New Spiritual Communities and Movements

Dr. Marianne Tigges


  1. Introduction: New Forms of Evangelical Life as a Gift of the Holy Spirit and a "Sign of the Times"
  2. An Attempt to Position the Spiritual Movements
  3. Spiritual Renewals as an Expression of "Ecclesia semper reformanda"
  4. Common Leading Elements of New Spiritual Movements
    1. Spirituality and Experiences in Faith
    2. Evangelization and Catechesis
    3. Fellowship and Fraternity
    4. Tasks in the World and Mission
    5. New Relations of Laity and Office Holders
    6. A New Form of Ecclesiasticism
  5. Possible Dangers and Difficultie in the New Spiritual Movements
  6. Encouragement and Coordination of the Lay Apostolate Through the Papal Council for the Laity
  7. Final Comment: Spiritual Renewal as a Lasting Mission of all Christians

1. Introduction: New Forms of Evangelical Life as a Gift of the Holy Spirit and as a "Sign of the Times"

If one inquires about particularly conspicuous signs of hope in today's Church, the new spiritual communities or movements are very often being mentioned. This is certainly justified since, as a whole, they represent an authentic Christian answer to the challenge of the cultural situation of the faith (cp. Medard Kehl SJ, "Communio" - a Paling Vision? In Voices of the Times, Journal no. 7/1997,453).

The Council documents have always stressed the community of the entire People of God in the mission and calling of the Church in the midst of the world. Also the bishops' synods of the last decades have acknowledged the community of the Church as a gift of the Spirit in the multitude of charisms and forms of life: The Calling and Mission of the Laity (1987), Priestly Formation in Relation to the Present Times (1990) and The Consecrated Life (1994).

In the following presentation, I will try to evaluate the new spiritual communities and movements; particular emphasis will be given to important features and common key elements, but also to possible dangers and difficulties. The considerations should also illustrate a central canonical statement of the Church, which, so to speak, could be used as a preamble to all forms of lay apostolates. In the 1983 new Code of Canon Law, it says in Canon 215: "The faithful are permitted to freely found and conduct associations for purpose of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian calling in the world and to hold meetings in order to pursue these interests in common." This right to found associations and coalitions was already laid down in the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the lay apostolate Apostolicam Actuositatem (cf. AA, 19). It represents the legal basis for all associations of persons within the Church, from incidental meetings up to the highest forms of communal life, such as orders and secular institutes.

2. An Attempt to Assign Their Proper Place

In recent years the interest in the so-called "renewal movements" or "spiritual renewals" within the Christian churches has increased visibly. The new spiritual communities and movements also receive stronger official attention, because they have multiplied in numbers and are gradually "carrying great weight" (cp. Bishop P.J.Cordes, In the Midst of Our World, Freiburg 1987, 13 ff.).On a world-wide Church level the new spiritual communities and movements have received acknowledgment and encouragement from the Bishops' Synod of 1987, which dealt with the calling and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world. The post-synod Apostolic Letter Christifideles Laici by Pope John Paul II, published December 30, 1988, is undoubtedly at present the main source of information for all questions, concerning the calling and dignity of the laity, their communities and participation in the mission of the Church (cp. Laity Today, Information Service of the Papal Council for the Laity, 18 (1996), page 2).

The new spiritual movements are groupings, in which for the most part lay persons, but also clerics and religious, strive for an intense religious life in the community and a renewal of the faith in the Church. They are mostly organized on a translocal level and have a varying regional distribution.

The term 'movements' indicates that these groups already in their structures differ considerably from the conventional forms of communities of the church. The distinction from other groups is not always easy. They differ from the classical religious orders and modern forms of religious orders, since they are not founded on so radical a life decision, which - as in religious orders - is sealed with life long vows and because hence they have less institutional and constitutional elements. They show some similarity to secular institutes, which after World War II were established officially in the Catholic Church, but they do not have any so strongly contoured form of life as these do. The term 'movements' is appropriate because it implies well the flexible form of the communities: they are more structured and more committed than groups, formed spontaneously, but not as binding as associations, unions or societies. It goes without saying, that the appearances of these movements are extremely diverse and manifold so that the common denominator with regard to their makeup is not easy to find.

Looking at the origins of the new spiritual movements makes it clear that, for the most part, these spiritual renewals originated in Europe: Communione e Liberatione 1954 in Milano; the first Cursillo took place on the island of Mallorca, Spain, in 1949; the groups for couples Equipes Notre Dame originated in Paris in 1938; the Focolari-Movement has its origin in Trient in 1943; the international movement of Christian women - Grail - originated in a lay community for women, which was founded in the Netherlands in 1921; marriage seminars of Marriage Encounter were developed in Barcelona in 1953; the Neo-Catechumenate way had its origins in Madrid in 1965; the Schönstatt-Movement started with a consecration to the Mother of God in Vallendar, Germany in 1914.

This European context also applies to the spiritual communities that are based on a spirituality of a religious order: the Franciscan Community, which feels called upon to live a life in Imitation of Christ in the spirit of Francis of Assisi; the Community of Christian Life, which wants to renew the heritage of Ignatius of Loyola of Spain; the Dominican Community, which lives in the spirit of the Spanish religious founder Dominic; and the Theresian Carmelites, who in our present times live the heritage of the Spanish founders Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

For the new spiritual movements in the German-speaking areas, the acceptance of spiritual impulses from other European countries has always required a great measure of sensitivity and tolerance and not only because of the language barriers. However, the numerous contacts and initiatives on international levels give Christians in Germany also the opportunity to live their faith in a more worldwide way, and thereby in a more "catholic" way.

In a Europe, which is growing together more and more, the East-European world represents a special challenge to discover and take on new ways of evangelization. For this mission, the new spiritual movements should make an important contribution.

3. Spiritual Renewals as an Expression of "Ecclesia semper reformanda"

Throughout the centuries, the constant need for renewal of the Church has decisively influenced the history of the Church. Again and again, there have been renewals within the Church that sought to live the gospel in a radical way (for example, the founding of orders by Benedict of Nursia, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola).

Throughout the centuries, the Imitation of Christ was for the most part linked with the spirituality of the orders. A separate "spirituality of the laity" evolved again more intensively only in the 20th century. The view of God's people as the "chosen race" and "a royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2,9) was discovered anew. The majority of the spiritual movements was founded prior to the Second Vatican Council; however, the Council has decisively influenced the movements themselves and their vitality. Briefly, here are some of the key themes, which may serve as starting points: the teaching on the historically Pilgrim People of God, of the Body of Christ in the unity and diversity of its members, on the dignity of individual charisms and gifts of the Church, on the exceeding importance of the common priesthood of all faithful, on the collaboration of the laity and hierarchy of the church. The following text exemplifies this connection. This is what Lumen Gentium, The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of Vatican II says about charisms: "The same Holy Spirit sanctifies ... not only God's people through the sacraments and services, He not only leads it and enrichens it with virtues, but 'distributes His gifts individually, as He wishes' (1 Cor. 12,11) and distributes also special graces among the faithful of any standing. Through them, He equips and prepares them to take on various tasks and services for the renewal and the complete edification of the Church, according to the text: 'To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit' (1 Cor. 12,7). Such gifts of grace, whether they are particularly outstanding or more simple and widespread, must all be accepted with gratefulness and the consolation since they are specifically adapted and useful for the needs of the Church" (LG 12). With this text of the Council, which surely is one of the most impressive witnesses of the renewal through the Second Vatican Council, it also becomes clear what is meant with the term spiritual in the concept of spiritual renewal: a reality, a Spirit wrought, charism determined reality as one becoming alive in the sphere of faith, hope and charity.

Official statements and documents of the Church repeatedly point out that the new spiritual movements are most closely connected with the great basic forces of the post-Council renewal and with many other movements of present-day ecclesiastical life. The statement of the Bishops' Conference regarding the Guidelines for the Bishops' Synod of 1987 mentions the classic Catholic federations, the spiritual movements and base communities as important basic forms of communities in the apostolate of the laity (cf. Statement 2.5, published by the Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference as a Work Aid 45, May 2, 1986, 18 ff.). The post-synod apostolic publication Christifideles Laici (CL) emphasizes also for the alliances of laity the richness and the diversity of the gifts, which the Spirit keeps alive in the Church (cf. CL, 29). The new spiritual communities thus play a central role in the life of the Church, they partake in her many facets of self-realization and are the Church in an authentic sense. Of course, depending on their sructure, also legal questions result from this, as to how they relate to the constitutional organs of ecclesiastical life and to the spiritual office in particular. For this, the new Canon Law has provided a broad space for various ways of realization, which have not yet by far been sufficiently utilized (cf. CIC 1983, Can. 113-123, 215, 223, 298-329).

The Bishops' Synod of 1994 conferred on The Consecrated Life and Its Mission in the Church and in the World. Already in the preparatory documents "new communities and renewed forms of life according to the Gospel" had been defined. In its definition of the new communities, the post-synod apostolic publicaton Vita Consecrata, which was presented on March 25, 1996, points out that the new associations are not alternatives to the earlier institutions but rather are a gift of the Spirit, which manifests itself through the signs of the times and is the origin of the community and of perpetual renewal of life (cf. VC, 62).

4. Common Leading Elements of New Spiritual Movements

From the complex appearance of the new spiritual renewals and movements, it is possible - in somewhat abstract terms - to pick out some common and continuous aspects. The importance of these key elements varies in the individual movements (For the following, cf. F. Valentin (editor), New Ways of Succession, Salzburg 1981, p.207 ff; M. Tigges, New Spiritual Movements - an Inquiry into the Calling and Mission of the Church Today, in Ordenskorrespondenz 3/1987, p. 291 ff.).

4.1 Spirituality and Experiences in Faith

The various groups and movements are held together by their interest in spirituality. The primary concern is not actions and programs, efficiency and strategy, but rather a renewal of human thinking and willing according to the spirit of the gospel. This spirituality is often based on great ideals and masters of spiritual life and uses often traditional but also new techniques and practices of meditation and prayer. The spiritual movements also seem to have in common an impetus toward experiences in faith. They are not content with getting to know phrases and concepts externally, but - to say it in the classical tradition - they want to experience God from within.

The experiences of faith in the community also bring about the mutual discussion about it, which, in itself, is a basic prerequisite for the testimony of faith to the outside world. In almost all the groups, the reading of the Sacred Scriptures and Bible discussions play an important role. The renewal of Divine Service in small groups but also in larger communities, and a new consciousness of the Sacraments are part of this spirituality, which is conscious of its belonging to the Church.

Some groups strive particularly for a deeper understanding of baptism; the renewal of baptism is for some a decisive point (Charismatic Renewal, Cursillo-Movement, Neo-catechumenate).

For various marriage groups, the renewed experience of the sacrament of marriage is of special concern (Equipes Notre Dame, Marriage Encounter).

Also the sacrament of reconciliation is being newly discovered in these communities. The development from the short schematic confession to a dialogue confession and spiritual counsel and direction has practically become the norm for the members.

The sacrament of confirmation and the celebration of the ointment of the sick has taken on new importance particularly in the charismatic renewal groups.

Finally, in such intense Christian groups, a feeling grows for the necessity and for the gift of spiritual vocations. From the various movements already numerous young people have decided for official service in the Church (cf. the post-synod Apostilic Letter Pastores Dabo Vobis of March 25, 1992, 68).

Besides reflection and spiritual direction, times of silence and Divine Service, spiritual experience also needs the element of further development if it is not to remain a subjective inner experience. Thus, the movements see to it that individuals are given appropriate help in regular meetings and/or in written communications (workbooks and monthly periodicals).

4.2 Evangelization and Catechesis

The words "evangelization" or "evangelizing" are relatively young terms in the German language; however, during the past years they have been used more and more frequently in theological articles, catechetical papers and sermons (cf. the fundamental apostolic writings, the encyclicals of Pope Paul VI on evangelization in the world of today Evangelii nuntiandi of December 8, 1975; the Apostolic Letter Christifideles laici of Pope John Paul II, particularly Church, nos. 34 and 44; cf. also the article "Evangelization" in the Encyclopedia For Theology and Church, Vol. 3, column 1033 - 1036, Freiburg, 1995).

The new spiritual movements attach importance to the realization of the mission of preaching the gospel, especially in areas where the Church can become "the salt of the earth" only through the apostolic testimonies of the laity (cf. also the pronouncements of Vatican II on the lay apostolate, LG, 33).

For example, the Neo-catechumenate and the Cursillo, which are especially open to committed Christians as well as to the so-called less committed, came into being because of the lack of a true catechesis. There are often unusual, new ways in which the gospel is being spread. However, the effects show that such ventures are a real assistance in fulfilling the mission of Christ in our times. Among other things, this is noticeable in the commitment of individual members or groups who courageously live the faith and so make the Christian message accessible especially to the young. In the wake of the charismatic renewal, more "Spiritual Bible Schools" are reinforced and "Life- and Faith Schools" are being made available. In order to credibly put the evangelization into effect, the spiritual movements - according to their particular charism - emphasize and promote interior unity between pracitcal life and the faith of their members.

4.3 Fellowship and Fraternity

Characteristic of the spiritual movements is also the conviction of being believers on the way together. For some communities, the passage in the Sacred Scriptures, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18,20) has become their primary text; only through Christ and in Him is true community and mutual fraternal like-mindedness possible. The experience of community life in the name of Jesus, however, is not an end in itself. It is from the beginning open to others. So the group, that is, the concrete spiritual community, can also be understood as a "chuch in miniature" (cf. LG, 11; GS, 48; AA, 11; Apostolic Letter Familiaris Consortio, 49 among others). This way, the designation for the Church as "Communio" can be translated into an experiential and visible proximity.

Such a life in spiritual community is, therefore, stamped with a different sense of brother-sister fraternalism. This, by necessity, has a broad spectrum. It has the security and closeness of a small group, it also has the solidarity of larger communities; particularly in the Church this means all embracing Catholicism and internationality. That is why many spiritual movements also go out "onto the streets and to the edges", the fringes and marginal areas of our lives. Brother-sister fraternalism becomes ministry to others. The way to God leads through the brother and the sister.

Above all, it is always again a matter of realizing Christ-likeness in everyday life. With that purpose in mind, the various group meetings are intended to be an aid and encouragement. The personal discussions, corrections and encouragements, but especially the experience of not being alone in this endeavour, of being connected to others and of being supported by them, give the individuals new strength for their different duties. For today's materialistically-minded and consumer-oriented society, the tendency towards poverty, as it is being lived by the members of the spiritual communities, should be a particularly up-to-date testimony.

As open communities, many spiritual movements also have an ecumenical orientation. So, for example, the "Ottmaring Life Center" near Augsburg has developed an ecumenical meeting center through the involvement of Focolarini.

4.4 Tasks in the World and Mission

As has already been pointed out, this brother-sister fraternalism is not only within the group, but extends itself to all men. However, the Church's mission in the world first turns to persons, who need help, and only secondarily do social and political structures become the center of interest. This is particularly obvious in the tasks of ministry. It is a characteristic of the new spiritual movements that their openess towards the world cannot be separated from their spirituality. Roger Schutz of Taize says, that contemplation and combat belong together. Ministry in the world and ministry of salvation are indeed different, but need each other and supplement one another. Of course, a critical trait is noticeable in this form of world mission: the engagement in the world is coupled with a simultaneous distance. Vis a vis the open society with its needs and interests, there exists a final reserve. Even if the world is the place of spirituality stamped with faith, hope and charity, it still remains next to the last. So the mission to the world of the new spiritual communities and movements also somehow always remains a sort of counter-project, an alternative, which certainly links them with some tendencies in certain groups of today's subcultures. This, for example, is true of the search for alternate forms of life. But these are also being influenced by the spiritual impulse, which, for example, can be recognized by the often practiced exercise of "days in the desert". The sincere involvement in the world goes along with an eschatologically oriented renunciation. Here there are points of contact with the classic orders and with the secular institutes (for this also see cf. VC, 62).

4.5 New Relations of Laity and Office Holders

The new spiritual movements are largely maintained by the laity, even though many priests do hold or have held pioneer functions within them. The function of those in responsibility is to exercise guidance of the charism rather than to perform an office. Frequently we find coordination in the movements by a leadership team. Undoubtedly, in the spiritual movements a certain renewal of the lay apostolate is taking place. However, beyond this fact, the spiritual movements are making a new relationship possible between the laity and the hierarchy. They do not stand in opposition to each other as different "classes". They meet each other first of all on the basis of the commonly lived Christian faith. The common priesthood of all believers creates a basic community of brothers and sisters, which self-evidently allow for different duties and functions, and indeed downright demands and acknowledges them. The often fruitless opposition of institution and charisms, of hierarchy and laity, becomes more relaxed because, in the lived Christian life there is a presumption which comprises all opposites and tensions and thus, at least, alleviates them. So the new spiritual renewals make possible the translation of the main principles of the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council into the lived everyday life in the world.

4.6 A New Form of Ecclesiasticism

If one looks back at the mentioned five structural elements which seem to be common to the various new spiritual communities, one can observe from all aspects how there becomes discernible a new form of ecclesiasticism, which is no longer only institutionally bound or even assumes ideological characteristics: primarily and fundamentally based on spirituality and religious experience, with the goal of spreading the Gospel to the whole world, all embracing community on many levels and practiced brotherhood, turning towards the needs of the world and a new togetherness of laity and office holders. Especially in these perspectives a new and much sought after form of ecclesiasticism reveals itself, leaves room for the manifold charisms and ministries and makes possible a mutual enrichment. Thus the spiritual movements and intense communities make no absoslutist claims; common to them is the consciousness of being a spark in the fire of the Holy Spirit that is a gift to the church of our times. The spiritual movements have always sought contact with the official Church. Being faithful to the local church is an important element for them. It is certainly also a sign of the Catholicity and breadth of the Church that the new spiritual communities and lay movements consciously continue within the Church and are recognized by it (cf. especially AA, 21 and CL, 30, where the criteria for the ecclesiasticism of lay associations are mentioned).

5. Possible Dangers and Difficulties in the New Spiritual Movements

The new spiritual renewals are not perfected entities but are constantly being adjusted. That is why it is necessary to speak, at least briefly, of their dangers (cf. supplementary M. Tigges mentioned above p. 295 ff).

5.1 Spiritual One-sidedness

Whoever has strictly and decidedly formed his daily life and activities according to the life style of new spiritual movements, must do this decisively or otherwise he will not succeed in a radical renewal of life. But any specific orientation can over a long period of time blind one for other experiences. Therefore, I think it is important that the new spiritual renewals be conscious of this danger of overemphasis and one-sidedness. Erroneous developments and aberrations must be taken into account unemotionally. Protection from that is afforded by openness towards other experiences, a world-wide exchange of experience and supplementation through contact with other spiritual movements. The knowledge from this complementariness serves as protection from elitist exaggeration, which can be a very high, but ongoing hidden danger especially of spiritual people.

5.2 Claim of Exclusivity of Specific Tendencies

It has already been pointed out that the new spiritual movements make the Church real. In this sense, they can be a "mini-church". But that is exactly why they must not isolate themselves in self-sufficiency and withdraw from the great duties of the Church. They must not consider themselves as "the" Church. Otherwise they will become a sort of sect, that is in danger of devaluating everything outside the movement and of claiming exclusivity, which can lead to arrogance and intolerance. Such communities also soon lose their affinity to the Church in a concrete sense: to the local parish, to the diocese and to the universal Church. Such a concrete standing in the entire Church is an important criteria.

5.3 Flight into the Intimacy of a Small Group

One of the dangers is also that the new spiritual renewals become a refuge, in which mainly those people gather, who with right look for security but, at the same time, flee into such an intimacy of the small group. They are shy of the frequent conflicts with the problems and challenges of modern everyday life. It is surely legitimate if some individuals, up against the excessive demands and the stress of this process of conflict, find protection in these communities for a time or even for always; however, this must not have a deep imprint upon the community as such. Spiritual communities must not become loop-holes for people, who cannot cope with these confrontations. These people deserve safe protection and encouraging closeness, but they also need support and encouragement. Otherwise, the spiritual movements and communities will turn into problematic refuges for "drop-outs", who will in the end fail to live a Christian life.

5.4 A Mixture of Human Desires for Reformation and the Impulses of the Spirit

Someone who ventures with such sensitivity and intensity into the "spirit of the times", as many of the new spiritual movements do, must especially be solidly grounded in order to be able to carry out the necessary discernment of spirits. The strong openness to the outside and the call to put into effect the message of Jesus in everyday life can also lead to activism. A still greater danger might be to mix one's own desire for reform with the impulses of the spirit. Here becomes apparent the necessity of making the doctrine and practice of a "discernment of spirits" to be again at the focal point of ecclesiastical proclamation and of ecclesiastical life. This is particularly true in view of the mission entrusted to the laity in a world, increasingly complex and ambivalent to belief (cf. Statement of the German Bishops' Conference concerning the Lineamenta for the Bishops' Synod of 1987, 3.3; cf. also the opening lecture of Bishop Karl Lehmann at the general assembly in the fall of 1997 in Fulda "Wachtman, how much longer the night?", concerning the mission of the Church in view of offenses against order in society and state, chapter I).

In order to be able to positively contend with these and other dangers and difficulties, the new spiritual movements and communities remain dependent upon a climate of goodwill and encouragement within the Church, especially on the part of those who hold office.

6. Encouragement and Coordination of the Lay Apostolate Through the Papal Council for the Laity

The Papal Council for the Laity is part of the Roman Curia. With the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae of August 15, 1967, Pope Paul VI has effectuated the reform of the Curia, desired by the Council, and complemented them with more subsequent reform processes. Despite the title "Council" and, as far as its task and objective are concerned, the Pontificium Consilium Pro Laicis could more easily be compared with a congregation.

Article 131 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus concerning the Roman Curia states, "The Council is competent in those questions, which affect it from the Apostolic See for the furtherance and coordination of the lay apostolate and, in general, in those questions, which concern the Christian life of the laity" (AAS 880 (1988), 894). This description seems to go beyond the real possibilities of this dicastery; for the lay council, it certainly represents a lasting challenge and an incentive for new initiatives.

In the course of this lecture, we can only outline and deal with some of the focal tasks and initiatives of the Council of Laity; in doing so, we are mainly dealing with the period since 1990 (cp.with the following also "Laity Today", Information Service of the Papal Council for the Laity, 18 (1996).

The main task of the Papal Council for the Laity is to support the Pope in carrying out his pastoral service (cf. Pastor Bonus, Art. 1). During the past years, the Council for the Laity has been guided in this task particularly by the post-synod Apostolic Letter Christifideles Laici and the catecheses and addresses regarding the laity, which Pope John Paul II has held in Rome or on one of his apostolic journeys.

A further focal point are the relations of the Council for the Laity with the various dioceses of the Church and the Bishops' Conferences. For numerous bishops, the post-synod Apostolic Letter Christifedeles Laici was an aid and a directive in dealing with new questions and situations in accompanying the laity. During the past years, the Council for the Laity has recorded an increase in the delegations of bishops, who visited the dicastery for their ad-limina-visits. Also the bishops' personal visits to the Papal Council for the Laity have increased. The most frequent topics of conversation during these meetings were: the education of the laity; the relations of the church movements with the bishops and their inclusion into the life of the local church; the services and functions, which are not bound to ordination and can be transferred to the laity; the service of the laity in the world; the participation of women in the pastoral care of youth. The connection to the Bishops' Conferences is mainly being sustained by their commissions for the lay apostolate.

Another focal point of their duties is the accompaniment of the national Councils for the Laity. The Papal Council for the Laity has collected and evaluated very diverse experiences and has compiled a document in 1995 concerning the criteria of discernment and the constitution of the national Councils for the Laity. It was published under the title National Councils for the Laity: Criteria and Models in no. 38 of the publication "Laity Today". The dicastery thus wanted to encourage the formation of such councils on a national or regional level as a place of genuine community, of participation and collaboration among the different institutions of the laity.

In a new era of consolidation of the laity (cf. CL, 29), the task of the Papal Council for the Laity concentrated increasingly on examining the new forms of communities and the responsibility for their canonical recognition and their foundation (cf. For this Pastor Bonus, Art 135, AAS 80 (1988), 895). These recognitions are always preceded by a positive report of the Ordinaries of the dioceses in which the respective movements have their branch, and by consultations with Bishops and experts in canon law. The numerous applications of the new associations for canonical recognition or their foundation caused the Council for the Laity to define a "method of procedure" for applications and review; the Council for the Laity was particularly careful in examining the statutes and formulating the decrees necessary for the recognition of an association as a juridic person. In the field of canon law the primary concern was for the criteria of distinction for associations of public and private right, about membership of Christians of other confessions in Catholic lay associations, or about the canonical structure of lay associations whose members live radically according to the evangelical counsels.

As there is an increasing plurality of unions, the Papal Council for the Laity is frequently being asked for advice in the formation of lay organizations, that are connected with the spirituality, life and work of religious orders. Beside the renewal of some so-called third orders, numerous movements, brotherhoods and lay organizations have come into being that have been affiliated in various forms to a religious order and the charism of its respective founder. In the course of meetings and gatherings, the Council for the Laity has always emphasized the primary importance of the testimony of the religious order and the required lay identity of the organization it is connected with. Religious orders and lay assocations should not mingle their lifestyles, but maintain a heartfelt community and work together in their mission. For the clarification and promotion of mutual relations, the Papal Council for the Laity, in joint activity with the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the societies of apostolic life, organized a meeting of the Generals,the Mother Generals,and heads of lay associations already during the preparatory phase of the Bishops' Synod on Consecrated Life. The acts were published under the title: Branches of the One Vine in Documentation Service, no. 28 (1994).

The Papal Council for the Laity is in contact with more than 120 international lay associations. The fostering of mutual recognition, collaboration and community between the various associations remains a special challenge for the Church throughout the world in the coordination of the lay apostolate. In this respect the collaboration with the Catholic youth organizations, youth movements and youth groups also plays an important role. In recent years, a large amount of the work of the Council for the Laity has concentrated on the preparation, organization and realization of the international youth forums and the World Youth Days, affiliated with them: Tschenstochau (August 1991), Denver (August 11993) and Manila (January 1995). After that came the important European youth meeting in Loreto (September 1995) and the realization of the World Youth Days in Paris (August 1997). These events have contributed decisively to the revival of the pastoral care of the youth on a local and world-wide level. In addition, the fact that members of movements and associations meet with a multitude of youths from various parts of the Churchhas created an increasing missionary solidarity. At the same time, one has to critically inquire to what extent these mass meetings can be carried over into the everyday communal life of the Church. (cp. also K Nientiedt, "A New Generation. The 12th World Youth Days in Paris, in Herderkorrespondenz 10/1997, 500-505).

At present, the Papal Council for the Laity is preparing a world meeting of the movements in the Church to take place in Rome from May 26th to 29th, 1998. This meeting is to be a place of encounter, of friendship and prayer; it is meant to serve an intensive theological deepening of the reality of the movements and it is to be a Church event that stimulates the collaboration of the movements in their work of the new evangelization (cf. "Laity Today", Information Service of the Papal Council for the Laity 20 (1997), pp. 5 - 6).

7. Final Comment: Spiritual Renewal as a Lasting Mission of all Christians

The different spiritual awakenings and renewal movements are also today largely a wholesome disturbance of the traditional order. However, in practice it is difficult for the institutional authorities to completely absorb and integrate the spiritual impulses. Therefore, it is legitimate and necessary that these different aspects of intensive Christian life be able develop within the Church but, by all means, not in already existing structures.

The Holy Spirit, who guarantees the unique solidarity of the Church with her Lord, grants unity and multiplicity at the same time. He guarantees much more freedom of spiritual effects, of ways of life and also of knowledge than we would allow ourselves. But, in the end, this multiplicity serves a new form of unity. This does not consist in the abolition of plurality, but rather in its free collaboration toward a whole, as St. Paul expressed in his First Letter to the Corinthians. For this collaboration, it is decisive that spiritual renewal is consciously done and credibly practiced as an enduring mission of all Christians (on this cp. CL, 18 ff., especially No. 24, the remarks concerning charisms).

Today's treatise was able to present only briefly and in extracts the new spiritual communities and their importance for the work of the Church of today. I hope that this presentation was able to clarify that, inspite of their different histories of origin, outward appearances and spheres of activities, the objectives of the new spiritual movements are to a large extent coming to a profound convergence: the responsible participation in the mission of the Church, to proclaim the gospel of Christ as the source of hope for mankind and renewal for society (cf. CL, 29).

With the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millenio Adveniente, Pope John Paul II has invited all Christians to prepare themselves for the Great Jubilee Year 2000. The year 1998, the second year of the preparatory phase, is dedicated in a special way to the Holy Spirit. For Pope John Paul the Holy Spirit is also the principle force of the new evangelization for our times. Therefore, the rediscovery of the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important aspects in preparing for the Great Jubilee Year 2000 (cf. TM, 45).

For this mission, which concerns all of God's people, I would like to conclude with a word by Karl Rahner, which I like to consider as his "spiritual legacy". In his essay The Church as the Place of the Sending of the Spirit", Rahner says:

Only the one, who is religious and independent,
humble and daring,
obedient and aware of his obligation,
prays and is a doer,
who is linked to the past and future of the Church,
only that person creates the room
so that God's descending Spirit of Pentecost
- the eternally old and eternally young - can act within him,
renew the face of his own soul,
and use Him in order to also change the earth."

(Essays on Theology, Volume VII, 187, Einsiedeln/Zürich/Köln, 2nd Edition 1971; First published in Spirit and Life, 29 (1956), 97).

Dr. Marianne Tigges, 1998

Dr. Marianne Tigges, born February 15, 1942 in Haagen, Westphalia, Germany. In 1957 she was promoted to the Philosophical Faculty of the Westphalia Wilhelm University in Munster (pedagogy-theology-philosophy). Till 1979 she served in East Africa; from 1979 - 1983 she worked in the office of the Papal mission MISSIO in Aachen; from 1983 - 1987 in the office of the Pastoral Centre of the German Bishops' Conference in the department of "Spiritual Life, Spiritual vocations, church ministries". She was the contact person for the German Bishops' Conference for spiritual communities and movements from 1987 to 1991. She was appointed secretary to the Bishops' Conference for spiritual vocations and church ministries in 1991.