this guy, as an example, one day says to me: “Come talk to my family, to my clan!”. He lived in a gypsy cave. “But, I don’t know how to preach, man…”. Because I was in that attitude of thinking that they were Jesus and that I was there to contemplate the suffering of the poor, it was not my intention to teach them to read or anything like that, I considered myself the least. It is as if you had a cancer and that cancer is like a cross for you that causes me to venerate you for being marked by the cross of Jesus. In other words, I had an attitude of this type. And he was determined that I talk to all his clan. “I’ve prepared them all!” he told me. He took me to his shack, which was about 300meters below mine, and entered his cave. I remember it was totally dark because there were no electric lights: the candles thy used had blackened everything, besides the gypsies are quite dark complexioned, I couldn’t see anything. And he tells me: “Talk to them of Jesus, what you say to me, talk to them!” I started to speak of Adam and Eve… I don’t know what I started to say. This gypsy’s mother gets up, she was the clan matron, the mistress of all, and she says to me: “Have you seen it? Have you seen what you are talking about? The only thing that I know is that my father is dead and has not come back, nobody has come back from the grave. When you see someone come back from the grave, return from the dead, then I’ll listen to you. Have you seen somebody return from the cemetery? No? Well, this meeting is over: Let’s go, women! All the women got up and the meeting was over. But, that woman had given me a very important clue.
Looking in the Acts of the Apostles as to how the Apostles preached, there is a very important text. Festus, the Governor, has a prisoner named Paul (who talks much with Festus) and when he is visited by Agrippa, he says to him: “I would like you to listen to him because I have to write to the Emperor and don’t know what to say, because this guy talks about as dead man who, he says, lives. In other words, of all of St. Paul’s catechesis, the only thing this pagan has understood is that he talks of a person that has returned from the grave. Exactly what that gypsy woman would accept as testimony. Then I realized that the central point of apostolic preaching was the Resurrection of Christ, Christ’s victory over death. Take into account that I am speaking of when the Council was just beginning, 1964 – 1965, a time in which the Paschal mystery was not quite so bright, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was stronger. In other words, the poor, that environment was like a culture broth, like a laboratory where the Lord gestated a kerygmatic-catechetic synthesis that today is being preached all over the world. This kerygmatic-catechetic synthesis was forged by the poor.
EWTN/Pepe Alonso: That question that was put to you by a person today is having worldwide repercussions through the Neocatechumenal Way.
Kiko Argüello: Exactly. The kerygma, the proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection… Christ has vanquished death. The Epistle to the Hebrews says that: “due to the fear man has of death, he is held in slavery by the devil all of his life.” In other words, a person marries, his marriage goes bad, his wife wrecks him, and due to the fear that his wife will ruin him he divorces her. Because of man’s fear of death he is enslaved by the devil. Then, what has Jesus Christ come to do? The Epistle to the Hebrews says that He has taken on our flesh to take from the devil this power over death. And how does he take from him this power he has over death? Vanquishing death, resurrecting from the dead… But, what is it to me that Christ has resurrected from the dead? How does his Resurrection affect me, liberate me down deep? That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Because we say that in his depths man is subject to an ontic death, man’s being is dead because of original sin, because original sin consists in that the devil deceived our first parents questioning them as to why they had to obey God, that they are god. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is like a symbol, a very important idea, something everybody experiences in life. The devil, who really exists, suggests to us through our thoughts, he tells us down deep that the proof that God is not love, that God does not love us is that he limits us: “See? He forbids you to eat of this tree, because he is jealous, he castrates you.” Then, if you eat, if you trespass, if, for example, you like your friend’s wife, you find yourself there before the Tree of Good and Evil. The devil says to you: “But, why don’t you sin with her? You love her, she likes you, you like each other…” But you know that the Lord has told you: “You shall not commit adultery.” The devil says: “See? God is castrating you. Eat, adulterate and be free. You’ll be God.” This thing of being God is profound deceit. The Lord said: “Don’t eat because you’ll die.” He ate and died. What death is it that man undergoes when he kills God in his life? The death of his deepest being, because I am a person, because somebody has created me.
The Greek root of the word person signifies the character a subject assumes —the character in a play, a part or roll—. You play the prince, another the princess, another the soldier, another the knight. Put another way, the fact of being a person means that you have been given a mission, that somebody has created you, that you exist for Somebody. And, what if God does not exist? Then, the root of my being a person has been truncated, it is cut; my deepest being is ontically dead, I experience the death of my being —something the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard calls an ontic death, which is very real—. “Due to the fear we have of death, we are held in slavery by the devil.” What death does the Scripture refer to? Not to physical death. Many people commit suicide. It refers to the death of our being. Man is dead in his being: Who am I? I do not exist for anybody. Man is dead in his being. He wants to be now, to be for his wife, he wants to be for his friends.
But, in order to be, to be loved, you have to be handsome, be young, be beautiful, have money, be a winner, and then, to top it off, you come to realize that nobody loves you. Man is dead inside; he has to be cured inside. And, how does Christianity cure a man down deep inside? Through preaching. St. Paul says that God has wanted to save men by the foolishness of preaching, because what Christianity proclaims is a tiding, though not cultural news, but an event.
We use an example: It is as if tomorrow your uncle dies in Brazil an leaves you 50 million dollars in inheritance, or a billion dollars, an enormous amount. And the bank is looking for this multimillionaire and send two persons to look for him in Madrid. Imagine if two persons come and give you the news, a word of mouth announcement: “You have inherited a billion dollars.” Faith comes through the telling of the news. You either believe it or you don’t. You probably won’t believe it. If you believe it you’ll say: “What do I have to do?” And they’ll tell you: “Go to the bank and they’ll give you that billion.” Well, what Jesus has done for us is that he has left us a will worth much more than a billion dollars: Eternal Life!
We have talked of ontic death, the death of being, and we talked of Eternal Life. Then Christ has died for you and me and has arisen for you and me so that we can have Eternal Life. And, when does that Eternal Life come to you? I tell you of the news, I come to you as those two messengers and say to you: Do you know? God has realized that you are all messed up, you have been divorced three times, you are suffering so much, were an alcoholic for a time because of your great crisis produced by your internal conflicts… Well, I’ll give you some news: “Christ has left you a will of Eternal Life. You will never die. Christ has arisen for you and is going to give you Eternal Life now. Do you believe it? Imagine that you believe it and say to me as they said to St. Peter: “And what do I have to do?” (The same as with the bank) And St. Peter says: “Have yourselves baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.”
Then, how does this Eternal Life come to you? If you believe that Christ has died for your sins —because you have to be purified of all of your sins, because if not the Holy Spirit can not come within you—, if you give your sins to Christ who suffers the punishments that that were your due, you will freely receive the forgiveness of you sins and, through Baptism, the Holy Spirit. So, what is the Holy Spirit? What I said before in my testimony: Christ’s Spirit entering you gives witness that God Loves you, that you won’t die; you’re inhabited by the Holy Spirit, inhabited by the Holy Trinity. You are never more alone. This is impressive. St. Paul says that Christ has died for all mankind, for all, so that mankind no longer lives for itself, but for He who died and arose for them. In other words… At the bottom of this… St. Paul’s anthropology —“anthropos”, the concept of man—… For St. Paul, man is condemned to give to himself al realities, that is to say that man lives everything as a function of his happiness, he is condemned to selfishness —and this is a condemnation in St. Paul’s view— because he can’t give himself to others. Because sin —we are not Protestants— has not destroyed our nature, we know that the truth is giving ourselves to others, loving, but we can’t love, we are condemned to selfishness by original sin, by our ontic death.
Therefore, only Christ saves us, regenerating us internally; giving us of his Spirit he makes us, by Baptism, children of God. We attain immortal Life, we gain eternal Life.
What does it mean to have eternal life within us?: The capacity to love another beyond death. Are you married? Due to your problems, your wife can often be your enemy. The Holy Spirit can lead you to love her beyond death, even though she is your enemy. That is why Christian marriage is indissoluble: you love beyond death, even your enemy. This is Christianity, it is impressive. That is why I had to leave painting (“I consider everything trash —as St. Paul said— in order to win Christ”) because “Woe is me! if I do not evangelize”. How can I not preach the Gospel!
This synthesis, then —I’m getting back to the shantytown— the Lord led us to find this Kerugma, this synthesis, this News, this Announcement created by the poor. And with great surprise, these poor that had nothing at hand but their sins —one had been in jail, the other… whatever— did not defend themselves from Jesus’ announcement, they did not raise barriers, they believed and the Holy Spirit appeared: among the poor, between those in misery, there appeared a Christian community; we were greatly surprised. Just imagine that it is very hard for there to be a feeling of brotherhood between gypsies and non gypsies. The Holy Spirit created a “koinonia” —as it was called by the Greek— a community of love. A Christian community was formed. In other words, there in the shantytown appeared a tripod that is the base of the whole Neocatechumenal Way: the Word of God (the Kerugma) the Christian Proclamation; the liturgy, because the Word induces man to give thanks to God —we had Eucharistic celebrations there that would make your hairs stand on end… the poor would lift their hands in thanksgiving to God… it was awesome…—; and community. Word, Liturgy and Community. The Hebrew Talmud says that the world is sustained by three things: by the Torah, by the cult and by love.
Monsignor Morcillo, the Archbishop of Madrid, got to know this small community because the police in Franco’s days wanted to get rid of the shantytown. I knew him from the Cursillos, I called him and the miracle was that he came to defend us. They knocked down the shantytown where Carmen lived and when he saw our community, where he prayed with us, he saw my shanty, he saw where I slept, he saw the gypsies, and the Archbishop wept. He said to me: “Kiko, I am not a Christian, from this day on my palace is open to you”. And he has always kept his word. He permitted us to celebrate the Eucharist in a building at the nearby Parrish. He has always defended us. And he told us to go to the parishes. He said: “but don’t begin if the Parrish priest is not at the center (of your efforts) so that you do not start a parallel church. And don’t be afraid that I won’t help you.”
And that is how we got started: problems, persecutions, the priests who would not accept us, that we were preaching heresies… but our Bishop always helped us. He told me: “take it easy Kiko, I am your shield in the faith, don’t be afraid.” Then when we were called to Rome, he gave me a letter for Cardinal Florite (because he had been Secretary General of the Council jointly with Cardinal Florite) and he gave me a letter for Cardinal Dell’Acqua who was then Episcopal Vicar in Rome. We started in four parishes and the Way began to grow gradually with great miracles.
I am surprised by what God is doing in the world. We are in the world opening a path in the parishes, a way to the gestation of faith, of discovering this new Life, this new man. He who encounters Jesus Christ in his life is transformed, he has Life eternal inside, immortal life, we don’t die. Then, old age acquires a different character, it brings us near to Christ. Sickness: we are with Christ, supplying what is lacking in his Passion, as if on an alter. With Him, everything has a different meaning, everything is clear. If the world knew what Christ means, God’s love revealed in Christ to all humanity!
—EWTN: Kiko, that promise of the Lord is fulfilled here: “I have come that you may have Life, Life in abundance.” That is the abundant Life that begins in this life, not only when we come to the heavenly home, but in this life here. I have a pair of questions for you, because this interview with you has been one of the easiest I have done; I have not had to ask questions, you have been giving answers to the questions I had thought to make, so I thank you and give thanks to the Holy Spirit that has given you the humility to share your personal life and this road of yours in the faith, and what God is building through this. What happened to that lady, that gypsy that got up and left, did she open up to the Lord?
Kiko Argüello: I do not know, her son is who is in the Way, he has thirteen children; she left for Valencia, I don’t know what became of her life. Her son is in the Way and was the first responsible of that community in the shantytown. He went as a “family on mission to one of the poor ghettoes in Lima, Peru, something amazing.
The important thing is that many from the shanties were converted to Jesus Christ, their conversion was really amazing. You could touch the Holy Ghost, one was awed. For example… I’ll tell you another anecdote of a gypsy. We celebrated the Eucharist with the full liturgical renovation: with the unleavened bread in the form of bread, we had communion under both species —Monsignor Murillo had authorized it— and we did not allow communion to those who had not assisted to the catechetical process, because there were all kinds of people there. There was a gypsy that went with his wife and remained standing, they saw us all sitting at the table, and when we gave each other the sign of peace I went to offer the peace to this gypsy and he said to me: “I can’t resist it any more, the next time I’ll sit there, I’ll sit with you!” Next day he came with his wife and said: “Take it!” He gave me everything he had stolen: He had understood that in order to sit at the table he had to stop stealing. He went to confession —he had not been to confession in years— and he took a seat in joy at being able to commune with the Lord’s Body.
They were a spontaneous people, a people that lived, they would kill themselves between families —as happens today in the barrios of Caracas, México, etc., they are areas of violence—. I recall that on another occasion this gypsy brought me a group of gypsies. It was very hot and we sat outside, in the countryside, in an Indian circle. He said to me: “Talk to them of Jesus!” “What’s this mania of yours of having me talk to others of Jesus, as if I’d come here to…? I didn’t know what to say. Suddenly I said to a swarthy gypsy: “Do you believe in God?” He answered: “Yes.” “Why do you believe in Him? Have you seen Him? How is He, tall, strong, with a blue beard…?” He didn’t answer. “Who told you: your father, at school?” —He didn’t know how to read or write— So he goes and tells me a story: “I believe in God because one day I was driving my car with my wife and five children, we came to a place and stopped to eat under an oak tree; we had left the smallest child in the car. A sudden storm came up with lightning bolts and one of them struck the car with my little son; I fell on my knees and said —instead of running to save his son, he fell on his knees—: “Lord, save my son!” I ran to the car, which was burning, and the boy was inside alive, a miracle. God exists! The priests could say that God does not exist, but God exists.”
That man gave me a clue with that. Because all this book —the Bible— is full of events where God intervenes. And this is a catechesis we make in the parish If you come to catechesis of the Neocatechumenal Way, the catechist will ask you: “Do you believe in God?” “Why do you believe in God? Is there an event in which you have seen that God exists because he helped you? And many people have not had such an experience, they have very theoretical ideas of God, they have a very weak faith, they don’t know God works, acts and saves man. It’s another anecdote of how these catechesis have been shaped and have spread all over the parishes of the world and the Pope has approved with its Statutes.
—EWTN: That was going to be my other question. Now I’m going to a previous one: Kiko, at this moment, millions of persons are viewing and listening to us. A person who is watching us in Peru, here in Spain or in any part of America or Europe, and has become very interested in what you have shared, this vision, this beginning to search for Christ… What can he do in his own city, how can someone who know nothing of the Way find the Neocatechumenal Way?
—kiko Argüello: The most important thing is —I believe that the Virgin, who has inspired this Way—, ultimately, the greatest grace is giving a person the possibility of living his faith in a community. It is such a great thing! We have been living in a Christendom, Mass on Sunday, people receive the sacraments but don’t have a concrete community, a community of 50, of 40 brethren that love each other. Jesus has said: “Love each other as I have loved you. In this love…”
What is it then that the Way does in a parish? Today at our side there are many secularized persons, that is, that modern life has led them to lose the feeling for the sacred, religious things tell them nothing, they enter the churches like the Japanese, taking pictures, an the priest says nothing.
The normal pastoral care in our parishes —Mass, catechesis, etc.— is for religious persons, but is no good for modern man, who is secularized, half atheist, socialist, etc. Those religious services are not effective, a sign is necessary. And I ask myself: “is there a sign that calls out to a modern secularized man?” Jesus says: “Love yourselves as I have loved you, in this love that atheist will know that you are my disciples. And if your love is so strong that you are perfectly one, that man will believe.” In all the parishes of America the pastor has the duty to evangelize the secularized persons. How? Creating a parish community that that gives those signs: “as I have loved you.” Christ has loved us in the dimension of the Cross. What is the meaning of Christ’s love for us in the dimension of the Cross? that we love each other as He loved us? Christ loved us when we were his enemies. I don’t know if you have seen many Christians that love their enemies.
The Council has said that the Church needs to be a sacrament of salvation; a sacrament is a visible thing. This means that our faith has to grow to the point where the faith of Christians is visible: “As I have loved you.” The Way, in each parish, tries to travel the baptismal itinerary through a catechetical process in order to increase the faith of those who are already baptized to the point in which we, in a Christian community, love each other in such a fashion that this love becomes a sign for those who are secularized and estranged from the faith.
For example, we have a hundred parishes and 500 communities in Rome. Where do all these that come to the catechesis come from? They have all seen that call of the primitive Church —“see how they love each other!”—, that call appears again in the modern secularized Church. It is marvelous to live that faith in a Christian community: there are no poor, no rich, we help each other, there are no social classes, all enter here: colored, white, Chinese, cleaning women and engineers. We are all together, it is not a segregated pastoral approach with the youth on one hand… it is the Christian community, the people of God.
In the parishes we open a process of education in the faith within a community. Then we make a second community; and a third one… and the parish becomes a community of communities. There are parishes with thirty communities… fifteen… all with the same spirit, all with their catechists. There is a total communion among the brethren. It is really a way to evangelize the modern world.
—EWTN: Now then, I am Juan Pérez and there is no Neocatechumenal Way in my parish, what can I do?
—Kiko Argüello: You say to your parish pastor: Why don’t you open the Neocatechumenal Way in your parish? In the first place, we do nothing without the bishop. If the bishop realizes that this is a gift of God to help the Church in this form, we send a team to speak with the parish priests. If the pastor says he wants to start a community we announce the start of catechesis at the masses —adult catechesis of Neocatechumenal Way catechesis— and the people who want come al listen the the catechesis of a team in which there is normally a priest. And we proclaim this Gospel, the Kerugma, in the hope that this news that Christ loves us will accept the Holy Spirit that God sends them. Because faith come by preaching and if they accept the preaching, they will experience the Holy Spirit coming upon them and seeing their life being gradually transformed. We have thousands and thousands of young people, it is very impressive. The family is being saved in the Christian community. The devil’s attack on the family is the great threat of the modern world. Society is being destructured in Europe, the family destroyed, filled with abortions, with divorces. A family that is in a Christian community helps itself. If a marriage enters a crisis, all of the brethren pray, they get up at night to pray, they help them, call the catechists. Thus we have no marriages that divorce or leave the Way. All are saved. And since they are all very happy they open themselves to life, we have the highest average of children in the world: five per family, which means that many have eight, nine, ten children, something very important en a Europe that is marching towards apostasy and that is approaching a zero birth rate, something astounding.
—EWTN: And the Way opens an avenue for this to somehow reverse itself. Kiko, I have abused your time. One last commentary before we close. Just recently, the Neocatechumenal Way received the final official approval from Rome. Can you tell us briefly what has happened on this occasion so important for all of the worlds Neocatechumenates?
—Kiko Argüello: It has been wonderful. We have worked with the Holy See for five years. People saw us as a movement, as a religious congregation, as a lay association; they didn’t know what we were. We have said; no, we are not a movement, we are a Christian Initiation.
This is a novelty from a juridical pint of view because the new Canon Law talks of private and public associations. We have struggled to be recognized as what we really are. Because if we are an association, then the Catechumenate, all of the Christian Initiation, seems to be in order to enter the association. We say: “Baptism is not an association. We want to renew Baptism; the parishes Christian communities are the parishes, they are not an association; they are the parish’s Christians. We aren’t out to make a Church more perfect than the other, class ‘A’ Christians and class ‘B’ Christians. They are Christians that are renewing their Baptism, because it is necessary to proclaim the Gospel to those who are estranged from the Church.”
This has been a very important battle. The Pope, the Holy See has recognized us as a Christian Initiation, as a post-baptismal catechumenate. It is the first time in the history of the Church. The canonists of the whole world have congratulated us. They have said that the Church has taken a very important step forward. That is why we are so grateful: the Church has been a mother to us, we are very happy that she has really respected what we are. This does not mean that we are better that the Opus Dei or than anything else…, all the contrary, everything in the Church is wonderful, but we are different, we are a Christian Initiation.
I’ll wind up saying something: when the Pope received us the first time in Catelgandolfo, he invited the team alone to mass: Carmen, Father Mario and myself —we who are the team responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way—. We celebrated the Mass together, at the end he remains praying before the Holy Presence giving thanks and we were outside in the corridor waiting. When he ended, he got up and came towards us and told us that during the Mass, thinking about us, he had seen before him: ATHEISM-BAPTISM-CATECHUMENATE, which surprised me because, in the Church, the catechumenate comes before Baptism. He had said correctly: atheism-baptism-catechumenate. Later, visiting the parishes of Rome, in one parish he said: “I don’t know if Kiko or another has thought, Where was the strength of the primitive Church, and where is the weakness of our Church, today much more numerous? An I have found the answer in the word catechumenate”. In other words, the Pope, who is a philosopher —he hails from Husserl’s fenomenology— has realized that in Poland, where all were baptized, when confronted with Marxist atheism, those baptized persons became communists. He saw that his Baptism needed a post-baptismal catechumenate. Atheism-baptism-catechumenate. That is why John-Paul II has understood us so well. He had thought it through first and when he found us in the Church y gave thanks to God, because God had come to answer… He realized that against the aggression of the modern world, against television, against pornography, against violence, against modern atheism, against philosophies, Christian’s Baptism needs reinforcing.
The Church has recognized a post-baptismal catechumenate. What is the Neocatechumenal Way? A post-baptismal catechumenate. What is its image? The family of Nazareth. Because the Word of God, the Word of the Father, the only begotten Son of the Father, when he became man, was born as a baby, but will only fulfill his mission as an adult. And, what has he needed to become an adult? A family. Many people today have received Baptism, have received a First Communion catechesis; their Baptism is scrawny, they need a community such as the Family of Nazareth, in which their Baptism can grow into adulthood, and as adult Christians they can respond to the challenges of the modern world.
—EWTN: Kiko, I relieve you have done much good. In the name of Mother Angelica, of EWTN and of all our spectators, many thanks.
—Kiko Argüello: Pray for me.