No one can be a Christian alone. If we wish our faith to grow, we need to share it with others.
- The Creation of a Cenacle Group
- The Course of each Meeting in 7 points
- Good Group Management
- The Cenacle Groups and Evangelization
The FIAT Association wishes to help anyone who desires it to (re)discover the grace of his or her baptism, to live more fully their faith in Jesus Christ and to show forth this faith in all dimensions of their personal, family, professional and social lives.
In order for this assistance to be effective, the Association encourages those engaged on this journey to gather in groups. For no one can be a Christian alone. If we wish our faith to grow, we need to share it with others. The Lord himself tells us this: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst” (Mt.18.20).
The FIAT Association proposes this journey in small groups called “Cenacle cells”, deeply inspired by the first “Cenacle” where the apostles gathered around Mary to await the Holy Spirit promised by the Lord.
The Creation of a Cenacle Group
Since the FIAT Association began its apostolate, we have been discovering how small “Cenacle cells” have formed around the communal recitation of the rosary. The key is the FIAT prayer, which is a solid basis for evangelization. For how could anyone daily recite this prayer to the Holy Spirit in union with Mary without being carried along by its spiritual dynamism?
Those who draw strength from the FIAT prayer and rosary often tell others about it. If such people make themselves known to us, we suggest to them that they might meet together regularly to continue to pray the rosary with others, as a family or with friends.
Once such a group has been formed, we propose that members share with each other how they have lived out the message of the FIAT prayer. Thus everyone has the opportunity to express how his or her faith has been nourished in the preceding weeks and how he or she has tried, in word and deed, to bear witness to Christ and to his love for us.
Then, if such meetings become regular, we suggest that after a few months the group participate in the apostolate of the local Church. It is by participating actively in the local Church (parish, diocese) that bonds with the Christian community are formed.
The initiative of these “Cenacle cells” sometimes comes from lay people; at other times, it may be the parish clergy who take the initiative.
Based on these experiences in different countries, we can say that in the FIAT prayer we have a means of grace with which to help Christians commit themselves to witnessing to their faith. In so doing we assume fully our vocation as baptized Christians, which is none other than to live and to bear witness to the love that God has shown us.
The Course of each Meeting in 7 points
1. Begin with a song of praise and the recitation of the FIAT rosary or the traditional rosary, introduced by the FIAT prayer, incorporating the intentions of those present.
2. Spiritual reading that has some bearing on evangelization (we especially recommend cardinal Suenens’ book The Christian at the Threshold of a New Age which can be considered the textbook for evangelization). After the reading of an excerpt, each person is invited to share a word or phrase that touched him or her, without going into detail. These brief words can be very enriching for each participant, while at the same time they give people the courage to speak about spiritual matters.
3. There follows a sharing both ‘ad intra’ and ‘ad extra’. Depending on the number of participants, we might break up into smaller groups for a two-fold sharing: the first is about our own personal spiritual journey (ad intra), and the second touches on our active involvement, that is, how we have been able to witness to Christ (ad extra). In fact, all this comes down to sharing very simply how we have lived out the FIAT prayer each day in terms of the dual nature of Christian life: contemplation and witnessing to Christ.
4. We propose that the group sharing portion of the meeting close with the singing of a hymn, such as the Magnificat.
5. There then follows a teaching a few minutes in length, on some spiritual or pastoral subject.
6. The last part of the meeting involves a look to the future: what initiatives should be taken in the coming weeks? This is important: first, an explicit commitment is easier to fulfill and is less likely to remain but a good intention, and it is also good to know that one is sustained by the prayer of others.
7. To close the meeting: a few announcements may be made, and the date and place of the next meeting is set. Then a closing hymn is sung, preferably in keeping with the liturgical season. The leader or a member of the group will end with a short prayer and the recitation of the Our Father. If a priest is present, he may give a blessing.
Good Group Management
The Cenacle cell is not a discussion group, nor a bible study group. It is oriented above all to the proclamation of the Good News and to our personal witness in word and deed.
In order for a meeting to run smoothly, punctuality is important both at the beginning and at the end. In order for the group to keep going, meeting times should be limited to an hour and a half. If the group becomes too large for everyone to be able to participate, it is better to split it up during the times of sharing, or else to create two independent cells. The cells are by their nature called to multiply.
In order to create at atmosphere of prayer and listening, it is very helpful to have a little altar around which the group can gather. One could, for instance, cover a small table with a cloth and place on it an icon of the Trinity and of Mary, a small candle and if possible some flowers.
The meeting place can be simple, but this does not mean it cannot be pleasant (in terms of decoration, temperature, quiet, etc.). It should have the appropriate number of chairs for all the participants.
The meeting can rotate among the different members of the group. It is a good idea not to organize meals, but to provide a small snack following the meeting.
Discretion is essential. This has several implications: discretion about what we have heard, discretion regarding the members’ private lives.
The Cenacle Groups and Evangelization
The missionary dimension of the Church
The FIAT Association does not see its mission as organizing direct evangelization, but rather as being at the service of the Church’s evangelizing activity at all levels: local, parish, diocesan or international.
The members of a “Cenacle cell” open their hearts and make themselves available to respond to the Lord’s call to the missionary dimension of the Church in its broadest sense. Some people will be called to take on a social or charitable service, others to provide individual accompaniment or a biblical, liturgical or catechetical form of service, while still others may participate in direct evangelization. Some may simply take more and more to heart the call to sanctify their family life and to accomplish the duties of their state of life.
In sum, the entire Cenacle cell should be permeated by a great respect for the personal journey of each of its members.
The task of the Cenacle cells is essentially to wait, with the Virgin Mary, for the breath of the vivifying Holy Spirit, and to remain open to bearing authentic witness to Christ in joy and confidence, wherever He wishes us to be.
Direct evangelization nevertheless remains indispensable and urgent. It begins through an encounter and through listening. There follows a simple sharing of the true joy that we find in living as Christians. Catechesis can then progressively enter into the dialogue.
In general, a great deal of patience is needed in order to be able to speak in depth about the mysteries of the faith, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, and even at home with our loved ones.
Evangelization takes time; to give time is to give a little bit of one’s life… but as the Lord says, “it is better to give than to receive”. But we must learn to receive as much as we give. Is that not the secret of friendship?
Evangelization should be carried in prayer by all those who journey together in the “Cenacle cells”, accompanied at certain times by some form of fasting. The support of one’s brothers and sisters in Christ is like a fortress that helps us to bear up in times of trial.
In the end we have to learn to “disappear” in great humility, no longer to count on ourselves but on God alone. That is indeed the way which allows God to act and to react through us. We must never forget that all evangelization is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.