I am totally convinced that there is nothing to compare with being part of this mighty move of the Holy Spirit which we have called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. So I am an enthusiast, but I hope a realist too, always seeking a better understanding of its place in the Church, its particular call, the effects it has had in the last thirty years, and open to whatever the Lord may have in store for tomorrow. I believe that this grace of Pentecost is for each and every Christian man and woman. It is to be received without conditions, and to be lived out spiritually and practically day by day. This is the background of faith and experience against which I am writing.
A SOVEREIGN WORK OF GOD
No grass-roots movement in the Church has ever traveled as fast or as far as this one. But it was and remains unlike any other movement in the Church, for there is no inspired human founder, no universal program of initiation or formation. It is simply, powerfully and uniquely a sovereign work of God through his Holy Spirit, which touches the lives of men and women in many different settings and circumstances, bringing new faith and setting them on fire with a love and zeal to serve him and his people. In the words of the late Cardinal Suenens:
"To interpret the Renewal as a movement among other movements is to misunderstand its nature; it is a movement of the Spirit offered to the entire Church and destined to rejuvenate every part of the Churchs life. The soul of renewalBaptism in the Spiritis a grace of Pentecostal refreshment offered to all Christians."
The International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service View
In an early ICCRS document it was clearly stated that the aims of the Charismatic Renewal are one and the same as the objectives of the Churchthe conversion, sanctification and salvation of every single human being. Its distinctive characteristic is an understanding that the role of the Holy Spirit in this work has not changed since the day of Pentecost, and that we can experience his outpouring, his power and his gifts in the very same way they were experienced and recognized by the early Christians. The proof of the authenticity of all this depends primarily on a study of its effects on peoples lives, for its aim is not to provide religious experiences but to help people live a renewed and effective Christian life, serving the mission of the Church. While emphasizing the essential role of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal remains Christ-centered, clearly proclaiming Jesus as Savior and Lord of all, and teaching that to know him is our only path to true fulfillment and peace. This new life in Christ is then to be lived out in the community of the Church, and to be carried forth into the world.
In all of this, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal owes much to the inspiration, example and encouragement of Christians in many Protestant and Pentecostal churches, who had already experienced the same grace in their own settings. While the context, the outworking, and the responsibilities are clearly different for Catholics, the graces received seem to be the same.
AT THE HEART OF THE CHURCH
So the ecumenical beginnings must never be disregarded, but at the same time it was to be expected that the Charismatic Renewal would find its own place and identity in the life of the Catholic Church, bringing with it a call to seek a continuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a radical conversion to Jesus Christ. Its place at the heart of the Church has been secured, and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been warmly welcomed by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, by the Pontifical Council for Laity, and the Bishops Conferences throughout the world. It has been recognized as a special gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, with a significant role to play in the evangelization of society.
Charles Whitehead is the President of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, Vatican City. ©1998 ICCRS Newsletter. Used with permission.