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Charismatic Renewal  part (2)




Charismatic Renewal Continued.

Elizabeth Etondi Elive


What is this new experience?

To answer this question it would be appropriate first to look at the beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. 



Catholic Charismatic Renewal is recognised as an answer to the prayer of Pope John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council, “Renew Your wonders in our day as by a New Pentecost...” but it would be right to state that Pope Leo XIII had prayed for that same intention much earlier.  In his encyclical letter on the Holy Spirit, Divinus Illud Munus, he wrote,

 May she (the Blessed Virgin Mary) continue to strengthen our prayers with her suffrages, that, in the midst of all the stress and trouble of the nations, those divine prodigies may be happily revived by the Holy Ghost, which were foretold in the words of David: "Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth" (Ps. ciii., 30).


It was Leo XIII who, in the same encyclical letter, made the Novena to the Holy Spirit before Pentecost mandatory for the whole Church.


The fact is that Leo XIII, John XXIII and others felt the need for a Renewal and a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church, for a more effective witness to the gospel. They prayed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for a new Pentecost, and the Charismatic Renewal is one of the ways (and an efficacious one too), by which their prayer has been answered for the Catholic Church.


The Duquesne Weekend

The moment we pinpoint as the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement coincides with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a dramatic way on a group of Catholic students and professors of the Duquesne University during a retreat, from 17-19 February 1967 in the US. The professors had earlier received the baptism in the Holy Spirit through a Protestant prayer group. They invited one of the members of that group to talk to the students and prepare them for what they were hoping would happen – a new Pentecost. On the last day of the retreat, with most of them gathered before the Blessed Sacrament, they were surprised by a mighty out-pouring of the Holy Spirit not mediated by the laying on of hands. It was absolutely the result of the sovereign will of God. Patty Gallagher, one of the students present, described what happened in her book, As by a New Pentecost:


“When I entered the chapel I saw a few people sitting on the floor praying. I knelt down too in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Then something happened I was not expecting. I’d always believed by the gift of faith that Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, but I had never experienced His glory before. As I knelt there that night, my body literally trembled before his majesty and holiness. I was filled with awe in His presence. He was there…the King of Kings…I prayed in the quiet of my heart, ‘Father, I give my life to you, and whatever You want of me, that’s what I choose. If it means suffering, then I accept that. Just teach me to follow Your Son Jesus, and to learn to love the way He loves.’ When I prayed that prayer, I was kneeling before the altar. The next moment I found myself prostrate, flat on my face, stretched out before the tabernacle. No one had laid hands on me…As I lay there, I was flooded from my finger tips to my toes with a deep sense of God’s personal love for me…” 


For Patti Gallagher and her friends, this was a life-changing experience. They remain pillars of the Renewal in the Catholic Church to this day.


Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, “Effusion of the Holy Spirit” or “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit” is not a new Sacrament. The late Fr. Emilien Tardiff,[1] saw it as a new way by which God is reaching out to His people irrespective of the circumstances of their lives. Anyone desiring a new beginning in God is welcome. The Life in the Spirit Seminars given to prepare people for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, are very effective catechesis and easy to understand. 


Some people regard Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “stirring up” of the Gift of the Holy Spirit received at Baptism and Confirmation, which is lying dormant for lack of openness to God’s action on our part or attachment to sin. Others would see it as a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, very necessary for our times. Both views are relevant. God is indeed reaching out to us and empowering us to respond. Pope John Paul II saw the new movements in the Church as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s action, and he encouraged them to work together.


It must be stated that everyone’s experience on being baptised in the Holy Spirit is unique. The experience of Patty Gallagher may not totally be everybody’s, but certain manifestations in one’s spiritual journey on receiving this grace, are sure signs that a new life has begun. They include: 


  • A deeper personal awareness of God’s love.
  • A desire to surrender one’s life totally to God’s overwhelming love and mercy.
  • A sense of Joy.
  • An insatiable hunger for the word of God – the words of Scripture jump out from the pages with a new clarity and force.
  • A boldness to proclaim the Word of God and bear witness to Christ.
  • A clearer awareness of the Christian community and the community of the Church beyond boundaries.
  • A desire to praise and worship and thank the Lord with joy (and to some the gift of tongues for prayer and praise is given)
  • Personal prayer becomes more profound – the hours pass like minutes as you drink deeply in the Fountain that is God.
  • A deep conviction that Jesus is alive and is your personal Saviour.
  • Charismatic gifts are received. They may emerge at different stages of one’s spiritual journey. Very often natural gifts are enhanced.
  • A greater openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
  • A more profound understanding of the Sacraments in one’s life and  eagerness to participate.


In short, Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a conversion experience which comes with a mighty empowerment and is open to growth.[2]


Charismatic gifts

The Spirit brings gifts for the building up of the Church which could be classified under three headings, Revelational gifts, gifts of proclamation and gifts of Power (1 Cor; 12). The greatest of them is Love (1 Cor. 13). However, it must be understood that the Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift par excellence. Charismatic gifts are freely given by God and it is the Power of God alone that heals, works miracles and delivers from demonic oppression and possession. On our part, Jesus counselled prayer and fasting for effective ministry.  Our lives must show forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us: Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5;22).


Particularity of the Charismatic Movement – Its aims

The uniqueness of the Charismatic Renewal Movement lies in its origins. The Holy Spirit is its only founder. This Movement does not have a human founder or a written constitution to govern all the groups. However, the various groups share a common experience which is expressed in a rich variety of ways according to cultural and social needs and modes of expression.  The aims of the renewal are, as Charles Whitehead[3] points out, the aims of the Church itself. “It is a gift to the Church to renew every facet of its life because it aims to renew every Christian.”



[1] A pillar of Catholic Charismatic Renewal in his day with a recognised gift of healing.

[2] This will be the subject of another article.

[3] Charles Whitehead is the former President of the International Council of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and President of the National Service Committee of CCR in England.



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