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  Origin of Catholic Charismatic Renewal

How did the first pentecostals come into being?

The Pentecostals would compare their experience to Pentecost itself, hence their name. This was when the Holy Spirit fell in power on the apostles as they prayed in the Upper Room, and they were anointed and empowered with charisms for ministry. The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Paul, all speak of a Church that moved in the power of the Holy Spirit, and where tongues, healing and prophecy, among other gifts were all a normal part of Church life.

Throughout history since then, there have been various spontaneous revivals and outpouring of grace, whenever the Church seemed to be getting too institutionalised and dying. It is also obvious from the writings of the saints and the early Church Fathers, that they too experienced many of what are today considered charismatic phenomena. For ordinary Christians, however, at the turn of the 20th century, charisms like healing and tongues were things of the distant past and not to be expected in their every day Church life.

The first stirring of what we today call the Pentecostal movement, began at Topeka, Kansas, in the USA in 1901, when a group of students of a Bible school had an evening of prayer to the Holy Spirit. One of the woman students, Agnes Ozman, asked to have hands laid on her as it is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. As they prayed, she broke out into the gift of tongues.

It wasn't until 1906, however, that a spontaneous revival broke out in Azusa Street, Los Angeles. News of this spread across the United States and all over the world, including England. Although these early Pentecostals grew rapidly in number they were not accepted in the Churches and gradually began to form themselves into new denominations.

As the years went on, there was little contact between the Pentecostals and other Christians and it wasn't until the 1950's that through individual personal contacts, the Pentecostal revival began to seep back into the mainline Protestant Churches. Encouraged by Pentecostal leaders like David Du Plessis, these Neo-Pentecostals or Charismatics as they became known, chose to stay within their denominations, believing that the Baptism in the Spirit that they had received, with the accompanying charisms, was merely the fullness of the Christian experience, and not something that contradicted their denominational beliefs.

THE ORIGIN OF THE CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL

The outpouring and manifestation of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost continues in the Church today. The gift of the Spirit, as promised by Jesus and sent by the Father, is for all believers. It is God’s Spirit that transforms us to be children of God. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that great renewals, revivals and evangelisation occur.

In August of the year 1966, some lay Professors of the Duquesne University (pronounced as ‘Do Cain’) attended the Congress of the Cursillo Movement. They were looking forward for a new experience and hoped to achieve the full power of Faith and wished to find it in this spiritual formation movement, which had just started after the Vatican Council II in Spain. They had come to this movement after having been frustrated in their search in liturgical, ecumenical, apostolic and peace movements. At the Cursillo Congress, they got acquainted with Steve Clarke and Ralph Martin, co-ordinators of student activities at St. John's Parish, East Lansing, Michigan. It all began for them with the reading of two books: "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson, an autobiographical story of a Protestant Pastor who was led by strong inner impulses to abandon the life of a salaried Parish Minister and embark on a dangerous mission to the delinquents and drug addicts of Brooklyn in neighbourhoods, into which the average American would not venture at night, or even by day for that matter. The 2lst chapter of the book was, "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit" which formed and penetrated the hearts of the readers. The Duquesne Professors found what they had been missing in other movements. At this time one of the organizers of the meeting was Ralph Keifer who came across a book on Pentecostalism by John Sherrils which was titled, "They speak in other tongues" which became the source book, for those who had gathered for the meeting.

In the fall of the same year, this group met again for a period of deeper prayer and in it, "Come Holy Spirit" was recited and an important place was given to the Holy Spirit. Since these Catholic laymen wanted more clarification on the topic, some approached the Pentecostals, despite the somewhat repute of their doctrinal beliefs. W. Lewis an Episcopalian Priest, put this group in touch with a woman involved in Charismatic Movement. In January 1967, an invitation was given to them to attend a prayer meeting on January 13th, which was the day of the Baptism of Our Lord. At that meeting more anxious doubts arose at the way things were done. Ralph was confused by the prayer meeting. No doubt, he was positive about the high level sharing and lively theology, but his intellectual mind was scandalized at the literal interpretation of the Scriptures and the idea of direct communication with God. Out of these four who attended the meeting, only Ralph returned the following week, but had brought with him another Professor of Theology, Patrick Bourgeois and at the end of the meeting, the two men asked to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. One group prayed on Ralph, imposing their hands and the other group on Patrick. Ralph was asked to make an act of faith for the power of the Spirit to work. He prayed in tongues rather quickly. Ralph and the group began to have some deep and wonderful experiences of prayer. The result of all this was to seek an interdenominational and quite informal prayer group, who had undergone the experience called "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit" (the Acts of the Apostles and I Cor Chpts 12-14 were read literally by this group). The follow-up was on 18th and 19th February 1967 where about twenty-five students and University theology professors from Duquesne University got together for a retreat weekend at the Ark and the Dove retreat house outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to study the Acts of the Apostles and consider the claims of the Pentecostals as described in the two books, "The Cross and the Switchblade” and “They speak with other tongues.” They were praying for a new Pentecost throughout the weekend.

The Saturday night of the weekend had been set aside for relaxation. It was planned to celebrate a birthday party of one of the priests, but the party was rather slow in getting started, so Patti (Gallagher) went to gather people to come. On her way, she stopped in the second floor chapel. She remembers, "I wasn't going in to pray, just to tell any students there, to come down to the party. But as I entered into the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and knelt there, I was filled with a sense of awe. I had always believed by the gift of faith, that Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, but I had never experienced His glory. As I knelt there, my body literally trembled before His majesty. I felt really scared and said to myself, 'Get out of here quick because something is going to happen if you stay in the presence of God.’ As I knelt there before the Lord, for the first time in my life, I prayed what I would call a prayer of total surrender. I said, 'Father I give my life to you and whatever you want of me, that's what I choose. If it means suffering, then I accept that. Just teach me to follow your Son Jesus and to learn to love the way He loves.’”

In the next few moments Patti found herself prostrate, flat on her face before the tabernacle. No one had touched her but her shoes had come off. This was Holy ground. She was filled with an awareness of God's personal love, a love so completely undeserved, so utterly foolish, so lavishly given, that the only word that came now was 'stay.’

Though she wanted to remain in the chapel, she knew that if she could experience God's love in such a profound way, others could too. She told the other two students in the chapel, 'I pray that this will happen to you', then hurried to tell the priest-chaplain what had happened. As she left him, a few students asked 'What has happened to you? Your face looks different!' Patti told her story, then took them by the hand to the chapel. There she prayed, 'Lord, whatever you just did for me, do it for them!' Within half an hour, 12 of the 24 students were in the chapel. They stayed singing and praying from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following morning and during that night God touched each one in a unique way. Some felt God's love so deeply, that they couldn't do anything but weep. Others laughed and laughed. Some including Patti, felt a tremendous burning in their hands or going through their arms like fire. Others experienced a clicking in their throats or a tingling in their tongues. "You have to remember, we didn't know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit", said Patti.

In the weeks that followed, the students gradually learned about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They told their friends and colleagues about it and within a few months the Catholic Pentecostal Movement, as it was known then, had spread to half a dozen other campuses and within a few years, there were prayer groups and meetings all over America.

Pope John XXIII’s prayer in preparation for the Vatican Council was, “O Holy Spirit pour forth the fullness of your gifts, renew your wonders in this our day as by a new Pentecost.” On 8th December 1965, the council ended. A great renewal for the Catholic Church began, a renewal that would encompass the entire Church: clergy, religious, laity. In just little over a year, 1 year 2 months after Second Vatican Council ended, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began and it is one of the many spiritual renewals and the fastest growing movement in the Catholic Church. The Charismatic movement derives its name from the Greek word charismata meaning “gifts of the spirit.” These gifts include, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, prophesying, gifts of healing, etc. The movement teaches that the Holy Spirit who first manifested these gifts and powers to Christians in the apostolic age, still grants them to believers today.

In May l968, at the first national leaders conference at Ann Arbour, Michigan about 150 people turned up; in the beginning of 1969 there were about 450 for the conference; in 1971 there were 500 and the movement spread in leaps and bounds, and the attendance steadily came up. A stencilled Pastoral Newsletter for leaders in the movement was started in Michigan on1st May 1969. In June 1970, it became an eight page printed publication, which climbed to a circulation of 1200 in the US and abroad. It was renamed New Covenant in July 1971, and it continues today with an ever increasing circulation and 64 page publication.

The International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) is based in Rome and acts as the centre of communication within the worldwide Charismatic Renewal. It also serves as liaison between the Charismatic Renewal and the Vatican. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is active in 130 countries and is fully supported and encouraged by the Bishops of the Church. Over the weeks, months and years that followed, the Charismatic Renewal made inroads into every aspect of the Church worldwide. By 1990 the movement had grown to include more than 72 million Catholics worldwide, over 15 million in America. Many believe that this renewal is a direct result of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII’s prayer. Some of the Catholic leadership of the new movement were Ralph Martin, Steve Clarke, Kevin Ranaghan and Fr. Jim Ferry.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal centers on the renewal of individual commitment to the person of Jesus Christ in His Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This commitment has been the centre of every authentic renewal in the history of the Church. The commitment begins by the re-anointing with the presence of the Holy Spirit what is sometimes called, “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This occurs when individuals ask Jesus Christ, who is the One who gives the Holy Spirit, to stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit within their hearts. Paul said to Timothy in II Tim 1:6, “I remind you to stir into Flame, the Gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” This is primarily the renewal of gifts received in baptism and confirmation. The results are many. Along with the reception of the charisms, people who have experienced this renewal in the Holy Spirit, talk of a new and deeper personal knowledge of Jesus. They find new power and meaning in all forms of prayer, a new love of scripture, a new and deeper appreciation of the Church, of the Liturgy, of the Sacraments, of the Pope, of Mary, of Mass, Rosary and the Way of the Cross. These characteristics of the Charismatic Renewal have led Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to actively encourage the faithful and the clergy to become involved in the Charismatic Renewal. Clearly, the Charismatic Renewal is in and for the Church, not alongside the Church.

In 1972, Leo Joseph Cardinal Suenens Archbishop of Malines, Brussels in Belgium, personally encountered the Charismatic Renewal during a visit to the U.S. He said, “Rather than a movement, C.R. is a moving of the Holy Spirit which can reach all Christians lay or cleric.” Cardinal Suenens was invited by Pope Paul VI to lead and encourage the C.R. worldwide. In his book ‘A New Pentecost’ he says “It is comparable to a high voltage current of grace coursing through the Church.”

In 1975, Pope Paul VI personally invited the renewal to hold its annual conference, ‘World Congress’ in Rome where 10,000 charismatics gathered. In a special session during that conference, the Pope stated, “Nothing is more necessary to this more and more secularized world, than the witness of the ‘spiritual renewal’ that we see the Holy Spirit evoking in the most diverse regions. How then could this spiritual renewal not be a ‘chance’ for the Church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so?”

Pope John Paul II met with groups of charismatic people and at one such encounter said, “Remain in an attitude of constant and graceful availability for every gift, that the Spirit wishes to pour into your hearts.”

The emergence of the Renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. It was a sign of a desire on the part of many Catholics to live more fully their Baptismal dignity and vocation as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, to know the redeeming power of Christ our Saviour, in a more intense experience of individual and group prayer and to follow the teaching of the Scriptures by reading them in the light of the same Spirit, who inspired their writing. Certainly, one of the most important results of this spiritual reawakening has been, that increased thirst for holiness which is seen in the lives of individuals and in the whole Church.

Pope John Paul II

Encouraged by the leadership of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, many Catholic Bishops of the United States, Canada and many Bishops in South America and Europe have written pastoral statements supporting and encouraging the renewal. The Bishops of the United States in their pastoral letter to the American Church and the Charismatic Renewal, wrote the following in 1984. “The Charismatic Renewal is rooted in the witness of the Gospel tradition, Jesus is Lord by the power of the Spirit to the Glory of the Father.

It is in and for the Church not alongside the Church, because the CCR is at the heart of the Church, it also has a role in parish renewal.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa

Preacher to the Pope for over 18 years said, “The sacraments are a gift given to all Christians, but the charisms are given to all Christians for the sanctification and good of the entire Church. It is like two channels that interweave in the Church, the living Body of Christ. The grace of the Holy Spirit flows through them both. A body breathes with both lungs and the lungs of the Church are the sacraments and the gifts.”

The Baptism in the Spirit

The primary grace of the Charismatic Renewal is the Pentecostal grace known as, “The Baptism in the Spirit”, which brings about a deeper conversion to Christ and releases the Holy Spirit to work in an individual’s life in a more powerful way. This is often accompanied by the charisms mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul.

The Baptism in the Spirit is not a sacrament, but revitalises and makes real the graces received in the sacraments of initiation, namely baptism and confirmation. At the beginning of the Church, baptism was such a powerful event in the individual’s life, that there was no need for a new effusion of the Spirit as we need today. In fact, baptism was only conferred on adults after a lengthy catechesis and only when there were clear signs of conversion working in the person’s life.

Recent research by scholars Fr Kilian McDonnell OSB and Fr George Montague SM, have shown that what are considered today as extraordinary charisms, were a normal part of Church life until the 8th century, and the experience known in the Charismatic Renewal as ‘the Baptism in the Spirit’ was the normative Christian experience.

The findings of these scholars have been summarised in a small booklet called ‘Fanning the Flame’ produced by the National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States. They state in their introduction “We believe that this gift of Baptism in the Holy Spirit belongs to the Christian inheritance of all those sacramentally initiated into the Church” and “This life in the Holy Spirit is not, therefore, one spiritually up among others in the Church. It is the spirituality of the Church.”

Vatican II & St. Paul: “It is not only through the sacraments and Church ministries that the same Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God. He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit” I Cor 12:7. These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation. For they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church” (LG 12).

The gifts are not for the individual but for the whole community. God gives understanding about Himself and the Christian walk: Wisdom, Knowledge and Discernment. God acts in His community: Faith, Healing and Miracles. God speaks to His people: Prophecy, Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues.

The vision and aim of the Charismatic Renewal is to assist in the renewal of the parish, by providing opportunities for individuals to deepen their prayer life and experience of God, that they may be spiritually renewed and foster their gifts for the building of God’s kingdom.

Prayer meetings which are central to the Charismatic Renewal are held weekly and provide the opportunity to:

  • Bring people to Christ.
  • Be a channel of grace for all those who come.
  • Help people to grow in faith and Holiness.
  • Help people to yield to the action of the Holy Spirit in their own lives and in the service of others.
  • Foster the charismatic gifts for the up building of the Body of Christ.
  • Grow as a community in the Body of Christ.

Catholic Charismatic Renewal in India

Minoo Engineer, a young Parsi civil engineer, while studying at Fordham University in the U.S.A., became a Catholic through his involvement with Charismatics. It was he who typically brought the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to India in 1972. Incidentally, the same year two Jesuits, Fr. Fuster and Fr. Bertie Phillips who had been to the United States for studies and research returned. The first prayer group was held on Mondays in the evenings in Bombay (Mumbai). There were only four members present, Fr. Fio Mascarenhas sj, Sister Olga, Minoo and Luz Maria Engineer. It soon spread to Bandra with a lot of encouragement from the Medical Mission Sisters of the Holy Family Hospital. It started growing and the biggest group was at St. Andrew's which was led very ably by Terence and Beryl Fonn and Sr. Bernadine. Another group soon started in St. Teresa's Parish. Minoo lived in Vile Parle and started a group in Dilkush Convent at Juhu, only to move soon to the Parish of Juhu. Small groups were formed and started in private homes, the Asha Colony in Juhu Tara and in the Royal Hotel. Four groups were formed in Byculla, beginning in the Institute of the Deaf Mutes in Mazagoan. There was a very active group in Mahim in the Presentation Convent with Sr. Basil and Margaret D'souza. Fr. Fuster and Fr. Phillips started the Life in the Spirit Seminars and prayer groups were well attended by around 60 members. Prayer meetings were held at St. Xavier's College under Fr. Fuster's leadership. The Renewal spread to Poona (now called Pune) and to Goa. Then to Gauhati (Assam) where the Renewal started in the Air Force Colony as an inter denominational Prayer Group. Later to Delhi and prayer groups functioned at St. Thomas Parish and St. Dominic's Parish. In such ways small groups spread to all corners of India.

Various Activities of the Charismatic Renewal in India

It was way back in 1974 -75 when the Charismatic Renewal in the country of India was very young and growing and the Holy Spirit was moving and renewing people every day, that a group of 30 leaders in Bombay were invited to attend a day of recollection at Seva Niketan-Byculla, Bombay (Mumbai). There were four important decisions taken at the end of the day:

  • ·To nominate a Service Team for Bombay.
  • To serve the Renewal in India.
  • To hold the first National Charismatic Convention.
  • To print the first edition of "Praise the Lord" hymn book.
  • To publish a journal to be named Charisindia to serve the Renewal.

The National Service Team

The National Service Team (NST) is the apex body of national leaders chosen to serve the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in India. Its role is threefold:

  • ·A Discerning Body: It does this act by keeping in touch with all the expressions of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the country, the NST helps it discern and follow God's plan.
  • ·A Prophetic Body: The NST is called upon to lead the people in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to grow in Holiness. It does this by helping to encourage, guide, admonish and thus build up the Body of Christ which is the Church through the use of the special charisms of the Holy Spirit.
  • ·A Servant Body: The NST is a body of servant leaders chosen from among those involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to carry out those services and functions, necessary for the orderly growth of the renewal.

In these threefold roles, the NST is always in submission to the apostolic tradition in the Church as represented by the Pope, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the local Ordinary. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is related to the Commission for Christian Life of the CBCI and its Chairman is a member of the Commission for Christian Life.

The services of the National Service Team is to strive to co-operate with God's plan, in and through the Charismatic Renewal and it is responsible for the following services:

National Conventions; Conferences; Seminars

It is to plan, develop and organise periodical national conventions, conferences and seminars so as to make them effective instruments of growth, as well as witness to the Lordship of Jesus on the whole Church.

Regional Conventions, Conferences, Seminars

It is to work with the regional leaders in planning and organizing Regional Conventions, Conferences and Seminars.

Magazine and Literature

"Charisindia" is the official magazine of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which is published by the NST, to provide suitable literature for the growth of the Renewal.

Audio-Visual aids

In order to undertake the supervision of the contents of these productions.

Provisions of Teachers and Preachers

In order to provide the resource persons for preaching and teaching and other Ministries whose gifts have been discerned and found genuine.

Training programs

Training of the resource personnel, both in the National and Regional level conducted by National Pastoral Teams, Bible Institute, Bible Camps, Seminars, etc.

 

 

 


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