THE IDENTITY OF THE
CHARISMATIC RENEWAL IN THE CHURCH
For private use
The Importance of a Clear Identity
return to memory we achieve a livelier consciousness of our own
identity” (cf. John Paul II, Memory and Identity). It is so
necessary for the Charismatic Renewal to make memory of what God has
done through it within His Church. To make memory is to discover and
to define the history that God has written through His intervention
and in His response to man. The Renewal ought to find its history
and make memory in order to discover its identity. Identity is our
being. What is the Charismatic Renewal? How did it come about? What
is its origin? What is its purpose? What happened at its beginning,
and how does it come to fulfill its reason for being? How long has
Only he who is
sure of his identity can fulfill the purpose for which God gave him
existence. Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it
be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1,38). The Virgin
recognized her identity first. She first understood who she was and
the essence of her being. She then responded with totality – from
who she was – to fulfill the designs of God. We, too, have to
understand the identity of the Renewal so that, with a clear vision
of its essence, it can fulfill with clarity its mission in the
Renewal in the Holy Spirit came forth at a time in which paths were
being laid out for the renewal of the Church, and it was desired,
ordained and inaugurated by the Vatican Council II. On the 25th
of January, 1959, His Holiness John XXIII announced his desire to
convoke an Ecumenical Council, and he did so formally on the 25th
of December, 1961 with this prayer: “Divine
Spirit, renew your wonders in this year as if it were a new
Pentecost and concede that your Church, praying perseveringly and
insistently with a single heart and mind together with Mary the
Mother of Jesus, and guided by Peter, may promote the reign of your
Divine Savior, the reign of justice, love and peace.”
In this prayer,
the Pope wanted to manifest the three dimensions of the Church at
the Cenacle, which received the graces of Pentecost:
prayer dimension: The Church in prayer, having a unity of mind
Marian dimension: The Church with Mary, receiving the effects of
Ecclesial dimension: The Church in communion with Peter, in the
Heart of the Church
These are the
three conditions for a full experience of Pentecost: prayer, Mary
and ecclesial union. The fruit is the proclamation of Christ as
Savior and promotion of His reign. In other words, it is the
offering of one’s heart and all of oneself in order to experience
the effects of His salvation and to live according to the spirit of
love, in fraternal and mature relationships that establish a new
How does it
Renewal did not have a founder or foundress. Instead it began as a
direct intervention of the Holy Spirit within a group of people. It
was not a humanly planned event, but rather it occurred in an
unexpected and spontaneous way. It came about during a climate of
expectation in the Church; a council has just finished, and this
council had asked for the spiritual renewal of the whole Church.
fall of 1966, by the action of the Holy Spirit, various Catholic
professors from the University of Duquesne began to gather
frequently in fervent prayer and in conversation about their
faith lives. Each one noticed that there was a certain void,
a lack of dynamism, and a spiritual weakness in their prayers
and activities. Conscious that the strength of the primitive
Christian community was the result of the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost, they began to pray that the Divine Spirit
would manifest its power in them. They began to ask the Holy
Spirit to renew them and to fill their lives with His power.
They prayed for each other, “Come Holy Spirit!”
weeks later, as they were in prayer, they received the anointing
or baptism in the Spirit. On February 30 some other people
participated in a retreat at the university and began to claim
the power of the Holy Spirit; they too were filled with His
moved from there, and similar events occurred in Notre Dame,
then in Michigan…The Charismatic Renewal was born! It all began
with a small flame in Pittsburgh. Thanks to the uncontainable
force of the Spirit, this flame spread itself like wildfire,
invading the five continents of the earth. This fire ignited
with uncontrollable ardor, and in just a few years, the Renewal,
which began in a small room like the first Cenacle, has now
spread throughout the entire world. All that is of God is born
small because it is the force of the Holy Spirit that causes it
to spread. The only thing necessary is to be present in the
Cenacle and then to leave there as a living witness, with the
power of the Spirit, the power of the fire that was received.
WHAT IS THE
I will give you
definitions that have been voiced by recent Supreme Pontiffs on
1. A gift of
the Holy Spirit
Renewal – in its essence, experience and characteristics – has been
defined by the Church as a gift of the Spirit for our historic
moment. It is a charism of actualization of the grace of
Pentecost. What is a charism of the Holy Spirit? It is a free,
supernatural gift in a historic moment that is given for the common
good, for the edification of the Body of Christ. In the particular
case of the Charismatic Renewal, the gift of the Holy Spirit did not
begin with a person, but with a group, thus making actual the
experience of Pentecost. “Thanks to the Charismatic Movement, a
multitude of Christians, men and women, young people and adults have
rediscovered Pentecost as a living reality in their daily lives.”
(Celebration of First Vespers of Pentecost, Homily of John Paul
II, Saturday, May 29, 2004).
Now, if it is a
gift that manifests itself in a historic event, then it is also an
occurrence. Therefore, it has also been defined as “a spiritual
event,” a fruit of the Holy Spirit that takes place in a historic
moment. It is an event that is the fruit of the prayers of John
XXIII, the prayers of the Council Fathers, and the frequent
addresses of Paul VI that invoked the gift of the Holy Spirit for
the Church. In their ardent cooperation with the Holy Spirit, these
Pastors interceded and supplicated that the grace and event of
Pentecost may repeat itself again with a “new force.”
3. One of
the Graces of the Second Vatican Council (C. Ratzinger)
said that the Church entered a “wintertime” after the Council. It
was even said that it seemed as if, after the great flowering of the
Council, a deep frost penetrated the springtime and fatigue replaced
the new dynamism. It seemed as if the dynamism was everywhere
except in the Church. On the other hand, many others – including
entire nations and political systems – wanted to see a world without
God. Some others asked themselves, “Where is God? Does not the
Church, after having desired renewal so much, now find itself
immersed in a storm?” But then there was suddenly something that
was not planned by anyone. In this time, the Holy Spirit – if
we can say it this way – asked to speak out again. By this action
of the Holy Spirit, faith was renewed in young men and women, and
they experienced the living God.
The Holy Spirit
inspired the Church, through the Council, to implore and desire
renewal, and He himself sent the graces necessary to bring it
about. The Charismatic Renewal has been understood by the recent
Popes as one of the graces of the Holy Spirit so ardently
asked for in the Council, conceded to the Church in a moment of
great difficulty. This definition should always be understood:
one of the graces, together with many others, of the perennial
action of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
Renewal has not invented something new; it has not added something
novel to what has already existed in the heart and the history of
the Church. The history of the Church is a 2000 year history of the
action of the Holy Spirit. Everything is rooted in the perpetual
Pentecost in which the Church lives. All the gifts that He brings
to fruition in the Church need to be embraced with gratitude (LG
12), and in reality our prayer must always be that the Holy Spirit
infuse His power in the Church, increasing her charisms (holiness,
before all else) in order to make it more fruitful.
Charismatic Renewal revitalizes what already exists. For this
reason it is a gift of profound spiritual renewal which can be
found within all states of life and in all areas. It is a fire
that is disposed to enflame all people and to ignite the entire
experience of the Renewal is fruit of what has already existed
in the Church. Experience does not come before existence;
rather, lived experience is an aspect of what the Church teaches
us, and it is part of its life, part of the treasure it
possesses in its maternal womb.
Christianity is first a state of being, and then from that being
we have experiences. For example, the Holy Spirit is the soul
of the Church; it is its strength, its light, its wisdom, its
fruitfulness. What has the Renewal experienced? Only this.
The experience is the living actualization of
the truth already contained in the center of the Church.
The Charismatic Renewal
encompasses both the existence and the experience; it takes from
what already exists in the life of the Church, and it
experiences it in its own life. It has a particular identity in
which the truths of the faith have been understood through a
Actualization of the interior effects and the exterior signs of
of the Holy Spirit in the Church after the Council directed our gaze
toward the Cenacle. In order to understand profoundly this renewal
in the Holy Spirit desired by God in our days, it is necessary to
look upon the experience the Apostles had on Pentecost Sunday and to
weigh each one of the elements or signs that constitute the unending
richness of the Spirit’s effusion.
extraordinary effusion of the Spirit upon those present at the
Cenacle was manifested with certain external signs that orientate
our attention to and uncover, as much as it is possible, the
internal experience of the Spirit in the Apostles. The signs are
real, and their purpose is to direct us to the interior actions that
Events of Pentecost:
Personal conversion, openness to the
charisms, formation of a community, and the power to evangelize.
Wind: The Holy Spirit
is not seen but His actions are real. He blows when He wants and how
He wants, and the only thing necessary for the accomplishment of His
work is our docility. The wind of the Holy Spirit is perceived by
the effects that He produces.
Noise: The Holy Spirit evokes praise,
clamor, exclamations, tongues, and songs.
Fire: The Holy Spirit is a sanctifying
fire that consumes the old man and purifies him. It causes him to
burn with charity, and it moves him to be a witness of His power to
the entire world. The fire of the Holy Spirit leads to holiness and
Shaking of the Earth: The Holy Spirit
shakes us. He moves even the most intimate areas of the human heart,
removing the roots of sin and tearing away the fear that suspends
and paralyzes us.
Formation of community: He causes those
who receive Him to congregate in communities of love, prayer, and
Pentecost we see the expressive dimension of the faith;
the gestures that reveal what the heart lives. Our Faith is given a
face and gestures. In his first meeting with the international
council for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1979, John Paul II
expressed similar sentiments, saying, “Thank you. It was an
expression of faith. Indeed, the singing, the words and the
gestures. It is… how does one say it? I can say that it is a
revolution of this living expression of the faith. We say that the
faith is a matter of the intelligence, and at times also of the
heart, but this expressive dimension has been absent. This dimension
of the faith was diminished, indeed inhibited, scarcely there. Now
we can say that this movement is everywhere” (December 11, 1979).
For Pentecost to
be, there were two indispensable principles, which can in no
way be renounced: to be with the Blessed Virgin Mary and to be with
Peter. In other words, the Marian principle and the Petrine
principle must both be present, for they are the two fundamental
pillars of the life of the Church and the action of the Holy
Spirit. To live this charism in the Heart of the Church and at its
service requires one to have a Marian openness to receive the
Spirit, the humility of being in prayer with the Mother of the
Church, and the humility of being in obedience to the Head of the
CHARACTERISTICS HAVE BEEN PROPER TO THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL?
Being a grace of
actualization of Pentecost, the Renewal ought to present the same
characteristics as that first gift of the Holy Spirit.
should be a transformation of the interior, a change of life, and a
profound conversion that includes:
personal encounter with the living Christ as Savior and Lord and
the desire to give oneself to Him.
inclination towards prayer, both personal and communitarian.
Prayers of intercession should possess a deep trust in the power
return to contemplation and praise.
meditation of the Scriptures and the sacraments of
Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
disposition to the actions of the Holy Spirit and the
discernment and interior lights He brings.
greater consciousness of the need for interior healing; this
should lead us to encounter the wounds of our sins and the roots
of our conduct and behavior.
freedom from obstacles and attachments in our hearts. We must
remove disordered bonds, bring down walls, and allow the Holy
Spirit to act with liberty.
awakening of the powerful action of God in the events of human
should bring the dynamism of evangelization to edify the Church.
I see the Renewal in the light of what happened on Pentecost: at
the Cenacle, the apostles received the effusion of the Holy Spirit,
they lost their fear, received charisms, and they went out to
the entire world as witnesses of the graces they had received.
Therefore the Renewal should embrace:
of community and fraternity, having groups of prayer,
communities with greater commitments, and apostolates in many
desire to proclaim to the world the fundamental kerigma,
the announcement of the Gospel, to all nations and in all
environments. It should have a hunger to make the Lord known.
openness to the charisms of the Holy Spirit: praise, tongues,
prophecy, visions, intuitions, etc. There should be healings
and miracles for the common good.
Frequent conferences in order to glorify God and to meditate on
spirituality that touches all other spiritualities, which renews
and revitalizes the spiritual currents the Holy Spirit has
already brought about throughout the history of the Church.
This spirituality should not lift them out from their roots, but
rather infuse into them a particular strength. It should be a
gift for all.
John Paul II was
“convinced that this movement is a very important component of the
entire renewal of the Church” (Dec. 11, 1979, speaking to a group of
international Renewal leaders). As well, to the Bishops from the
North of France, he spoke of the Renewal as “a grace which has come
precisely to sanctify the Church and to renew in her the taste for
prayer through the rediscovery, with the Holy Spirit, of the sense
of gratuitousness, of joyful praise, of confidence in intercession;
and this becomes a new source of evangelization” (Jan. 22, 1987).
Furthermore, during a Pentecost homily, he specially spoke these
words concerning the Renewal: “I hope that the spirituality of
Pentecost will spread in the Church as a renewed incentive to
prayer, holiness, communion and proclamation” (Celebration of
First Vespers of Pentecost, Saturday, May 29, 2004).
3. It should
respond to the challenges of the Church in the modern world.
Paul VI said,
“It (the Charismatic Renewal) ought to rejuvenate the world, give it
back a spirituality, a soul, and religious thought; it ought to
reopen its closed lips to prayer and open its mouth to song, to joy,
to hymns, and to witnessing...because in today’s world, we either
live our faith with devotion, with depth, with energy and with joy
or we will lose it” (May 19, 1975, Address at International
Charismatic Renewal Conference in Rome). In other words, it is
necessary to live the faith with a new strength and to evangelize
with a new ardor, a new method, and a new expression, one that
appeals to and reaches the heart of modern man.
Paul II, in a meeting with new ecclesial movements and communities,
said that they are “the response, given by the Holy Spirit, to this
critical challenge at the end of the millennium” (May 30, 1998,
Vigil of Pentecost during the Year of the Holy Spirit).
At a dark moment
the Holy Spirit has sent forth His rays of light; during a dangerous
hour He has sent His comfort and His strength; during a moment of
harsh cold He has sent His fire. Because of this, in the same
International Conference in 1975, Paul VI said to the leaders of the
Renewal, “It will be very fortuitous for our times, for the
faithful, that there should be a generation…who shouts out to the
world the glory and the greatness of the God of Pentecost…This grace
needs to be experienced in its fullness…We live in the Church in a
privileged moment of the Holy Spirit…The Church and the world need
more than ever that 'the miracle of Pentecost' should continue in
Again, we listen
the words of John Paul II: “The Charismatic Renewal is an eloquent
manifestation of this vitality today, a bold statement of what ‘the
Spirit is saying to the churches’ (Rev. 2,7)” (May 15, 1987
at the Sixth International Assembly of the Charismatic Renewal). The
world needs this action of the Holy Spirit very much, as well as
many instruments for this action, because the situation of the world
is very dangerous. Materialism opposes the spirit, and there are
many forms of it. Because materialism is the denial of the
spiritual, it requires the action of the Spirit to combat it.
However, in his
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of
the Third Millennium), Servant of God John Paul II said that in
order to make memory it is necessary to discover not only the lights
behind the events but also the shadows (no.6).
ought to reflect and make memory of the vicissitudes of the past, in
order to discover the great lights that are present today”
(cf. Memory and Identity, JPII).
at the beginning
All of God’s
works, in the process of coming to know and understand themselves
and finding their identity, stumble along their way.
In the beginning
of the Renewal there certainly were no lack of dangers because the
action of the Holy Spirit develops within earthen vessels (2 Cor
4,7). These earthen vessels can both repress one’s free action and
weaken it. We are familiar with many of these weaknesses:
excessive importance given to the emotional experience of the
uncontrolled search for the spectacular and the extraordinary
submission to rash interpretations that often deviate from the
falling back that often becomes a refusal to apostolic
Independence and complacency that isolate people from the heart
of the Church and Her pastors
these, the we must remain in constant and grateful activity towards
all the gifts the Holy Spirit desires to infuse into our hearts, but
without forgetting that no charism is given that is not for the
“common good” (cf. 1 Cor 12,7). The Renewal, just like any other
charism, is always for the Church and finds its identity by being
“church” and by remaining in communion with the Church, its pastors,
its Magisterium and its pastoral vision.
beginning, while the gift opened a way for us and grew in
maturity, some people in the Renewal did not understand how to
fit this gift into the heart of the Church. Some even came to
think that it was an indispensable grace for the survival of the
Church, when in reality, what is indispensable for her life and
the guarantee of all her charisms is the Church herself. All
the works of God grow in the womb of the Church, and they exist
for her good.
of the Holy Spirit is to be lived or exercised if it is not
within the maternal womb of the Church. For this reason,
Pentecost happened at the Cenacle (the room of the Last Supper,
where the Eucharist, the priesthood and the pastors came to be).
This is an ecclesial womb, in which the Mother of the Church
with her maternal heart was united with the visible Head of the
Church, the Petrine heart. With this action, the Holy Spirit
indicated that the Church is a family – Mother, Head and body –
in which the Holy Spirit gives life through His power throughout
history, engendering with His “wind” many different charisms. In
short, the Marian and Petrine principles were necessarily
present at Pentecost.
Ratzinger, in a document on Ecclesial Movements, described with
great exactness the difficulties of the beginning, stating, “These
Movements, effectively so, bore the illness of the first stage. They
were given the possibility of embracing the action of the Holy
Spirit who, nonetheless, acts through men who are not freed
immediately from their weaknesses” (cf. The Theological Locus of
Ecclesial Movements, 1998). He goes on to describe some of these
tendency towards exclusivity, not seeing the movement as a part
of a whole. This made difficult their integration into the local
belief, even conviction, that the local church had to elevate
itself to its model or level and not vice versa. From this
arose frictions for which both parties were responsible.
necessary to reflect on how these two realities – the new ecclesial
birth originating from new situations and the pre-existing
structures of ecclesial life, namely, parishes and the dioceses –
could relate in an adequate manner. There exists a fundamental
manner of ecclesial life in which the continuity of the historical
order of the Church is expressed. As well, there are always new
eruptions of the Holy Spirit that renew and bring to life the
structures of the Church. However, these renewals are almost never
immune to sufferings and friction. Therefore, we are not free from
the obligation of clarifying how to integrate with continuity what
is already established and what has just come forth as something
new. The shadows at the beginning are a fruit of immaturity and
bewilderment in the face of something new. They are shadows that,
as a whole, can be overcome, and they are never stronger than the
rays of light that are transmitted through these works of God.
Paul VI who saw
the need to prolong the wonder of Pentecost in this moment of
history also said, “So therefore, how is this spiritual renewal not
going to be a gift to the Church and to the world? And how can we
not adopt all the measures necessary so that it will continue to be
so? This spiritual renewal must come from a solid base of
ecclesial communion, of communion of spirits and of purpose with
the Church and of an absolute fidelity to the doctrine of faith."
Here he expresses the means through which the Renewal will
accomplish its end.
These two means,
communion with the Church and fidelity to its doctrine, that were
presented in such a clear manner by Paul VI to the Charismatic
Renewal are the clear way for this Movement to live and advance with
Servant of God
John Paul II affirmed this on May 30th, 1998 in his
meeting with ecclesial movements and new communities: “There is so
much need today for mature Christian personalities, conscious of
their baptismal identity, of their vocation and mission in the
Church and in the world! There is great need for living Christian
communities! And here are the movements and the new ecclesial
communities: they are the response, given by the Holy Spirit, to
this critical challenge at the end of the millennium. You are this
providential response” (no.7).
said, “Today a new stage is unfolding before you: that of ecclesial
maturity” (n.6). The Charismatic communities are also called today
to take this step, and I am sure that the International Catholic
Charismatic Renewal Services will be able to play an important role
towards the maturation of ecclesial consciousness in the diverse
charismatic Catholic communities all over the world. What John Paul
II said at that moment in St. Peter’s, I repeat now for all of you
congregated here in Rimini: “The Church expects from you the
‘mature’ fruits of communion and commitment” (ibid).
What is ecclesial maturity?
Rylko (president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity) explains
to us that ecclesial maturity means:
consciousness of the vocation in the Church as an ecclesial
movement. This means that one must have clarity as to one’s
identity and mission.
love for the Church, the Pope and the bishops. It means
feeling with the Church.
faithful to the Magisterium of the Church.
a passion for mission and evangelization. Strong proclamation is
an urgent need, but it necessarily must be accompanied by a
profound and solid Christian formation.
fidelity to one’s own charism, living it profoundly and not
superficially, and courageously and authentically communicating
it to others.
Possessing a profound sense of ecclesial communion, including
communion with other Movements and communities. Saint Bernard
of Clairvaux spoke on this: “I admire all of them; I belong to
one of them by observance, but to all of them through charity.
We need one another; the spiritual good that I do not have or
possess, I receive from the others.” This appreciation for all
gifts and movements is an essential component of ecclesial
maturity because in each of them, I see the same active
principal: the Holy Spirit.
schools of communion
John Paul II
encouraged the Charismatic Renewal to be “living signs of hope, a
light of the Good News of Christ for all men and women of our times”
(cf. no.2. Message at the 8th International Meeting of
the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and
Fellowships, June 1, 1998). This requires, he added, us to be
“authentic witnesses,” to “maintain a close link with the Bishops
and the Roman Pontiff,” and hold to the truth the world today so
needs (cf. ibid, no.3). Charismatic communities, concluded the Pope,
have a great challenge that the new millennium presents to the
Church: to be the home and the school of communion.
In this eloquent
gesture, John Paul II chose Pentecost 1998, during a year dedicated
to the Holy Spirit, to congregate all of the ecclesial movements,
thereby manifesting in a fundamental manner the action of the Holy
Spirit. By doing this, he wanted to strengthen – in a great Cenacle,
centered around the Eucharist –communion with Peter, who should be,
as successor of the Apostle, cared for and supported. He desired the
movements to give a common testimony before the Church and the
world. This congress was promoted officially by the Pontifical
Council for the Laity. This Council formally invited a
representative of the Charismatic Renewal to present the Holy
Father, in the name of all the movements, vows of fidelity to His
Holiness and the Church.
Where is the
I do not know; I
can only give my humble perception. How do I see the Charismatic
Renewal in my own limited experience? During the Easter Vigil I
imagined a furnace that burned with great flames where we all came
to pray; from there we all entered into the Church. Then the Pascal
Candle was lit with the fire from this furnace and after each one of
our candles was lit. The Church was dark because there was no
light, but it was illuminated with the fire from each one of these
This is how I
see the Charismatic Renewal: as a furnace in the heart of the
Church, from which many – groups, movements, apostolates – receive
the fire that ignites their candles. With this fire they ignite the
Church. The Charismatic Renewal, according to my poor understanding,
will be a furnace in which many will be ignited and then will go out
to serve the Church where she is most in need. For the Lord told
us, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were
already blazing!” (Lk 12,49). The mission of the Charismatic
Renewal is to ignite the fire, to enlarge it, and to give it away so
that each candle can light up that corner where the Church needs it.
Back to Main Page of Mother's Teachings>>>