Again in light of our recent discussions, this 2002 Crisis piece is very intriguing. It's topic: the charismatic renewal in France.
In France, the renewal has sponsored a number of lay movements including the Emmanuel community, the community of the Beatitudes, Le Chemin Neuf (the new path); and Verbe de Vie (Word of Life).
In France, these communities play major roles. For instance, the Beatitudes is in charge of the shrine of St Therese in Lisieux. Two members of the Emmanuel community are now French bishops.
It is the charismatic movement within the French Church that insists most urgently on the importance of evangelization. For these communities, evangelization is a matter of letting the Word shine forth, not shutting it up in small clubs of polite company. This is what motivates members of Emmanuel to organize regular missions of evangelization. They gather in front of churches to sing and share their faith with passersby, inviting them inside to adore God in the Eucharist or to speak with a priest. Marie, who works for a job-placement agency, participates regularly in these missions. "To evangelize, to witness—whether it be in the community or in my professional life—is to say that God is my joy," she says. "Joy can’t be selfishly preserved; it is diffusive of itself. It’s like being in love and wanting to tell everyone all the time about the person you love."
"Dressed in the white habit of an Olivetan Benedictine novice, Brother Dominique is a child of the charismatic renewal. It was in one of the newer communities, Le Chemin Neuf (the New Path), that his contemplative vocation was born. "Of course, I might have discovered it some other way, but it was during the charismatic prayer groups that the Lord revealed to me what prayer is," he says. "More than a duty, more than a set of requests, prayer is a song of love. I also saw that God is not far away but very close, intimate."
For Brother Dominique, the journey from the charismatic community to the Order of St. Benedict was a smooth one. "There are, of course, differences of style, of form, as one passes from upbeat modern melodies to the sublime sobriety of Gregorian chant, but there is something ludicrous about opposing the one to the other," he says. "Generally speaking, I’m a little suspicious of these overly subtle distinctions that are set up between these different spiritualities: Catholic spirituality is really one thing, even if it takes on several forms. The charismatic renewal, the Benedictines, it’s all the same holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It would be better not to draw boundaries where they don’t exist."
And this story of a young Muslim is quite moving:
"Ahmed walks calmly toward the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The young philosophy student says that it was in a charismatic prayer group that he "met the living Jesus Christ." Reacting against his Muslim upbringing, Ahmed had become an atheist. "I saw life as an absurd evasion, a perpetual fleeing," he says. "This idea fit very well with my melancholic temperament. Then at university I met a group of young people whose joy intrigued me. It was more profound than ordinary joys, and it seemed to unite them. After a few months, I wanted to know where this light came from. They told me about a charismatic community where they went regularly to make retreats."
He stops as a priest motions for him to join a group of young people who are entering the cathedral. Ahmed was baptized last year.