THE CHARISMA OF RADIO MARIA
(Fr.Livio Fanzaga – WF Congress 2000, Como)
1. Radio Maria is a gift of the Holy Virgin
In spite of its enormous diffusion in the world, Radio Maria is viewed as an original and unique reality in the panorama of Catholic mass media. Since the beginning, it stood out for its peculiarities and had to go against the stream to be fully understood and accepted. One of the hardest problems, still today, is to explain what Radio Maria is and allow its development within its true spirit. The temptation to set up a different radio station is always around the corner, as is the possibility that existing Radio Maria may drift away from their original root. The comprehension of the charisma of Radio Maria and the fidelity to it, are graces which every Radio Maria in the world must daily ask.
We must justly speak of the charisma of Radio Maria because this broadcasting station is not the fruit of man’s plan, it is a gift bestowed from the high. It is an extraordinary grace which the motherly heart of Mary bestowed unto the Church. It is remarkable that this belief is strongly felt by the large audience of Radio Maria, by the men of the Church, who perceive the supernatural touch typical of the Lord’s endeavours. This radio station, differently from many others also present in the Church, is welcomed as a celestial grace which will bear fruits and for which we must give thanks.
In order to understand the nature of this gift, outspilled from Mary’s heart, we must not give way to abstract speculation, but rather examine concretely how the Holy Virgin allowed her project to blossom in time and led it to maturity, with infinite patience and love, despite our fragility and infidelity. It is undoubtedly here in Italy where Radio Maria was born, that its original seed was brought to maturity. It is here that we must look up to understand, in her profound inspiration, the project of the Holy Virgin. We will therefore try to explain the charisma of Radio Maria starting from its Mother Radio.
2. Radio Maria announces conversion
The spirit of Radio Maria is fully grasped in its simple definition of a religiously-inspired broadcasting station. There is no doubt that all of its programs, although in different ways, announce the Lord’s Word. The open profession of the Catholic faith of its speakers is the typical trait of Radio Maria. In order to comprehend its unique strength and appeal we must say that it is a radio that announces conversion. Through Radio Maria the Holy Virgin intends to give voice to the Church to awaken faith and call to conversion our generation, lost in the darkness and in the deathly shadows of atheism and materialism.
The announcement of conversion is the profound dynamism of Radio Maria. It is the tension to “the salvation of the souls” that brings this station beyond the sheepfold, where faithfuls dwell in security, to call also those who are far away, announcing their forgiveness, mercy and hope. The radio reaches man wherever he is and enters all those places of despair ,without God; it is incredibly fit for this missionary dimension, which today is urgently and absolutely necessary. A true Radio Maria is not listened to only by loyal faithfuls, but also by many of those who are distant, but who cherish the love for the Lord deep in their hearts. When the number of listeners who claim they returned to faith and to Christian life increases, it means that our station is positively fulfilling the task it was entrusted by Mary.
3. Prayer comes first
The announcement of conversion is first accomplished in Radio Maria through prayer. Prayer is the fundamental activity of Radio Maria, as it is for the Church. The most important program of Radio Maria is prayer. By praying, Radio Maria announces and gives testimony of God. Through prayer it nourishes and preserves faith. With prayer it brings distant souls towards the Lord. A Radio Maria which does not pray much is not Radio Maria. A Radio Maria which does not pray much will have a low audience. The programs of prayer are by far the most appreciated and the most listened to. With the instrument of Radio Maria the Holy Virgin intends to restore prayer in the hearts of men, in the homes and in the families and finally, in all the world, with a stream of grace and life.
The prayer of Radio Maria has an ecclesial basis. It encompasses above all the prayer of the good Christian at morning and night, in this way the large audience, and families in particular, will learn the simple prayers of the tradition and will get used to begin and end their day with the Lord. The laymen who take turns at the microphones for these prayers (including young people and fathers and mothers) will give, with their presence, a powerful example.
The heart of the prayer of Radio Maria is the daily Holy Mass (with a short homily if possible). For sick people, the old age, and those travelling, it is an extraordinary occasion of spiritual nourishment. It is all the more live if it is broadcast by ecclesial communities (parish churches, monasteries, religious congregations, hospitals, jails, etc.). In this way the prayer of the Church nourishes Radio Maria and at the same time ecclesial congregations feel involved as protagonists of this fundamental service.
The liturgy of the Hours (Lauds, Medium Hour, Vespers, Compline) is a fundamental element of the prayer of Radio Maria. In this way this precious treasure of the Church is donated to all faithfuls. When the ecclesial congregations animate the principal Hours (the Lauds and Vespers for example) we achieve the great result of involving laymen in a form of prayer which was designed for priests only.
The prayer of the Holy Rosary in the Radio that bears the name of Mary takes on a special value. Every day, the complete rosary, with the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, must be broadcast without fear of tiring the audience, according to the exhortations of the Holy Virgin and of the Church. Many people who work during the night, or is sleepless, find in the rosary, repeated at night hours, a great spiritual relief. The rosary can be recited in ecclesial congregations as preparation to the Holy Mass of the morning, and during the hour of spirituality in the afternoon. A special value is attached to the evening rosary which involves the families. It deserves special care because it is aimed at restoring this simple and effective form of prayer into the families.
Some popular and extremely significant forms of devotion (for ex. the “Via Crucis”, the Novena, etc.) can find space amongst the prayers of Radio Maria without weighing it down, and conferring them the same relevance usually given by the Church.
4. Radio Maria instrument for the new evangelisation
With the prayers, and in symbiosis with it, there is evangelisation as a fundamental means to call to conversion. It is not a “spiritual contribution” to be inserted in a secular palimpsest, as generally happens with other Catholic radio stations. On the contrary, it is the matter of editing the entire radio programming in such a way that the extraordinary richness of the Holy Scripture, of the doctrine of the faith and morality, of spirituality, culture and tradition which are a very part of Catholicism are made available to the general audience.
The idea that religious issues are of no interest to common people is completely mistaken. Man needs God and his heart yearns to listen to words of eternal life. If the Christian concept of life is presented in a comprehensible and convincing manner, if evangelic truth is presented as an answer to fundamental questions concerning the meaning of living, undoubtedly the most varied strata of the population – according to age, social status and culture -will be part of the audience.
The main form of evangelisation of Radio Maria must be the ordinary catechesis of the Church. The intention is to encompass the entire landscape of Christian faith and morality with daily broadcasts. The main instruments to be used are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and national Catechisms. There must be a general catechesis accessible to all, which must be supported by more specialised catechesis, for children and young people in particular.
In addition to daily catechesis, a mature palimpsest must include programs which satisfy the listeners’ need for spiritual enrichment and knowledge. This is fulfilled by readings from the Bible (spiritual, not technical ones), spirituality courses, on liturgy, mariology, on the history of the Church, of the pastoral, on the life of the saints, the teachings of the Magisterium, etc. A great part of the subjects included in a seminar or in a theological faculty can be part of Radio Maria’s palimpsest (also with biweekly or monthly programs).
To involve lay Christians in the enormous richness of the Catholic culture is not a utopia. People show a great interest, provided that simple and vital language is employed. Religious subjects attract greater interest than current affairs or mundane issues do.
The key element which enables the Word to enter the heart of the audience is that is must first have entered the heart of the person who is broadcasting. A convinced person convinces. The faith and the love of the broadcasters is the first thing the audience perceive and appreciate.
“People need authentic teaching. A Word that constructs and does not divide; a Word that brings confidence to frightened hearts, a pure Word, a simple Word that proclaims Love and Truth. This Word is the message of salvation. It is Christ Himself. You are the preachers of this Word, and you must be, above everything else, witnesses to the Word. Only the Word which is supported by the testimony of life. Only the Word nurtured by faith, hope and love, will have the power to convince people and educate them. Such a Word can become the means for the new evangelisation” (John Paul II, to Radio Maria audience, March 23rd 1994)
The primacy of prayer and evangelisation as instruments for conversion and advance towards the Lord, does not exclude programs focused on human promotion (especially those devoted to the family, to education, health etc.) and that adequate space may be given to news, the events of the world and of the Church are presented in a framework of hope. Also some time devoted to healthy and intelligent entertainment are useful for encouraging love and the family spirit amongst listeners.
5. Radio Maria promotes a spiritual path
The work of prayer and evangelisation which characterise the palimpsest of Radio Maria are aimed at the sanctification of the souls. The audience’s growth in faith, hope and charity is the ultimate goal of all programs. These can say to have achieved their goals when there are testimonies of people who say they undertook a spiritual venture with Radio Maria.
For this to be possible, it is necessary for the speakers themselves to be along this path. They are not only teachers or communicators, but witnesses. When a broadcaster, especially if he is constantly present in the radio, grows and matures on the road towards his own sanctification, he is taking by the hand, without realising it, many other souls, who feel enthralled, encouraged and sustained by his example.
For this purpose an important contribution is given by testimonies of listeners who speak of their problems, of their struggles, of their defeats, of their victories. Radio Maria is a radio of life, where the doctrine of the faith must become the light and the strength of the spiritual venture. The success of Radio Maria is given not by the audience but by the souls which return to the Lord.
6. Radio Maria trusts in the Divine Providence
By renouncing publicity and other forms of financial support except the faithfuls’ offerings, Radio Maria renounces human security and in this way it gives testimony of its supernatural origin. This is the aspect which mostly strikes mundane people and which attracts their attention, arousing genuine fondness. Even many Protestant radio stations have a religious profile, but they have also loads of dollars to back them up. And also many Catholic radio stations rely on ecclesial institutions which ensure their survival and not rarely are financed by publicity.
The decision to renounce all forms of financing except for people’s sacrifice and generosity, is the great challenge that Radio Maria must face every day. Such are the works of the Lord, otherwise they are debased to fragile and uncertain human projects. If Radio Maria accomplishes the task entrusted by the Virgin Mary, the indispensable will never be missing. The Holy Virgin takes care of its Radio station by supplying all the necessary resources, both human and material ones if the station allows this care. Even technology’s great challenges are met by Radio Maria.
7. Volunteer Work
When speaking of volunteer work at Radio Maria we must be specific. It is not human philanthropy which characterises many secular associations nor is it a generic form of love for our neighbour, typical of the Catholic tradition. All those who work in various levels of Radio Maria must feel they have been called for a service. Their presence and their activity is an answer to the Holy Virgin who needs their commitment. This concerns not only temporary volunteers, but also those who have given their full commitment need a salary to live on. From the managers to the most humble activists, the secret spur must be the love for Mary and the yearning to cooperate, each at his own measure, to her exemplary project. Even the offerings of the audience are part of a generous response. We give unto the Virgin, so that she may bestow unto us, through the Radio, the strengthening bread and the thirst-clenching water. Gratuituousness and generosity which allow the Virgin Mary to implement her exemplary project are one of the most touching aspects of the charisma of Radio Maria.
8. Radio Maria at the service of the Church
There is no doubt that the Holy Virgin engendered Radio Maria to put it to the service of the Church within the complex but decisive field of the mass media. The regular set up includes priests and laymen through the instrument of a civil association . The latter is the legal subject which owns the property, which manages, through its organs, the various activities connected to the radio station. It is the commitment of Catholics who, without the official involvement of the Church, are at its service.
It’s Radio Maria’s duty and responsibility to edit the palimpsest. But since it has a fundamentally religious approach, it must be accurately faithful to the pastoral and the doctrine of the Church, on both universal and local levels. The hierarchy (Holy See, Episcopal Conference, local Bishop) must perceive in Radio Maria a loyal and faithful voice. At the same time, the audience must feel that through Radio Maria they can be fearlessly nourished by the living bread of the revealed truth, as taught by the Church.
For Radio Maria to be truly ecclesial, it is necessary to gradually insert in the programming the different realities of the Church. Starting with parish Churches and congregations, as far as the celebration of prayers is concerned, and then to bishops, priests and laymen, religious men and women, groups and movements, carefully avoiding that the radio be a channel for particular sectors. A set of internal rules are necessary to ensure that broadcaters represent the true style and spirit of Radio Maria.
The Church must feel that she can be helped and supported by Radio Maria but she must not use it at her own interest. The Catholicism of Radio Maria is a fundamental trait of its charisma. Whichever diversion or mistake must be quickly corrected. People or groups who are not appreciated by the Church must not be part of the programming. Ideas which are not tuned-in with the Magisterium must be rejected. All those in charge of broadcasting are bound to the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which represents the doctrinal foundation from which no one can diverge.
9. Radio Maria instrument and image of Virgin Mary
Each gift is a seed sown by the high into the soil of the heart. It’s a great responsibility to work for its fruitfulness, not only at 30 or 60 percent but at 100 percent. We must keep watch that the seed does not dry up, we must ensure its growth until it becomes a mature spike. This will happen if Radio Maria is a humble instrument in the hands of the Holy Virgin. Without filial subjection, love and devotion to the Lord’s Mother of the managers, of the speakers, and of the collaborators, co-operation with heavenly design is impossible. When an instrument does not respond, the Holy Virgin chooses another one. In this sense we are all useless servants, because Virgin Mary can do with others what she did not succeed to do with us, because of us.
Radio Maria will be an effective instrument of the Virgin if its goal is to be a living image of the Virgin. The Holy Virgin must be silently present in the Radio, in all its programs, also in the non-religious ones, even in the music. She must be present with her beauty, her light, her peace, her joy, her tenderness, her faith, her hope and her love. Radio Maria in each one of her programs must radiate the Virgin’s presence. This will be possible if the Virgin will be cherished in the heart of the broadcasters. The listener perceives it and has no difficulties in claiming that Radio Maria is the Virgin’s radio station. With these words he is saying that he feels the presence of the Mother of the Lord.
Radio Maria certainly has its style and spirit. It flows from the presence of the Virgin in the heart of the broadcaster. The unshakeable faith in the Lord, the love for the Church, the respect for people, the care for sick people, those who suffer and outcasts; the encouragement to distant hearts, to sinners; the words of light, truth and consolation; all these things form that spirit and style of radio Maria which cannot be learnt or copied unless the Virgin is dwelling in our hearts.
At a closer reflection, the true identity of Radio Maria is the very presence of the Most Holy Virgin in Radio Maria. This presence will be all the more intense and bright the more we are her humble and faithful servants.
Father Livio Fanzaga