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Charismatic Renewal, Catholic

CHARISMATIC RENEWAL, CATHOLIC

The movement for Catholic charismatic renewal, though international in scope, is not a single, unified effort but rather a highly diverse collection of individuals, groups, and activities, in quite different stages of development, sometimes with diverse emphases. It fosters a continual personal and social conversion to Jesus Christ and openness to the power and charisms of the Spirit. The source of its life is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, understood as the full appropriation of the graces of Christian initiation.

The growth of the charismatic renewal coincided with enthusiasm stirred by the Second Vatican Council. In the early years it reinforced the judgments of Pope Paul VI that it is "a chance for the church," and of Yves Congar that it constitutes "a grace for the church." In the United States, the place of its origin, its early growth has not been sustained, but it is still a growing movement in places such as Brazil, Colombia, France, Lithuania, Italy, and India. Eastern Europe has shown itself especially receptive.

Covenant Communities. The movement is populist in character, largely, though not exclusively, lay. It still has a considerable number of prayer groups internationally, though the leadership has been largely exercised by covenant communities and by international fellowships of covenant communities, which are now officially recognized by the Holy See. Two such fellowships had their origin in France and Australia. Though the Bishops' Committee on Charismatic Renewal in the United States had warned of the danger of over-control in 1984, some covenant communities suffered negative publicity for authoritarian postures. Covenant communities continue to be a significant part of the international movement, but they are absent in some countries, such as Poland. Internationally, prayer groups continue to be the mainstay of the renewal, though, where informed leadership is lacking, many do not survive.

The internationalization of French communities, such as the Community of the Beatitude and the Emmanuel Community, and of the American Mother of God Community (Gaithersburg, MD) has provided anchors for the movement. The covenant communities, especially in France, have been a source of vocations to the priesthood. In recent years priests have taken over the ideals of the Oratorians and have formed communities engaged in the pastoral ministry while living a measure of community life. Such communities of priests exist in places like St. Paul, MN, Detroit, MI, and Ottawa, Canada.

As a movement the Catholic charismatic renewal has projected a theologically conservative image, which is verified in fact partly because of its populist character. This conservatism is often less ideological and more the attempt of persons reawakened spiritually to recover the sources of Catholic spirituality: the Scriptures, daily Mass, confession, spiritual direction, retreats, eucharistic adoration, Marian piety, and retreats. The movement has retained a contemplative quality noted from its earliest days. While it still has pietist expressions, its social engagement is slightly greater than that of the general Catholic population. Some covenant communities have made outstanding contributions to social transformation. El Minuto di Dios, centered in Bogota, Columbia, is involved in a major housing project for the poor, education, radio evangelization, and ministry among prostitutes and has erected an art museum. ECCLA, the Latin American umbrella organization for the renewal, begun in 1973, has had its 14th conference, with delegates from 20 countries, discussing such themes as New Evangelization, human development, and the formation of a Christian culture. The Hispanic renewal is marked by a determination to unite the power of conversion with the power to change social structures, demonstrating that personal conversion is also social conversion. French Cardinal Lustiger confided a center for AIDS patients in Paris to the Emmanuel Community.

In September 1993 the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, the Roman office, was granted ecclesiastical status with a juridical personality, which gave the Catholic renewal recognition of a more official and structural kind. This development was announced in a retreat held in Assisi, Italy, in September 1993 with 1,000 delegates from 90 countries present, including ecumenical representatives from various Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox churches. The conference reinforced the biblical and contemplative character of the renewal, with a series of conferences on the Epistle to the Romans by the patristic scholar Raniero Cantalamessa.

Ecumenical Ties. The ecumenical dimensions of the renewal, which were present from its inception, continue to be an important part of its on-going life. The dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and some Pentecostal churches has been an instrument of bringing Catholics and Pentecostals into a new appreciation of the other's spiritual heritage. An expression of this new relationship is the formation of a charismatic consultation in Italy, made up of Pentecostals, Waldensians, Baptists, and Roman Catholics, a development unthinkable a few years ago. Meetings of the renewal at Rimini, which twice have numbered 65,000, have representatives of the Pentecostal churches present.

Baptism in the Spirit. New life has been infused into the renewal internationally by the publication in 1991 of the scholarly Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries by Kilian McDonnell and George Montague, now in five languages. The research shows that what is called baptism in the Holy Spirit, the principle cause of the growth both of classical Pentecostalism and the Catholic charismatic renewal, was, in the early centuries of the Church, an integral part of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, Eucharist). Among other sources the evidence comes from five Doctors of the Church, persons especially reliable in identifying the faith and practice of the church (Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary of Poitiers, John Chrysostom, Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory Nazianzus). Therefore, baptism in the Holy Spirit does not belong to private piety, but to the public, official liturgy of the church, and it is normative for all. Baptism in the Holy Spirit does not belong to any one movement. The baptism in the Spirit is not tied in any necessary way to an enthusiastic style of communal prayer. Finally, one can choose the baptism in the Holy Spirit and not choose the charismatic renewal. They are separable.

This book was the basis of a theological consultation in May 1990, consisting of 10 theologians and three pastors, which issued "Fanning the Flame," a popular document that contains the core of the biblical and patristic research and applies it pastorally. This document has wide distribution and is in 18 languages. The two publications, the scholarly book and the popular document, have been the basis of theological discussions in universities in Amsterdam and Paris. International Charismatic Renewal Services in Rome under the direction of British Charles Whitehead and the American Ken Metz, has a mandate to promote the baptism in the Holy Spirit internationally and has used the two publications as the focus of its efforts.

After 25 years of existence the renewal is assessing both its identity and its relation to the mainstream of Catholic life. While reaffirming the central theological reality of the renewal, the baptism in the Spirit as an integral part of Christian initiation, it wants both to maintain its special charism and to answer the question, "What is the normal Christian life of grace?" Most leaders are well aware of the danger of becoming isolated from the sources of Catholic life. Such isolation would make it difficult for the renewal to live at the heart of the Church, which it understands is its truest vocation.

Bibliography: k. mcdonnell and g. montague, eds., Fanning the Flame: What Does Baptism in the Holy Spirit Have to Do with Christian Initiation (Collegeville MN 1991); Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries (Collegeville MN 1991); Toward a New Pentecost, For a New Evangelization (Collegeville MN 1993). h.i. lederle, Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Peabody MA 1988). f.a. sullivan, "Catholic Charismatic Renewal," in s. m. burgess and g. g. mcgee, Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids MI 1987) 110-126.

[k. mcdonnell]

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