Carmen Hernández Camino Neocatecumenal dibujo de Kiko Argüello

Opening of the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Carmen Hernández

“My Jesus, lead me to your holiness.” “You lead me to holiness.”

(“Diarios 1979-1981”, n. 85; n. 199)

On December 4, 2022, an “Act” of special intensity and significance for the whole Church took place in Madrid: the opening of the diocesan phase of the process of beatification and canonization of Carmen Hernández Barrera, co-initiator, together with Kiko Argüello, of that itinerary of Christian initiation called the Neocatechumenal Way.

Carmen Hernández during the prayers

Opening of process

In the solemn setting of the Francisco de Vitoria University of Madrid, in the presence of Cardinal Carlos Osoro, 2 cardinals and 41 bishops and at least two thousand people from various countries of Europe and the world – the mission carried out by Carmen and Kiko covers 135 countries on 5 continents and many have asked to participate in this solemn inauguration – the official ceremony of the Diocese of Madrid took place.

It took place in four moments: first of all a greeting and a few words of presentation by Kiko Argüello, with a prayer and reading of the Gospel (Mk 9:2-8), the passage of the Transfiguration of the Lord, a page of the Gospel very dear to Carmen; then the opening session of the Cause, with the reading of the “Supplex libellus”, that is, the request made by the postulator on behalf of the international team of the Way to the Diocese to begin this process; the reading of the “Nihil obstat” of the Dicastery of the Holy See for the Causes of Saints to initiate the process, followed by the invocation of the Holy Spirit to accompany all this work and the oath of the Archbishop of Madrid with the acceptance of the request made and the designation of a diocesan tribunal to be in charge of the whole process. One by one, the episcopal delegate, the promoter of justice, the notary (and her deputy), the postulator of the Cause took the oath: this moment concluded with the reading of the “Acts of the session” by the Chancellor-Secretary and the allocution of Cardinal Osoro.

In the third moment of the Act, the Symphonic Orchestra of the Neocatechumenal Way offered two pieces, two symphonic poems composed by Kiko: “Aquedá” and “Daughters of Jerusalem”. The first moment “Aquedá” makes present the sacrifice that Abraham was called to make, in the mount Moriah, of his son Isaac and this one offers him voluntarily his throat in order not to make him invalid: thus faith appears on earth; the second passage “Daughters of Jerusalem” is the moment of the encounter that Jesus, loaded with the cross, has with some women who weep for him; the Lord tells them: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children…, for if you do this with the green wood, what will be done with the dry one? “(Lk 23:28,31). They are two poems full of drama and musical tension.

The ceremony concluded with a few final words and a greeting from the Archbishop of Madrid.

Greeting from Kiko

It is important to offer here the text of the greeting that Kiko addressed to those present at the beginning of the meeting: after greeting the Cardinals and Bishops present, the academic authorities, the Superiors of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Christ Jesus, to which Carmen belonged for about eight years, and all those present (itinerant catechists, rectors of the Redemptoris Mater Seminaries and brothers and sisters of the communities founded by Kiko and Carmen more than 50 years ago), Kiko read the letter sent for the occasion by Cardinal Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and commented on the opening of Carmen’s Cause of Beatification with these words:

I, personally, am very happy that this day has come when the Church begins the diocesan phase of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Carmen Hernández. I thank Cardinal Carlos Osoro, Archbishop of Madrid, for initiating the investigation into Carmen’s life, virtues and reputation for holiness.

The Lord has united Carmen and me for 52 years in a marvelous mission of evangelization – which began in this diocese of Madrid – as a fruit of the Council.

I feel it is a providential fact that the opening of the Cause coincides precisely with the year that commemorates the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council, because Carmen gave her life to bring the Council to the parishes, through a Christian Initiation, at the service of the bishops, called the Neocatechumenal Way.

It is surprising to see this history with facts and people; a work not done at a work table but by the action of the Holy Spirit. What was being elaborated in writing at the Second Vatican Council, we saw it being realized with the poor in the shantytowns of Palomeras by the work of the Holy Spirit. There we saw the appearance of the Lord creating forgiveness, love, communion, Christian community! Both Carmen and I have been witnesses of God’s presence in evangelization, witnesses of God’s action in the Church of the Second Vatican Council. We had no preconceived plans or ideas. For more than 50 years we have been able to witness that God is alive in His Church.

Carmen Hernández and Kiko Argüello, Philippines 2003

Carmen, following in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier (whose feast we celebrated yesterday), never thought of staying in Spain, because it was like a failure of her missionary ideal. But God wanted us to meet in Madrid, in the shantytown of Palomeras Altas. We met in 1964, on his return from his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I had gone to live in a shack with the poor of Palomeras.

There Carmen got to know the community of the brothers who met in my shack and was very impressed by their response to the Word of God. She decided to stay and live with us and we built her a shack.

Carmen saw the presence of Jesus Christ, who comes to save sinners, to fulfill the mystery of Easter and to create communion among the poor: Jesus Christ gave himself as gratuitous love for every person.

All this that God allowed, His presence in Palomeras, was like a fertile land that God had prepared to put inside the Church. What God made us experience in the midst of a poor world, the Holy Spirit had prepared for his Church.

The providential presence of the Archbishop of Madrid in the shantytown was what determined Carmen’s definitive collaboration with me. If it had not been for D. Casimiro Morcillo, we would not have gone to the parishes. He was also the one who opened the doors for us in Italy. Carmen saw in the Archbishop the presence of the Church and completely changed her attitude towards me. With Morcillo’s presence, she saw the promise God had made to her in Israel come true.

When Carmen was in Israel, she often wondered what her mission in the Church was and thought that she had to found a missionary congregation. In Ein Karen, she had the absolute certainty, like a vision, that God wanted her to do something for the universal Church, that it was not about founding a congregation.

I tell you this so that you can see, as a great mystery of the Lord, the collaboration between Carmen and me.

It was very hard for me to accept Carmen, until the Lord told me interiorly that Carmen was a great grace, that there was someone next to me who would constantly tell me the truth, that God had brought her with a mission. So I accepted Carmen in faith as someone sent by the Lord. I suffered until I realized that she came from God, and from that day on she was a grace for me.

Carmen has been great! An extraordinary woman who has done a lot of good, not only to the brothers of the Neocatechumenal Way but to the whole Church.

Carmen, what a wonderful woman! With a masterful genius of freedom and love for the Church. She never flattered me, she always told me the truth. She was able to stand behind me; always at my side, to help me. She never sought the first place, she never sought the limelight. She had a clear conscience that the mission that God had given her was to support me, to defend me and to correct me, for the good of the Neocatechumenal Way.

For love of the Church and the brothers, she has remained with me for 52 years, even though at times it was difficult for her, but Carmen only cared about doing God’s will, which she saw was to be with me in this Christian Initiation that is the Neocatechumenal Way.

Exceptional woman, truly, with an enormous generosity, she has denied herself to show me, despite the corrections, but she was always behind me, supporting me.

She was an example of liberality, sincerity, speaking freely to everyone; she spoke the truth to the brothers in the communities. And when a brother went away, she called him and looked for him, like a lost sheep, with love.

She was an extraordinary woman, a true prophetess, a true missionary, who lived the faith to a heroic degree, an exceptional woman, very important for the Church, always in prayer, in love with Christ, the Scriptures and Easter, and with an unconditional love for the Pope and the Church. 

Together we are the initiators of a charism, which the Lord has inspired to help His Church. The words of Pope Francis on the 50th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in 2018, when he said at Tor Vergata: “You are a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church”, confirm Carmen’s most deep desire: that it be seen that in the Way, it is God who is at work, that it is a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, of which He Himself has called us to be initiators.

In the last audience he granted this year to the International Team of the Way, Pope Francis expressed his joy at the beginning of the opening of the cause.

I want the Church, in this Cause of canonization that is beginning, to investigate her life, which was often a crucified life, silent and suffering, as “in a dark night”; I also want her virtues to come to light, many of them hidden, many of them heroic. May the Church discern over them.

I thank God for having known her and for having been able to work with her in the “hard work of the Gospel” as St. Paul says.

Carmen, what a great woman, with an exceptional faith! What a great love she had for Christ and his Church!

Thank you.

Now we will listen to the Gospel.

This afternoon we would like to present a fragment of the Gospel that deeply touched Carmen: The Transfiguration, which is the marvelous and impressive destiny of human history, and which has already been realized by the Virgin Mary, who is the image not only of the Church but of all humanity.

The Transfiguration will lead this man assumed by Jesus Christ to complete divinization. It is an exaltation to the glory of heaven, to the Ascension. And that can be experienced here, because we Christians, through baptism, are being transformed day by day; even if this body falls apart, we are being transfigured in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the Christian faith that gives light to history, to the future of humanity: the Transfiguration.

Proclamation of the Gospel: Mark 9, 2-8.

Holiness of Carmen today

Photographs – Luis Millán

To speak of “holiness” in today’s world, even in the Church itself, may seem irrelevant, intimate, that has nothing to do with the real problems…. But is this really the case?

Holiness, before being something that has to do with us, is the passionate cry of God: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2), “…like the Holy One who has called you, be holy yourselves…. For it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Pet 1:16). To speak of holiness, for those who believe, is to make present the Holy One, God, is to make present his action, his glory that seeks and wants the life of man: “The glory of God is the man who lives,” exclaims St. Irenaeus. [1]

And to speak of Carmen’s holiness is first of all to make present the action of God in her, to speak of what her history, her life, has meant and characterized: it is impressive to open her “Diaries” and follow her thoughts, her sufferings, her prayer, her spirit:

On the day in 1979 when Pope St. John Paul II beatified two saints, she wrote in her Diary:

Poor and with nothing, the intimate desire for your unique presence comes to me. Holiness, Lord, hidden desires for holiness, for sacrifice, to fill the day with your presence. Prayer. Lord, come to fill with meaning the good, the things…” (“Diaries 1979-1981”, n. 77, April 29, 1979).

O Jesus, cornerstone, immovable life built on the Cross. Come, Jesus, illumine your face upon my life. Help me to lean my existence on You. My Jesus, lead me to prayer, to your holiness, my refuge, my life. Come, Most Holy Spirit, have compassion on my poor being” (“Diaries 1979-1981″, n. 85, May 8, 1979).

Holiness is for Carmen, above all, a profession of faith in the Jesus she loves: “Most sweet, holy, great” (“Diaries 1979-1981”, n. 780, December 15, 1981); in his fidelity: ” …I trust in your LOVE, you are faithful and HOLY, blessed are you, Jesus, your tenderness will reach me and I will live” [2]; 366. Defend me. You, Faithful, Holy, my Jesus (“Diaries 1979-1981”, n. 366, September 4, 1980); in his letting himself be crucified for love: “You are Holy, infinite, very sweet. And you have been crucified for love of me” (“Diarios 1979-1981”, n. 231, April 1, 1980). Carmen searches for him with passion: “My Jesus, only Holy, Unique, where are you?” (“Diaries 1979-1981”, n. 267, May 15, 1980); she truly feels him as her liberator: “You, liberator, holy, wonderful, light, life, resurrection of the dead, just and crucified” (“Diaries 1979-1981”, n. 187, February 16, 1980); he is the one in whose name she fights all battles: “In your name, Jesus, Jesus, I face all battles. You are. Your holy name. Come, Jesus” (“Diaries. 1979-1981”, n. 299, June 23, 1980).

It is this sanctity that the Cause opened today in the Diocese of Madrid, in the person of its Archbishop, Cardinal Carlos Osoro, with the appointment of a diocesan tribunal, which will take charge of it, will have to document with testimonies and documents, which will then be sent to Rome for the official declaration, when everything is ready.

Some facts about the Neocatechumenal Way (11/30/2022)

Communities: 21,066

Diocese: 1,366       

Parishes: 6,293

Nations: 135

Redemptoris Mater Seminaries: 121

Seminarians in the RSM: 1,900

Presbyters formed in the RSM: 2,950

Families in mission: more than 2,000, with 6,500 children.

1,000 families are evangelizing in 212 Missio ad Gentes in 62 nations, together with a priest and some sisters.

800 families are in various countries to strengthen local communities, supporting them in their faith journey.

More than 300 are families that form, with a priest and a young person, an evangelization team, responsible for a nation or zones.

[1] Saint Ireneo, Adv . haereses , IV, 20,7.

[2] Documentos Carmen Hernández , Vol. 32, anotación de 21/10/1970.