From a reader:
You mention the Charismatic Renewal (in your writing The Christmas Apocalypse) in a positive light. I don’t get it. I go out of my way to attend a church that is very traditional—where people dress properly, remain quiet in front of the Tabernacle, where we are catechized according to Tradition from the pulpit, etc.
I stay far away from charismatic churches. I just don’t see that as Catholicism. There is often a movie screen on the altar with parts of the Mass listed on it (“Liturgy,” etc.). Women are on the altar. Everyone is dressed very casually (jeans, sneakers, shorts, etc.) Everyone raises their hands, shouts, claps—no quiet. There is no kneeling or other reverent gestures. It seems to me that a lot of this was learned from the Pentecostal denomination. No one thinks the “details” of Tradition matter. I feel no peace there. What happened to Tradition? To silence (such as no clapping!) out of respect for the Tabernacle??? To modest dress?
And I have never seen anyone who had a REAL gift of tongues. They tell you to say nonsense with them…! I tried it years ago, and I was saying NOTHING! Can’t that type of thing call down ANY spirit? It seems like it should be called “charismania.” The “tongues” people speak in are just jibberish! After Pentecost, people understood the preaching. It just seems like any spirit can creep into this stuff. Why would anyone want hands laid on them that are not consecrated??? Sometimes I am aware of certain serious sins that people are in, and yet there they are on the altar in their jeans laying hands on others. Aren’t those spirits being passed on? I don’t get it!
I would much rather attend a Tridentine Mass where Jesus is at the center of everything. No entertainment—just worship.
You raise some important points worth discussing. Is the Charismatic Renewal from God? Is it a Protestant invention, or even a diabolical one? Are these “gifts of the Spirit” or ungodly “graces”?
The question of the Charismatic Renewal is so important, so key in fact to what God is doing today—in fact, central to the end times—that I am going to answer your questions in a multi-part series.
Before I answer your specific questions regarding irreverence and the charisms, such as tongues, I want to first answer the question: is the Renewal even from God, and is it “Catholic”?
THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT
Even though the Apostles had spent three years learning at Christ’s feet; even though they had witnessed his Resurrection; even though they had already gone on missions; even though Jesus had already commanded them to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel”, working signs and wonders,1 they were still not equipped with power to carry out that mission:
…I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
When Pentecost came, everything changed.2 Suddenly, these timid men burst into the streets, preaching, healing, prophesying, and speaking in tongues—and thousands were added to their number.3 The Church was born that day in one of the most singular events in salvation history.
But wait a minute, what’s this we read?
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:30)
Whenever I am speaking in churches on this topic, I ask them what this aforementioned Scripture event is referring to. Inevitably, most people say “Pentecost.” But it’s not. Pentecost was back in Chapter 2. You see, Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power, is not a one-time event. God, who is infinite, can infinitely go on filling and refilling us. Thus, Baptism and Confirmation, while sealing us with the Holy Spirit, do not limit the Holy Spirit to being poured out in our lives over and over again. The Spirit comes to us as our advocate, our helper, as Jesus said.4 The Spirit aids us in our weakness, said St. Paul.5 Thus, the Spirit can be poured out time and again in our lives, most especially when the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is invoked and welcomed.
…we ought to pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness. —POPE LEO XIII, Divinum Illud Munus, Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, n. 11
“COME HOLY SPIRIT!”
Pope Leo XIII went on to make such an invocation when, at the turn of the 19th century, he decreed and ‘commanded’ that the entire Catholic Church pray that year—and every subsequent year thereafter—a Novena to the Holy Spirit. And no wonder, for the world itself was becoming ‘deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, [and] prone to sin':
…he who resists the truth through malice and turns away from it, sins most grievously against the Holy Ghost. In our days this sin has become so frequent that those dark times seem to have come which were foretold by St. Paul, in which men, blinded by the just judgment of God, should take falsehood for truth, and should believe in “the prince of this world,” who is a liar and the father thereof, as a teacher of truth: “God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying (2 Thess. ii., 10). In the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error and the doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. iv., 1). —POPE LEO XIII, Divinum Illud Munus, n. 10
Thus, Pope Leo turned to the Holy Spirit, “the giver of life”, to counter a “culture of death” that was fomenting on the horizon. He was inspired to do so through confidential letters sent to him by Blessed Elena Guerra (1835-1914), foundress of the Oblate Sisters of The Holy Spirit.6 Then, on January 1, 1901, Pope Leo sang the Veni Creator Spiritus near the Holy Spirit window in St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome.7 That very day, the Holy Spirit fell… but not upon the Catholic world! Rather, it was upon a group of Protestants in Topeka, Kansas at the Bethel College and Bible School where they had been praying to receive the Holy Spirit just as the early Church did, in Acts Chapter 2. This outpouring birthed the “charismatic renewal” in modern times and the seedling of the Pentecostal movement.
But wait a minute… would this be from God? Would God pour out His Spirit outside of the Catholic Church?
Recall the prayer of Jesus:
I pray not only for [the Apostles], but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)
Jesus foreshadows and prophesies in this passage that there are going to be believers through the Gospel proclamation, but also disunity—hence His prayer that “they may all be one.” While there are believers not in full unity with the Catholic Church, their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, sealed in baptism, makes them brothers and sisters, albeit, separated brethren.
Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
And yet, Jesus’s words are clear that the world may believe in Him when we may “all be one.”
ECUMENISM… TOWARD UNITY
I can remember several years ago standing on the lawn of a downtown park in a Canadian city alongside thousands of other Christians. We had gathered for a “March for Jesus” to simply proclaim Him as King and Lord of our lives. I’ll never forget singing and praising God in one voice with the non-Catholics standing beside me. That day, the words of St. Peter seemed to come alive: “love covers a multitude of sins.”8 Our love for Jesus, and our love for one another that day, covered, at least for a few moments, the terrible divisions that keep Christians from a common and credible witness.
And no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3)
False ecumenism9 occurs when Christians wash over theological and doctrinal differences, often saying, “What’s most important is that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.” The problem, however, is that Jesus Himself said, “I am the Truth,” and thus, those truths of the Faith that lead us into freedom are not insignificant. Furthermore, errors or falsehoods presented as truth can lead souls into serious sin, thereby putting their very salvation at risk.
However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers…. All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 818
True ecumenism is when Christians stand upon that which they have in common, yet, acknowledge what divides us, and dialogue toward full and true unity. As Catholics, that means holding fast to the “deposit of faith” that has been entrusted to us by Jesus, but also remaining open to the way the Spirit moves and breathes so as to make the Gospel ever new and accessible. Or as John Paul II put it,
…a new evangelization — new in ardor, methods and expression. —Ecclesia in America, Apostolic Exhortation, n. 6
In this regard, we can often hear and experience this “new song”10 of the Spirit outside of the Catholic Church.
“Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.“ —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 818
Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches… and are in themselves calls to Catholic unity. Herein lies the key, then, to understanding why the outpouring of the Holy Spirit began upon those Christian communities separated from the Catholic Church: in order to prepare them for “Catholic unity.” Indeed, four years before Pope Leo’s song brought an outpouring of charisma or “grace”11, he wrote in His encyclical on the Holy Spirit that the entire pontificate, from Peter to present, has been dedicated to the restoration of peace in the world (an Era of Peace) and Christian unity:
We have attempted and persistently carried out during a long pontificate towards two chief ends: in the first place, towards the restoration, both in rulers and peoples, of the principles of the Christian life in civil and domestic society, since there is no true life for men except from Christ; and, secondly, to promote the reunion of those who have fallen away from the Catholic Church either by heresy or by schism, since it is most undoubtedly the will of Christ that all should be united in one flock under one Shepherd. —Divinum Illud Munus, n. 10
Thus, what began in 1901 was God’s masterplan to prepare for Christian unity through the power of the Holy Spirit. Already today, we have seen a massive migration of evangelical Christians into Catholicism—this, despite the scandals rocking the Church. Indeed, truth draws souls to Truth. I’ll address this more in the last two Parts.
THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL IS BORN
God did intend to pour out His Holy Spirit in a special way upon the Catholic Church, all in His timing, according to a much greater plan unfolding in these latter times. Once again, it was a pope who invoked the coming of the Holy Spirit. In preparation for Vatican II, Blessed Pope John XXIII penned the prayer:
Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.
In 1967, two years after the official closing of Vatican II, a group of students from Duquesne University had gathered at The Ark and Dover Retreat House. After a talk earlier in the day on Acts chapter 2, an awesome encounter began to unfold as students entered the upstairs chapel before the Blessed Sacrament:
…when I entered and knelt in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I literally trembled with a sense of awe before His majesty. I knew in an overwhelming way that He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. I thought, “You had better get out of here quick before something happens to you.” But overriding my fear was a much greater desire to surrender myself unconditionally to God. I prayed, “Father, I give my life to you. Whatever you ask of me, I accept. And if it means suffering, I accept that too. Just teach me to follow Jesus and to love as He loves.” In the next moment, I found myself prostrate, flat on my face, and flooded with an experience of the merciful love of God… a love that is totally undeserved, yet lavishly given. Yes, it’s true what St. Paul writes, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” My shoes came off in the process. I was indeed on holy ground. I felt as if I wanted to die and be with God… Within the next hour, God sovereignly drew many of the students into the chapel. Some were laughing, others crying. Some prayed in tongues, others (like me) felt a burning sensation coursing through their hands… It was the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal! —Patti Gallagher-Mansfield, student eyewitness and participant, http://www.ccr.org.uk/duquesne.htm
THE POPES EMBRACE THE RENEWAL
The experience of the “Duquesne weekend” quickly spread to other campuses, and then throughout the Catholic world. As the Spirit set souls on fire, the movement began to crystallize into various organizations. Many of these gathered together in 1975 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, where Pope Paul VI addressed them with an endorsement of what had become called the “Catholic Charismatic Renewal”:
This authentic desire to situate yourselves in the Church is the authentic sign of the action of the Holy Spirit … How could this ‘spiritual renewal’ not be a chance for the Church and the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so… —International Conference on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, May 19, 1975, Rome, Italy, www.ewtn.com
Shortly after his election, Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to recognize the Renewal:
I am convinced that this movement is a very important component in the total renewal of the Church, in this spiritual renewal of the Church. —special audience with Cardinal Suenens and the Council Members of the International Charismatic Renewal Office, December 11th, 1979, http://www.archdpdx.org/ccr/popes.html
The emergence of the Renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church…. At the end of this Second Millennium, the Church needs more than ever to turn in confidence and hope to the Holy Spirit, who unceasingly draws believers into the Trinitarian communion of love, builds up their visible unity in the one Body of Christ, and sends them forth on mission in obedience to the mandate entrusted to the Apostles by the Risen Christ. —Address to the Council of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office, May 14th, 1992
In a speech that leaves no ambiguity over whether or not the Renewal is meant to have a role among the entire Church, the late pope said:
The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God’s People. —Speech to the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, www.vatican.va
Fr. Raniero Cantalemessa, who has been the papal household preacher since 1980, added:
…the Church… is both hierarchical and charismatic, institutional and mystery: the Church that lives not by sacrament alone but also by charism. The two lungs of the Church body are once again working together in full accord. — Come, Creator Spirit: meditations on the Veni Creator, by Raniero Cantalamessa, p. 184
Lastly, Pope Benedict XVI, while a Cardinal and Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said:
At the heart of a world imbued with a rationalistic skepticism, a new experience of the Holy Spirit suddenly burst forth. And, since then, that experience has assumed a breadth of a worldwide Renewal movement. What the New Testament tells us about the charisms — which were seen as visible signs of the coming of the Spirit — is not just ancient history, over and done with, for it is once again becoming extremely topical. —Renewal and the Powers of Darkness, by Leo Cardinal Suenens (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1983)
As Pope, he has continued to praise and promote the fruits that the Renewal has brought and continues to bring:
The last century, sprinkled by sad pages of history, is at the same time full of wonderful testimonies of spiritual and charismatic awakening in every realm of human life… I hope the Holy Spirit will meet with an ever more fruitful reception in the hearts of believers and that the ‘culture of Pentecost’ will spread, so necessary in our time. —address to an International Congress, Zenit, September 29th, 2005
… the Ecclesial Movements and New Comunities which blossomed after the Second Vatican Council, constitute a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church. They should be accepted with trust and valued for the various contributions they place at the service of the common benefit in a an ordered and fruitful way. —Address to the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships Hall of Blessings Friday, 31 October, 2008
CONCLUSION TO PART I
The Charismatic Renewal is a “gift” from God that was implored by the popes, and then further welcomed and encouraged by them. It is a gift to prepare the Church—and the world—for a coming “Era of Peace” when their will be one flock, one Shepherd, one united Church.12
Yet, the reader has raised questions as to whether or not the Renewal Movement has perhaps gone off the rails. In Part II, we’ll look at the charisms or gifts of the Spirit, and whether or not these often extraordinary outward signs are indeed from God… or ungodly.
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Click below to translate this page into a different language:
- cf. Mark 16:15-18 [↩]
- cf. The Day of Difference! [↩]
- cf. Acts 2:47 [↩]
- Jn 14:16 [↩]
- Rom 8:26 [↩]
- Pope John XXIII called Sr. Elena the “apostle of the devotion to the Holy Spirit” when he beatified her. [↩]
- http://www.arlingtonrenewal.org/history [↩]
- 1 Pet 4:8 [↩]
- “ecumenism” is the principal or aim of promoting Christian unity [↩]
- cf. Ps 96:1 [↩]
- kharisma; from Greek: “favor, grace” [↩]
- cf. The Coming Dominion of the Church, and The Coming of the Kingdom of God [↩]