Pope John Paul II
on the Charismatic Movement
From the very beginning of my ministry as the Successor of
Peter, I have considered the movement as a great spiritual resource for the
Within the Charismatic Renewal, the Catholic Fraternity has a specific
mission, recognized by the Holy See. One of the objectives stated in your statutes is to
safeguard the Catholic identity of the charismatic communities and to encourage them
always to maintain a close link with the Bishops and the Roman Pontiff. To help people to
have a strong sense of their membership in the Church is especially important in times
such as ours, when confusion and relativism abound.
You belong to an ecclesial movement. The word
"ecclesial" here is more than merely decorative. It implies a precise task of
Christian formation, and involves a deep convergence of faith and life. The enthusiastic
faith, which enlivens your communities, is a great enrichment, but it is not enough. It
must be accompanied by a Christian formation, which is solid, comprehensive and faithful
to the Churchs Magisterium: a formation based upon a life of prayer, upon listening
to the Word of God, and upon worthy reception of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation
and the Eucharist. To mature in faith, we have to grow in knowledge of its truths. If this
does not happen, there is a danger of superficiality, extreme subjectivism and illusion.
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church should
become for every Christian - and therefore for every community of the Renewal a constant
reference-point. Again and again, you must also assess yourselves in the light of the
"criteria of ecclesial character" which I set out in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles
laici (n. 30). As an ecclesial movement, one of your distinguishing marks should be to
sentire cum Ecclesiato live in filial obedience to the Churchs
Magisterium, to the Pastors, and to the Successor of Peter, and with them to build the
communion of the whole body.
The motto of the Eighth International Meeting of the
Catholic Fraternity looks to the words of Christ: "I have come to bring fire to the
earth and how I wish it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49). In the context of the
Great Jubilee of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, these words resound with all their
force. The Son of God made man has brought to us the fire of love and the truth that
saves. At the approach of the new millennium, the Church hears the call, the urgent
summons of the Master to an ever greater commitment to mission: "the grain is ripe,
the harvest has come" (Mk 4:29). You will doubtless discuss this during your meeting.
Allow yourselves therefore to be awarded by the Holy Spirit, who is always the prime agent
of evangelization and of mission.
I accompany your undertakings with my prayers, and I
sincerely hope that this meeting, being held in circumstances so charged with meaning,
will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the entire Catholic Charismatic Renewal. May it be
a milestone on the journey of your spiritual preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year
2000. To all of you, to your communities and to your loved ones, I cordially impart my
(Pope John Paul IIs message condensed from his June
1, 1998 meeting with the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and
Fellowships at the Vatican as reported in LOsservatore Romano, English
Sharing all the
Charisms of the Spirit by Reverend Donald L. Gelpi, S.J.
In todays Church, I believe that all
Christians would agree that God calls us ultimately to resurrection with Christ; but we do
not agree so easily about the proximate future to which God is calling us. We do not agree
about the concrete shape which the kingdom of God must take here and now because we
disagree, sometimes bitterly, about what it means for us to be a Church. Authoritarian,
right-wing Christians want to pattern the Church on the Roman Empire. They want an
authoritarian Church in which all movement descends from those in authority to those they
command. Left-wing Christians want to democratize the Church and to pattern it on the
democratic governments, which emerged politically in the eighteenth and nineteenth
In the polarized Church in which we live,
the Charismatic Renewal has, I believe, the divine call and responsibility to insist that
no political model of the Church can grasp or articulate the social reality which the
Christian community ought to embody. The Church derives neither from the Roman Empire nor
from democracies of the Enlightenmentbut from Pentecost. On Pentecost, the risen
Christ sent the Spirit into the Church in order to create it as a community of shared
faith. The Spirit accomplished that task on Pentecost by an outpouring of all the
charisms. Moreover, only by sharing all the charisms of the Spirit can the Church
experience shared faith consciousness.
The Church needs prophets and teachers to
remind it constantly of the events which give rise to it: the incarnation of the Son of
God, His ministry, death, resurrection, and mission of the Pentecostal Spirit. The Church
needs teachers to remind it in season and out of the history of sin and of grace which
links it to the paschal mystery. Without the charismatic activity of those teachers the
Church will have no present sense of identity. In other words, without the kind of
historical consciousness which teaching and prophecy inspire, the Church will not know
collectively who it is and cannot therefore reach clarity concerning what God has called
it to become.
In addition, the Church needs charisms of
prayer, like tongues and the other prayer gifts, as well as gifts of healing if it expects
to experience in a vivid way the saving presence of God in its midst. Without a vivid
sense of Gods saving presence, the Church will forget that only the saving grace of
God creates and sustains it as a community; and that kind of tragic forgetting will make
the Christian community indistinguishable from any other natural or sinful human
community. A Church that looks like any other natural or sinful human community cannot,
however, mediate Christ and His Spirit effectively to a sinful world.
If charisms like prophecy, teaching,
prayer, and healing create the Churchs awareness of its authentic religious
identity, the charisms of the Spirit also endow the Church with an awareness of the common
future to which God calls it. Prophets and evangelists must call the community to the kind
of repentance and conversion that alone can open it to Gods future. Teachers need to
remind the community of its past mistakes so that it will not continue to make them and so
to divide the Church into sinful factions. Discerners need to help the community
distinguish between true and false teaching, between sound and unsound community
discipline, between authentic and inauthentic hopes if shared consensus about the future
to which God calls us will ever emerge in a clear and focused manner.
The Church, however, needs more than a
shared sense of history and a shared consensus about the future in order to reach full
consciousness as a Christian community. In addition, all the members of the Church need to
collaborate in making that shared future a reality. Mobilizing the Christian community in
order to realize the vision of the kingdom to which Jesus called us engages all the action
gifts, which facilitate corporate action on the part of the Christian community. By the
action gifts, I mean gifts of administration, of pastoral leadership, of community
organizing, of practical concern for the poor, for the marginal, and for their needs. Such
gifts make possible our practical corporate witness to the gospel.
I am suggesting to you that without
practical, living faith in all the charisms of the Holy Spirit, the Church will never
reach full, shared consciousness as a community of faith. I am also suggesting that only
by reaching full, shared, faith consciousness can the Christian community exist as a
Church. I say that the Church must re-appropriate all the charisms of the Holy Spirit.
It may well be true that God called the
Charismatic Renewal into existence as His chosen instrument for bringing the rest of the
Church to renewed faith in the gift-giving Pentecostal Spirit. If so, then we in the
Charismatic Renewal must acknowledge not only our failure to date to respond adequately to
that call; but we must also acknowledge our part in that failure. In my judgment, the
Charismatic Renewal has become to a great extent the victim of the chief institution,
which it created--namely the prayer meeting.
Within the context of shared prayer only,
we can only share a limited number of charisms: tongues, prophecy, word gifts, and
teaching. Many of the charisms, however, require another context for their exercise. I
refer to gifts like administration, pastoral leadership, and practical care for the poor,
and a prophecy, which confronts social injustice and oppression instead of just talking
piously in King James English. Narrow focus on prayer gifts has, in my judgment, caused
the Charismatic Renewal to inculcate an inadequate and skewed charismatic piety by
focusing too narrowly on gifts like tongues, healing, and ecstatic prophecy and by failing
to cultivate the full spectrum of the gifts.
In other words, the Charismatic Renewal
itself has failed to grasp fully what Paul the apostle meant when he said (that Jesus),
"the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit." Only openness to all the charisms
of the Spirit can create the kind of balanced charismatic consciousness that creates the
Church as a Church. At the Denver Symposium on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
Renewal, which assessed the progress of the Charismatic renewal, I sensed an incipient
consensus developing among the leaders of the movement that the name which the bishops
gave this movement"The Charismatic Renewal of the Church"can have
misleading connotations. The total charismatic renewal of the Church involves much more
than what goes on in the movement which calls itself in obedience to the bishops,
"The Charismatic Renewal." The total charismatic renewal of the Church involves
all the renewal movements which contribute to the Churchs shared faith
consciousness: movements like the RCIA, the Cursillo, marriage encounter, Christian Life
Communities, the Jesuit Volunteers and other volunteer groups in the Church which work for
a justice inspired by faith.
If the Charismatic Renewal hopes to respond
effectively to the call of God to bring living faith in all the charisms to the heart of
Catholic piety, then, in my judgment, the Renewal needs a spirit of repentance and of
humility. We need to enter into effective dialogue with all the other renewal movements
that contribute to the Churchs total charismatic renewal. We need to enter into that
dialogue with an expectation that those movements have something important to teach the
Charismatic Renewal about the full spectrum of the Spirits charismatic inspirations.
At the same time, we should enter into
dialogue with these other renewal movements with a consciousness of all the important
things which the Holy Spirit has taught this movement about the exercise of the gifts and
which other renewal movements need to learn. The Spirit must, of course, guide such
dialogue; and with the guidance of the Spirit that dialogue will, God willing, advance the
day when the entire Church can confess that "the last Adam became a life-giving
Spirit" and actually experience the reality of what it confesses.
Fr. Gelpi is a professor at the Jesuit
School of Theology at Berkeley. This article was condensed from his presentation at the
Liaison Theological Symposium, The Last Adam Became A Life-Giving Spirit: An Important
Key to Spirit Christology, pp. 21-25.
would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God's message.
For the person who proclaims God's message is of greater value ..."
(1 Corinthians 14:5)
Like St.Paul, we are blessed as the
Lord speaks directly to us through our prophesies during our praise and worship session.
The Lord knows our most eager yearnings, our deepest pains and our loftiest aspirations,
and He always has a word of hope, encouragement or even rebuke for us.
We are thankful that His messages have only one ultimate goal, to draw us into a deeper
and more loving union with Him. Jesus invites us, through the prophesies, to walk closely
with God, to truly be one with him. Prophesies
UNOFFICIAL CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL WEBSITE
Catholic Charismatic Renewal
by The Most Reverend William J. Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco
|Modern Pentecostalism began in 1906 in a small
black Protestant church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. It has had an astonishing growth -- first among Protestants in the United
States, and in the latter decades of this century, across all denominations in Latin
America, Africa and indeed throughout the world. Father Kilian McDonnell, OSB, the
Collegeville Benedictine who is both theologian and chronicler of the movement, has
recently opined that by the year 2000 the number of Pentecostals of all denominations will
far exceed the number of Protestants and Orthodox combined.
The first group of Pentecostal Catholics
experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the manner unique to Pentecostalism at
Duquesne in Pittsburgh in 1967 and at Notre Dame in 1968. By 1972 Cardinal Suenens
personally encountered the charismatic renewal, the preferred terminology for Catholics
and mainline Protestants, for the first time during a visit to the United States. He was
immediately taken by this encounter, appealing as it did to his keen desire to see the
church flourish as in a new Pentecost through the work of the Holy Spirit. For him this
amounted to a life-long goal.
In many ways Suenens was an unlikely person
to carry the banner for the Catholic charismatic renewal. Personally reserved, even shy,
at times almost overly intellectual, he was profoundly touched in his own personal
experience and in assessing the fruits of the Holy Spirit in so many Catholics (and
Protestants, too, I should add) whose spiritual journey had been deepened and advanced
through the renewal. Cardinal Danneels captures it perfectly in his funeral homily:
"How could a cardinal with a face that
did not show many emotions, with a straight and immobile stature, with a grave and steady
voice, find himself at ease in the midst of a crowd that sang, danced, clapped hands and
spoke in tongues? Was it a late life conversion to fantasy and imagination in a man who
had been until then too rational and responsible? No. Rather, he perceived in this revival
a return to the church of the Acts of the Apostles about which he had always dreamed --
with a taste for the Scriptures, spontaneous prayer, joy, a sense of community, the
stirrings of the Spirit, the proliferation of charisms. The Archbishop Levada (Continued
from Page 1.) renewal gave the legitimate role of the heart and the body back to the
spiritual life of Christians."
Suenens dialogued with the Catholic
leadership of the new movement -- Ralph Martin, Steve Clark, Kevin Ranaghan, Father Jim
Ferry in the United States, and in Europe as well. He made a singular contribution by
explaining the renewal to the pope and the Curia, and by alerting its leadership to what I
would call their "amnesia" about the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church: the
Eucharist, The Blessed Virgin Mary, the pope as visible center of unity, the scope of
Catholic teaching and practice.
From 1974 to 1986 Suenens composed a series
of six "Malines Documents," which still serve as a guide to the renewal, with
precious insight into its possibilities and its needs. Charismatic Renewal, with Kilian
McDonnell as lead consultant, was followed by Ecumenism and Charismatic Renewal (1978). In
1979 Charismatic Renewal and Social Action was written in collaboration with his longtime
friend, Dom Helder Camara of Brazil. In 1982 he wrote Renewal and the Powers of Darkness,
with a Foreword by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The final two "Malines Documents"
treat two specific issues the renewal had to deal with: an over-reliance on introspection,
in Le Culte du Moi et Foi Chretienne (1985); and the controversial phenomenon Resting in
the Spirit (1986), sometimes also referred to as "slaying in the Spirit."
1975 marks the year of the renewals
"coming of age" in the Catholic Church. Thanks to Veronica OBriens
urging of the cardinal and the cardinals convincing recommendation to Pope Paul, the
renewal was invited to have its world congress at Rome on Pentecost during the Holy Year.
As Father Walter Abbott notes, during the 1975 Holy Year "the charismatic renewal was
decisively accepted into the Catholic Church when Pope Paul endorsed it in St. Peters
Basilica on Pentecost Sunday." Peter Hebblethwaite, in his book, Paul VI--The First
Modern Pope, concludes, "Suenens won another battle." It is also fair to say
that Suenens was the man of the hour for the renewal. His patient, intelligent, ongoing
dialogue showed many in the charismatic renewal how to integrate their new enthusiasm for
religious experience blessed by the gifts of the Spirit into the faith and practice of the
one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Charisms for the Third Millennium
On July 14, 1979, less than a year into the
pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Suenens submitted his resignation as archbishop of
Malines-Brussels. It was a duty which he, above all, would not neglect or refuse, since he
had been the first to publicly call for the retirement of bishops. While the council heard
his plea without enthusiasm, Pope Paul VI introduced the rule, motu proprio.
On Jan. 4, 1980, he was succeeded as
archbishop by Godfried Danneels, then bishop of Antwerp. His has been an active
retirement, as his many books and lectures throughout this period will attest. His
successor has publicly stated what Pope John Paul II said to him as he began his ministry,
"Cardinal Suenens played a crucial role during Vatican II, and the universal church
owes much to him."
At this symposium we look to the 21st
century and the third millennium of Christianity. I was asked to speak to you about the
charism of Cardinal Suenens. I have tried to be reasonably thorough, and I hope reasonably
objective, in the time given to me. I know that he was genuinely looking forward to this
very symposium on retrieving charisms for the 21st century to find the new insights and
new directions of the Spirit, who blows where he wills.
By way of conclusion, I would recall again
Suenens singular achievement in providing direction for the council in its earliest
days, when he outlined a simple framework for its deliberation and the council decided to
concentrate its work around the central theme of the church as such -- ad intra and ad
It seems to me that he models a very
significant charism to be retrieved for the new millennium: an ability to frame the
question properly. Of course our society and its media already have a political framework
for characterizing religious statements: They are usually cast on the grid from liberal to
conservative. The frame of reference is most often the current political campaign, with
comments as thoughtful as a sound byte. The Gospel message handed on in the living
tradition of the church is either unknown or so far in the background that it is
unrecognizable as a frame of reference.
In my view, even the church people tend to
mimic the secular frame of reference, with its penchant for labels. I suggest a moratorium
on labels in the church and a retrieval of the unified vision of the council, which did
not issue a "conservative" Lumen Gentium and a "liberal" Gaudium et
To frame the question properly for these
last days of our advent before the Jubilee of the Year 2000 and for the third millennium,
we would be well served to focus more clearly, and with greater unity as Catholic
Americans, about our task as sacramentum mundi -- the sacrament of Christ in the world.
In his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio
Adveniente, on preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope John Paul calls the
Second Vatican Council, in which he participated as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, "a
providential event, whereby the church began (to prepare) for the jubilee of the second
millennium." In commenting on the series of Synods of Bishops begun after the
council, he says:
"The theme underlying them all is
evangelization, or rather the new evangelization, the foundations of which were laid down
in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI, issued in 1975 following
the third general assembly of the Synod of Bishops. These synods themselves are part of
the new evangelization: They were born of the Second Vatican Councils vision of
Archbishop Levada (Continued from Page 6.)
the church. They open up broad areas for
the participation of the laity, whose specific responsibilities in the church they define.
They are an expression of the strength which Christ has given to the entire people of God,
making it a sharer in his own messianic mission as prophet, priest and king."
John Paul relates the themes of Catholic
social doctrine to the new evangelization, continuing the vision of Evangelii Nuntiandi,
which proposed "evangelization" precisely as a Gospel vision which embraces the
church ad intra and ad extra. It thus transcends the categories of dialectical perspective
of action and reaction which characterize so much of modern political thought and
strategy, of liberal vs. conservative as a dominant framework.
To enable and to serve this new
evangelization, the Second Vatican Council provided its providential clarification of the
true nature of the church, so that knowing who she is, the church might be better able to
be the sacramentum mundi. The pluralism of contemporary society challenges us more than
ever today to know and say why we believe in Christ and who we are as church.
For this reason the question of Catholic
identity is necessary and central both for the church as a whole and for each individual
disciple within the community. In the face of the well-documented religious ignorance
among Catholics in America, I think we must look more urgently at the task of how well we
form ourselves as church for our mission in and to the world. What Cardinal Newman called
for more than a century ago in England -- a well-formed, well-educated and convinced
Catholic laity -- will be more than ever a necessity in an increasingly democratic and
pluralistic world of the third millennium.
Father Benedict Ashley has suggested that
we pay more attention to the "documents" of this Catholic identity: the
teachings of the Second Vatican Council as developed through the Synods of Bishops and
their resulting apostolic exhortations, and particularly as presented in an integrated
manner, updated with the teachings of Vatican II, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In his 1994 McGinley lecture at Fordham, Father Avery Dulles, a symposium speaker, called
the catechism "the boldest challenge yet offered to the cultural relativism that
currently threatens to erode the contents of the Catholic faith."
Put another way, the broad task of the new
evangelization, the churchs mission, requires the concomitant task of ongoing
catechesis, I might even say a "new" catechesis, to provide the indispensable
foundation for effective engagement in the churchs mission in the world, which is
the baptismal vocation of the laity.
Framing the question for the next century
and the new millennium in this way, as our readiness for the challenge of the new
evangelization, will ideally bring us to an ongoing participation in the new Pentecost
envisioned by Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Suenens for the Second Vatican Council.
In his final chapter of the Hidden Hand of
God, Suenens gives us quite consciously his last testament: "As I look to the future,
I cannot avoid stressing the role of the Holy Spirit in the church of tomorrow. He is
always the life-giving Spirit, in the fullest meaning of the words. This is
the idea I would like to emphasize by way of farewell."
Cardinal Suenens, we thank you for the
charism -- the gift -- your life has been for us as church. In our farewell to you, may we
pay to you the tribute you so kindly gave to your friend John XXIII in your homily at
Vatican II: "At his departure, he left us closer to God and the world a better place
for us to live." Requiescat in Spiritu Sancto.
For the full text of Archbishop Levadas keynote address
of May 31, 1996, delivered at the Cleveland symposium from which the foregoing was
condensed, see Origins, CNS Documentary Service, June 20, 1996, Vol.26:No.5, The Charism
of Cardinal Suenens. This article appeared in the February 1998 Edition of the San
Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4056), the monthly newsletter of the Archdiocese of San
Francisco, Office of the Charismatic Renewal.
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