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Charismatic Dimension PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 11 May 2009 06:28
We're still alive and kicking. Fr. Mike is on retreat this week.

I'm working madly and discovering the limits of internet research and my own meagre library when what I need is access to a really, really big theological library and oh, about 6 months. Instead of 12 days. I know that I get a bit obsessed (Ok, Fr. Mike - more than a bit) when working on projects like this. Too much is never enough, you know.

I've been meditating on the whole "charismatic dimension" of the Church this past weekend as I prepare the course in the theology of the laity that I'll be teaching in a couple weeks.

When I talk about "charismatic dimension" I don't mean the formal charismatic renewal but the whole aspect of the Church's life that flows out of what the Holy Spirit can and will do through one person's "yes", the actual graces and charisms that God pours out on his people so that they can be instruments of his love and provision for the whole world.

As Pope John Paul II said in his address to the 1998 gathering of lay movements:

"Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished. He brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history. This was the unforgettable experience of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council during which, under the guidance of the same Spirit, the Church rediscovered the charismatic dimension as one of her constitutive elements: "It is not only through the sacraments and the ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the people, leads them and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11), he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank.... He makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church" (Lumen gentium, n. 12).

The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church's constitution. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God's People. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church's charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for ecclesial movements and new communities.

5. Today the Church rejoices at the renewed confirmation of the prophet Joel's words which we have just heard: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). You, present here, are the tangible proof of this "outpouring" of the Spirit. Each movement is different from the others, but they are all united in the same communion and for the same mission. Some charisms given by the Spirit burst in like an impetuous wind, which seizes people and carries them to new ways of missionary commitment to the radical service of the Gospel, by ceaselessly proclaiming the truths of faith, accepting the living stream of tradition as a gift and instilling in each person an ardent desire for holiness.

Today, I would like to cry out to all of you gathered here in St. Peter's Square and to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Spirit! Accept gracefully and obediently the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to bestow on us! Do not forget that every charism is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church."

In every era, where there has been renewal or new vigor in the Church, the charismatic dimension is abundantly present. This aspect of God's working in and through the non-ordained, through quite ordinary Christian men and women who were not religious, was so visible to many in the early 20th century, that there was no real debate about whether nor not one of the schemas discussed during the Second Vatican Council should be about the laity. Even though no other council in history had ever addressed the topic.

There was no debate because the power and fruitfulness of groups like The Legion of Mary, the Catholic Worker, and Friendship House (Catherine Doherty's apostolate at the time), had been so obvious in the midst of the challenges of the 20th century and so well-known that it was clear to practically everyone that an ecumenical council could not be held without dealing with this issue.

There was intense controversy about many things at V2: religious liberty, freedom of conscience, the liturgy, the exact relationship of Scripture and Tradition, the role of bishops.

But not about the need for a Decree on the Laity.

That was why in 1965, when an British bishop introduced Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary and one of the lay auditors, 2,500 bishops at the Council rose and gave Duff a spontaneous standing ovation.

It is fascinating to read the actual debates on the Decree on the Laity. And to hear one bishop after bishop remark on how difficult it was to give a clear, positive definition of the laity. What could be said about the laity, escept that they are baptized Christians who are not ordained?

So used were theologians to thinking of the laity purely in contrast to the clergy. Defining them primarily as "not ordained."

It was the work of the Holy Spirit through lay Catholics across many years and in many cultures that convinced the Council Fathers that much, much more could be said - and needed to be said.

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