I have been asked before if I am a “Charismatic.” And my answer is, “I am Catholic!” That is, I want to be fully Catholic, to live in the center of the deposit of faith, the heart of our mother, the Church. And so, I strive to be “charismatic”, “marian,” “contemplative,” “active,” “sacramental,” and “apostolic.” That is because all of the above belong not to this or that group, or this or that movement, but to the entire body of Christ. While apostolates may vary in the focus of their particular charism, in order to be fully alive, fully “healthy,” one’s heart, one’s apostolate, should be open to the entire treasury of grace that the Father has bestowed upon the Church.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens… (Eph 1:3)
Think of a water droplet hitting the surface of a pond. From that point, co-centric circles radiate outward in every direction. The goal of every Catholic should be to place him or herself at the center, for the “water droplet” is our Sacred Tradition entrusted to the Church that then expands in every direction of the soul, and then the world. It is the conduit of grace. For the “droplet” itself comes from the “Spirit of truth” who leads us into all truth: cf. John 16:13
The Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.” He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity: by God’s Word “which is able to build you up”; by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body; by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ’s members; by “the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts”; by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called “charisms”), by which he makes the faithful “fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 798
However, if one were to reject any one of these ways in which the Spirit works, it would be like putting oneself on the crest of a ripple. And rather than let the Spirit move you in every direction from the center (that is, to be accessible and have access to “every spiritual blessing in the heavens”), one would begin to move in the direction of that one single wave. That is really the spiritual form of Protestantism.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. (James 1:16-17)
These all good and perfect gifts come to us, in the normal order of grace, through the Church:
The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 771
NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIVING
Nearly every day, someone emails to me a special prayer or devotion. If one were to try to pray all the devotions that have sprung up over the centuries, he would have to spend his entire day and night in prayer! There is a difference, however, between picking and choosing this or that devotion, this patron saint, that prayer or this novena—and choosing to be open or closed to the vessels of grace that are fundamental to Christian living.
When it comes to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the charisms, these do not belong to any one group or even the “Charismatic Renewal,” which is merely the title that describes a movement of God in salvation history. Hence, to label someone a “Charismatic” does a certain damage to the underlying reality. For every single Catholic should be charismatic. That is, every Catholic should be filled with the Spirit and open to receive the gifts and charisms of the Spirit:
Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)
…this grace of Pentecost, known as Baptism in the Holy Spirit, does not belong to any particular movement but to the whole Church. In fact, it is really nothing new but has been part of God’s design for His people from that first Pentecost in Jerusalem and through the history of the Church. Indeed, this grace of Pentecost has been seen in the life and practice of the Church, according to the writings of the Fathers of the Church, as normative for Christian living and as integral to the fullness of Christian Initiation. —Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, Bishop of Alexandria; Fanning the Flame, p. 7, by McDonnell and Montague
So why is this “normative” Christian living rejected even to this day, 2000 years after the first Pentecost? For one, the experience of the Renewal has been something that some find unsettling—remember, it came on the heels of centuries of conservative expression of one’s faith at a time when the lay faithful were mostly uninvolved in their parish life. Suddenly, little groups began to pop up here and there where they were singing exuberantly; their hands were raised; they spoke in tongues; there were healings, words of knowledge, prophetic exhortations, and… joy. Lots of joy. It shook the status quo, and frankly, continues to shake our complacency even to this day.
But here is where we have to define the difference between spirituality and expression. The spirituality of every Catholic should be open to all the graces offered through our Sacred Tradition and obedient to all her teachings and exhortations. For Jesus said of His Apostles, “He who listens to you listens to me.” Luke 10:16 To be “baptized in the Spirit,” as explained in Part II, is to experience the release or reawakening of the sacramental graces of Baptism and Confirmation. It also means to receive the charisms according to the Lord’s predilection:
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these [charisms], distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. (1 Cor 12)
How one expresses this awakening is individual and different according to one’s personality and how the Spirit is moving. The point is that, as declared in a statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this new life in the Spirit is simply “normal”:
As experienced in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, baptism in the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ known and loved as Lord and Savior, establishes or reestablishes an immediacy of relationship with all those persons of the Trinity, and through inner transformation affects the whole of the Christian’s life. There is new life and a new conscious awareness of God’s power and presence. It is a grace experience which touches every dimension of the Church’s life: worship, preaching, teaching, ministry, evangelism, prayer and spirituality, service and community. Because of this, it is our conviction that baptism in the Holy Spirit, understood as the reawakening in Christian experience of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit given in Christian initiation, and manifested in a broad range of charisms, including those closely associated with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is part of the normal Christian life. —Grace for the New Springtime, 1997, www.catholiccharismatic.us
THE HOTPOINT OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE
However, as we have seen, the movement of God’s Spirit leaves life anything but “normal.” In the Renewal, Catholics were suddenly on fire; they began to pray with the heart, read the Scriptures, and turn away from sinful lifestyles. They became zealous for souls, involved in ministries, and were passionately falling in love with God. And thus, the words of Jesus became real in many families:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’ (Matt 10:34-36)
Satan does not bother much with the lukewarm. They neither stir the pot nor tip it over. But when a Christian begins to strive for holiness—watch out!
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet 5:8)
The charisms of the Spirit are intended for the building up of the body of Christ. Hence, Satan seeks to neuter the charisms, and thereby, tear the body down. If we are a Church that no longer prophesies, that does not preach in the power of the Spirit, that does not heal, give words of knowledge, works of mercy, and deliver souls from the evil one…. then indeed, we are no threat at all, and Satan’s kingdom advances rather than the Creator’s. Thus, persecution always follows in the wake of an authentic move of God’s Spirit. Indeed, after Pentecost, the Jewish authorities—not the least Saul (who would become St. Paul)—wanted the disciples put to death.
The point here is not whether one raises or claps his hands, speaks in tongues or not, or attends a prayer meeting. The point is to “be filled with the Spirit“:
…do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18)
And we must be so as to begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit, not only in our works, but above all in our interior lives that then transforms our works into “salt” and “light”:
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25)
The great work of the Spirit is to make each of us holy, temples of the living God. cf. 1 Cor 6:19 Holiness is the “maturity” that the Church is seeking as the fruit of the Charismatic Renewal—not just a fleeting emotional experience, as emotional as it may be for some. In an Apostolic Exhortation to the laity, Pope John Paul II wrote:
Life according to the Spirit, whose fruit is holiness (cf. Rom 6:22;Gal 5:22), stirs up every baptized person and requires each to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, in embracing the Beatitudes, in listening and meditating on the Word of God, in conscious and active participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, in personal prayer, in family or in community, in the hungerand thirst for justice, in the practice of the commandment of love in all circumstances of life and service to the brethren, especially the least, the poor and the suffering. —Christifideles Laici, n. 16, December 30th, 1988
In a word, that we live at the center of the “droplet” of our Catholic Faith. This is the “life in the Spirit” the world desperately thirsts to witness. It comes about when we live an interior life with God through daily prayer and frequenting the Sacraments, through ongoing conversion and repentance and a growing dependency upon the Father. When we become “contemplatives in action.” cf.Redemptoris Missio, n. 91 The Church does not need more programs! What she needs are saints…
It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organize and coordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith. What is needed is the encouragement of a new “ardor for holiness” among missionaries and throughout the Christian community… In a word, you must set yourselves on the path of holiness. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Missio, n. 90
And it is for this that the Spirit of God has been lavished upon the Church, for…
Holy people alone can renew humanity. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Message prepared before his death to the Youth of the World; World Youth Day; n. 7; Cologne Germany, 2005
Next, how the Charismatic Renewal is a grace to prepare the Church for the latter times, and my own personal experiences (yes, I keep promising that… but the Holy Spirit has better plans than me as I continue to try and write to you from the heart as the Lord leads…)
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