New Century, New Movements  by Bp. B. Dembowski


          The 20th-Century, which is just passing, was witness to a large number of people leaving the Church and the faith.  On the other hand though, a certain rebirth of Christianity is noticeable.  An example is the Second Vatican Council.  Cardinal Suenens said that the Council was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the bishops, and also the origin of the new movements and communities of the Church--the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the laity.
Two events of the last few years show us more clearly the position of the Church with regard to the new movements and communities.
  The first is the World Congress of Ecclesiastical Movements held in 1998, which ended on the eve of Pentecost.  There were about 400 participants from 52 movements.  The Holy Father in his letter addressed to the participants said that their presence at the Congress is testimony of the diversity of the charisms, of educational methods, and of apostolate.  It is the diversity in the unity of our faith, hope and charity--all in obedience to Christ and to the pastors of the Church.    The pope indicated that in the mystery of the body of Christ, unity doesn’t mean uniformity and doesn’t exclude diversity. 
The second event is the Seminar for reflection and dialogue organized for bishops in June 1999 by the Pontifical Council for the Laity with the collaboration of the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The subject for discussion was "The ecclesiastical movements and new communities in the pastoral care of the bishops".  About one hundred archbishops and bishops (six cardinals) from forty-eight countries took part in those discussions.

            Bear in mind the importance of these words.  Our duty is to create unity in diversity, demonstrating the richness of the gifts of God.  John Paul II has written that the charisms approved by the Church are like paths, which lead to a more intimate knowledge of Christ, to the complete dedication of oneself to Christ in communion with all Christians.

             His explanation with regard to the role of the charisms is very important.  The Holy Father has written that there should be no contrast between the institutional and charismatic dimensions in the Church.  These two dimensions are co-essential elements of the Church founded by Christ.  These two elements contribute to the presence in the world of the mystery of Christ and his work of salvation.  Both lead to the self-conscience of the Church, which, in a certain sense, is "a movement".  For as it is in the Church that the mission of the Son is fulfilled through the action of the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

            John Paul II has stressed that the members of the new movements and communities must learn that faith is neither abstract reasoning nor hazy sentiment, but above all the new life in Christ aroused by the charisms of the Holy Spirit.  In the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium it is said that charism must be accepted with gratitude.  Discernment as to their authenticity, however, rests with the ecclesiastical authority, which is required not to extinguish the Spirit but to examine everything retaining what is good (LG n. 12).

            Prayer and general reflection on the mature fruits of unity and action are required.  Attention to unity within the Charismatic Renewal and the communities of prayer is important.  Such unity should be created from within the spheres of the parish and the diocese. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the Renewal in the life of the parish.  It must be remembered that Charismatic Renewal arose also through ecumenical contacts and it is therefore necessary to carefully examine ecumenical activity, in prayer, in order to create unity in diversity without losing one’s Catholic identity

             So it seems that the era of traditional religion is fading.  What will the 21 Century bring?  Will it be a continuing of the trend of fewer ordained and religious and more involvement of the laity in the life of the church?  The new lay movements and communities, through their life and prayer, can testify that faith is not something abstract or a hazy, touchy-feely sentiment but the new life in Christ aroused by the Holy Spirit.

            In this new century the new movements and fraternities—especially the prayer groups, can create environments where personal faith can be born and nurtured.  Community prayer has an enormous strength.  Through prayer and a profound Christian atmosphere, the fraternities can contribute to the healing of families so that they become places of faith. They can also serve to arouse vocations.

            May God sustain the Charismatic Renewal in this new millennium, so that it may carry out its duties within the Church and in the world.

Condensed from the ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City.


  Read other articles of Spiritual Enlightenment in the January 2001 edition of The Charismatics or return to the main menu by clicking here