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The Ongoing Effects of Pentecost PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 24 May 2010 12:09

Deacon Keith Fournier published a brief article at Catholic Online on the purpose of Pentecost, which he describes as both the birth of the Church and enlivening its ongoing mission.  Part of his article focuses on the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church, and is worth quoting.  In speaking of the renewal he writes,

That movement is now viewed as one of the several "ecclesial movements" which both the late Venerable John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called the "finger of God" for the mission of the Church in this age. Good fruit has been borne through all of these ecclesial movements. Though they each have their important distinctives, they also have many commonalities. They all invite Christians to have a "personal" relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, an encounter with the One who has been raised from the dead and is alive in our midst. They call their members to holiness of life. They call their members to live in the Heart of the Church which is to be the home of the whole human race.

They emphasize living a unity of life where their Christian faith permeates their daily work and vocations. They love the Church, recognizing that she is "Some - One" not something, the Body of Christ continuing His redemptive mission on the earth until He returns. They know the missionary nature of every Christian vocation and the real presence of the Holy Spirit and live it. In doing so they demonstrate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available for all Christians, in the life of the Church.

I have not traveled much in charismatic circles, but I would say the Rev. Mr. Fournier describes those that I have met accurately.  Unfortunately, the renewal is often marginalized in typical parishes, rather than functioning as leaven to encourage conversion.  Charismatics are not regarded as one expression of "typical" Catholicism.  In some communities with more than one parish, one of them may be de facto the "charismatic parish."  On the blogosphere there is tremendous distrust, even disdain, for the renewal among Traditionalist Catholics, who seem to view it as over-emotional, especially in its forms of worship.

I have no doubt that one significant reason for this is that most priests, whether diocesan or religious, were not formed during their seminary years, to recognize the effects of the Holy Spirit acting in Christians and manifesting in the various charisms, or spiritual gifts, that were given by God at baptism.  Writing before the renewal existed in this country, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote,

While trying the spirits to see if they be of God, (1Jn 4:1) priests should uncover with a sense of faith, acknowledge with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of the laity. Among the other gifts of God, which are found in abundance among the laity, those are worthy of special mention by which not a few of the laity are attracted to a higher spiritual life. Likewise, they should confidently entrust to the laity duties in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action; in fact, they should invite them on suitable occasions to undertake worlds on their own initiative.     Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 9.

Yet this skill of discernment is still not taught in seminaries.  Moreoever, priests themselves are not taught to discern their own spiritual gifts, and thus are often threatened by gifted lay people on their staff.  This is a tragedy, because these gifts manifest when people have a conversion and begin to realize that God seeks to offer personal guidance to Christians through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  And, unfortunately, in many parishes,  those who had experienced the Holy Spirit at work in their lives did not receive guidance from the Church's priests.  The "testing of the Spirits" urged by the author of 1 John (probably because of his own experience of what happens when there is no official oversight), did not happen, and some charismatic Catholics became a bit wacky or eccentric - or mislead by the Evil One who also poses as a spirit of light.  In some cases, the gifts that were sought were the more spectacular, like prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing, and an unintended devaluating of other gifts occurred.

Cyril of Jerusalem, writing to those preparing for baptism, spoke of these gifts back in the 4th century.  They were seen as a normal consequence of being baptized.  Cyril imagines gifted Catholic Christians transforming the world as agents of the Holy Spirit, each in his or her own way with the gifts they had received.

Great indeed, and all-powerful in gifts, and wonderful, is the Holy Spirit. Consider, how many of you are now sitting here, how many souls of us are present. He is working suitably for each, and being present in the midst, beholds the temper of each, beholds also his reasoning and his conscience, and what we say, and think, and believe. Great indeed is what I have now said, and yet is it small. For consider, I pray, with mind enlightened by Him, how many Christians there are in all this diocese, and how many in the whole province of Palestine, and carry forward your mind from this province, to the whole Roman Empire; and after this, consider the whole world; races of Persians, and nations of Indians, Garbs and Sarmatians, Gauls and Spaniards, and Moors, Libyans and Ethiopians, and the rest for whom we have no names; for of many of the nations not even the names have reached us. Consider, I pray, of each nation, Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Solitaries, Virgins, and laity besides; and then behold their great Protector, and the Dispenser of their gifts;— how throughout the world He gives to one chastity, to another perpetual virginity, to another almsgiving, to another voluntary poverty, to another power of repelling hostile spirits. And as the light, with one touch of its radiance sheds brightness on all things, so also the Holy Spirit enlightens those who have eyes; for if any from blindness is not vouchsafed His grace, let him not blame the Spirit, but his own unbelief.                        Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 16, no. 22.

What is also significant is that he indicates that an apparent lack of any of these various gifts may indicate unbelief on the part of the Christian.  Perhaps that is part of our problem today - and why, for many, those who claim to have received them are regarded as just a bit odd.


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