The Catholic Charismatic Renewal
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
At the end of a retreat that I recently conducted, the Vicar General of the Diocese reminded me that I had been invited specifically to give them a charismatic retreat. He expressed his disappointment that I had, instead, preached a retreat which all the priests could very well accept without any reservation, in spite of their initial prejudices against and fears of the Charismatic Renewal. I, then, insisted with a smile that what I had preached was a fully charismatic retreat, and what the priests might have been expecting with fearful anxiety was a wrong picture of the renewal.
The underlying reason for such a situation is that both in theological beliefs and in pastoral practices, some can easily substitute the essentials (the inner circle of the spirit - persuasion or principles of faith) by the important but still not essential issues (the middle circle of the mind - experience), and then both the essential and the important points by the external or the optional and even the superficial elements (the outer circle of the body - expression).
Thus, a novice Praise Leader will often not just invite but even coax a congregation new to the Charismatic Renewal to start the service by clapping to the Lord or cajole them to look at one another, maybe all strangers, with love, or entice them to straightaway ask for the infilling of the Holy Spirit by praying in tongues. Instead Praise, like marriage, is fundamentally a relationship, that arises from a deep internal appreciation of and thanksgiving to and love for God, (Would that all men praise the Lord, - firstly with their spirit and mind), that wells up into a commitment of praising and thanking Him always and with enthusiasm, (Let all that is within me praise the Lord, - secondly with all their heart and soul), and then culminates in an outward expression of singing and even dancing, (Clap unto the Lord with all your might, - thirdly even with their body).
Accordingly the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) can be visualized as forming three concentric circles: the first and inner one, being that of a personal Conversion that involves the passage from Darkness to Light, and is seen in a constant Spiritual Regeneration, a turning away from the values of the world, and a returning to the house of the Father, the God for us. This usually happens through a charismatic retreat or outreach, which leads a person to sincere repentance and honest confession, to forgiveness towards others and to renunciation of occult practices, thus opening a person to a profound life changing experience of the Father's forgiving love.
It then flows into a Christian (and specifically Catholic) Revitalization, a turning away from other 'lords' to Jesus the Crucified and Risen Lord, the God with us (Emmanuel), and a turning away from other so-called 'gospels', which are only 'words' or 'empty' words, to his life giving Gospel, the only true 'Word of God made man', a passage from Death to Life. This consists in Discipleship that is nurtured through Personal Prayer and Scripture Reading that leads to a life of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love, and is supported by the fellowship of a loving and praying community.
Finally, it is articulated in the use of the Charisms of the Holy Spirit, the God in us, thus becoming a Charismatic Replenishment. For the Holy Spirit not only transforms our lives by the fruits of his presence but also empowers our ministry by his charisms of power, moving us from impotency and inertia to power and action, specifically for Evangelisation, i.e., for turning the world over, a passage from Hate to Love. The CCR is thus a truly Trinitarian Renewal.
This is nothing new in Christianity nor is it a discovery of the Pentecostal Movement—unless one prefers to term it a 're-discovery'. This triple dimension of authentic Christianity, that is apostolic and ecclesial, and therefore of 'Catholicism', was heralded and proclaimed by Peter himself, the erstwhile Disowner of his Master, and the Apostolic College on Pentecost Day. In answer to the pleas of the Jewish Diaspora, (now gathered together for the celebration of Pentecost, and who were cut to the heart by Peter's challenging sermon), "What must we do?" Peter announced, "First repent and turn away from sin, next be baptized in the name of Jesus (i.e. make Jesus your Saviour and Lord), and then ask for, receive, and be filled by the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-39).
Peter's proclamation was an echo of what he may have heard Jesus telling Nicodemus and the rich young man, who had then asked the Lord questions similar to the one that was now put to Peter. It was at the same time the fruit of his own experience. Peter, tempted by Satan, had boasted that others but not he would betray the Lord. But it turned out that he was the one to deny Jesus, and that too three times. One sorrowful look of Jesus was enough to make him shed bitter tears of repentance, not just for his sin of cowardice, but more so for his sin of pride, in implying that he loved Jesus more than others. At the invitation of his Master, he now humbly reaffirmed his out-and-out love for Jesus, but without making comparisons, and renewed his commitment to follow Him with undivided loyalty. Jesus therefore re-invited him to be the head of his Church, feeding with the word and caring with love the Lord's small besieged flock. But all this happened because Jesus had prayed for him.
Somewhat earlier even Mary, the one-time Public Sinner, went through the same three steps of personal conversion, of tender acceptance of Jesus as her only Lover and Lord, and of evangelistic zeal to 'go and tell' everyone that 'the Saviour was waiting to enter their hearts too'. Firstly, her remorse for her sinful life was so passionate that she unashamedly shed tears of repentance even in the sight of her pharisaical accusers. Secondly, she demonstrated her love for Jesus by even wiping away unabashedly with her own hair Jesus' feet bedewed by her tears, and anointing them with, nay pouring out on them, the full jar of the costly aromatic perfume she had brought with her - drawing forth from Jesus the enigmatic but true comment to the sanctimonious but unfeeling religious leaders, who were slow to forgive but fast to condemn, that her sins were forgiven her, not so much because of her sorrow for them, but rather because of her love for her Lord, displayed later by being the first follower to come early on the third day to anoint the body of the 'dead' Jesus, and clinging on to him once she recognized him to be her risen and living Lord. Thirdly, Jesus acknowledged and rewarded her sincere sorrow for her sins and her indisputable love for him by entrusting her with making known his Resurrection even to the apostles themselves.
Somewhat later Paul too, the former persecutor of the Church, went through the same three steps of Christian Initiation. Ever since his encounter with the Risen Lord, when he realized that in persecuting the Church, he was in fact crucifying Jesus again, he always acknowledged with extraordinary repentance, publicly and in writing, that he was a great sinner. But he could now boast that everything he had cherished before was now deemed by him as dung in comparison with the surpassing knowledge he now had of Jesus, Crucified and Risen, so that he could assert with full confidence, 'I live, but not really I, for Christ lives in me'. And he could now even equally boast that the Lord had chosen him to be his special apostle to the gentiles, not because of any merits or talents of his own but because of the Charisms of the Holy Spirit that had been lavishly bestowed on him.
Two thousand years later, Peter's proclamation was echoed by Pope John the XXIII, when in convoking the Second Vatican Council precisely for Church Renewal, he bid all the Faithful pray with him, as Jesus prayed for the apostles and the infant church, this simple but significant prayer: 'Renew, O Lord, your Church in our days as by a New Pentecost with signs and wonders'. And that prayer has been answered in an awe inspiring way by the emergence of the many Renewal Movements and Ecclesial Communities, and especially of the Charismatic Renewal.
It is no wonder then that many re-count their birthday afresh as the day of their new birth, of being 'born again', of their 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit', the day when they deeply repented making a sincere and thorough confession of their whole life, the day when they had a personal encounter with Jesus, who became alive to them, and thus made him the only Lord of their lives, the day when they experienced even in a very tangible way a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit flooding their whole being, giving them a new current of Praise to worship the Lord, a new conviction in his Word to proclaim it to his people and a new compassion emanating from his Divine Mercy to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free.
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