The Charismatic Renewal: The Unique History
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Bible describes miraculous encounters with the divine. These include healing, proclamation, visions, and speaking in tongues. Yet a person living the modern Christian life does not experience these events. Christians often fail to have a divine encounter with God and fail to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The sacramental life provides empowerment to Catholics. It strengthens them to live as Priest, Prophet, and King. Likewise, The sacraments increase love, joy, peace patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control. Catholics should read scripture and spiritual books. One should do spiritual activities not out of obligation, but out of a growing love for God. Sadly so many Catholics live their faith out of obligation. The Charismatic Renewal began with the genuine desire to revitalize the church. The Renewal seeks to promote spiritual works as in the book of Acts
Most Catholics do not understand the Renewal. To outsiders, it appears as a weird group of people with bad taste in music. They come together to “speak in tongues” and undermine the church’s authority. Others describe it as another way protestant influence has seeped into the church. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent movement is not Catholic.
I will explore the Renewal in two parts: The History, and Nature.
History of the Charismatic Renewal
The Renewal began at Duquesne University. It had focused on the book of Acts. The professors had already experienced the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” They had shared their testimony. The students had decided to pray “Veni Spritus” at the conclusion of the retreat. As they were praying, the students began to experience the Holy Spirit’s presence.
After the Duquesne retreat, the word began to spread about the “Baptism of The Holy Spirit.” Today, the movement has spread to 238 countries and 100 million Catholics1. Despite the rapid growth, certain people questioned the legitimacy of the movement. Some Catholics questioned how Baptism of the Holy Spirit co-existed with Catholic theology
Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II supported the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Pope Paul VI stated,
the miracle of Pentecost should continue in history’ . . . How could this ‘spiritual renewal’ not be ‘good fortune’ for the Church and the world?”1
He saw The Charismatic Renewal as an extension of Pentecost. He reaffirmed the idea that Pentecost was not a one time experience in history. Rather Pentecost is a lived experience that should continue.
Pope John Paul spoke about the Renewal in 1979. He stated that
I am convinced that this movement is a sign of the Spirit’s action . . . a very important component in the total renewal of the Church.”1
Hence, Pope John Paul II saw the Renewal as one of the main components in the overall renewal of the Church.
Not only did the papacy give their opinions on the topic, but so did The U.S bishops. The bishops released a document called, Grace for a New Springtime, published in 1997. It affirmed the renewal.1
Despite the above affirmation, Catholics still question the Renewal’s legitimacy. Often Catholics think of the movement as a separate devotion. Thus they fail to understand the nature of the Charismatic Movement. It’s unique nature separates it from other ecclesiastical communities.
The Nature of The Charismatic Renewal
Charles Whitehead describes The Charismatic Renewal as
a personal experience of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who brings alive in new ways the graces of our baptism. The Holy Spirit not only sets on ﬁre all that we have already received but comes again in power to equip us with his gifts for service and mission.2
Most Catholics object to the idea of bringing the graces of baptism to life. It seems to deny the efficiency of the sacraments. However, a person’s spiritual muscle may become weakened. One may require an additional encounter with the Holy Spirit to make the muscle useful again.
This makes The Charismatic Renewal, less of a moment, and more of the work of The Holy Spirit.
Despite being the work of the Holy Spirit, a genuine pattern begins to emerge. Charismatic communities typically have no formal structure or hierarchy. These communities associated with one another by relationships. They know that they are all members of the larger church community. These communities offer diversity. This diversity exists, not only in membership but also in the types of ministries offered. All communities strive to experience the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. The communities differ in their execution of this goal.2
Two modes of being Charismatic
The term “Charismatic” can denote either the work of the Holy Spirit or the communities itself. The former refers to the ways in which the Holy Spirit is bringing about the renewal of the Church. The communities, on the other hand, refer to organizations within the church. These organizations “emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit. Their role entails being a reminder and witness in the Church of the importance of the Holy Spirit.”3. A person can have had an encounter with The Holy Spirit and not be a member of a charismatic community. However, there are “special graces for those who affirm membership in communities.
A ‘Charismatic’ person is one, who claims to have had a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Charismatic renewal has emerged to make this encounter a reality. Vatican II stresses that the church is both hierarchical and charismatic. Thus, the Charismatic Renewal helps strengthen and renew Catholic theology. Every Catholic must grow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This growth can only come through an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
- About Catholic Charismatic Renewal | Catholic Charismatic Renewal – National Service Committee ↩ ↩ ↩ ↩
- What is the Nature of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal? | Catholic Charismatic Renewal – National Service Committee ↩ ↩
- Fostering Baptism in the Holy Spirit (January 9th, 2015), pg 2 ↩