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A New Pentecost? Can a New Charismatic Renewal Revive Lay Spirituality? Part 2

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Part one of this 2-part series laid open some of the problems with the early Charismatic movement. In part 2 we going to explore how the movement could become an authentic Catholic lay movement. We’ve already seen quite a bit of maturity in the Catholic charismatic movement. Institutions like Franciscan University at Steuvenville, OH, have helped. They have united Charismatic spirituality with solid Catholic catechesis. The Charismatic renewal has moved closer to being truly Catholic.

The Charismatic Movement as a Lay Spirituality Movement

Elements of an Authentic Lay Movement

  1. Cooperation with Grace
  2. Active Faith
  3. Deeper Prayer & Daily Spirituality
  4. Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  5. Charismatic Graces

There are many Catholic elements of the Charismatic movement. It still may not fit everyone’s spirituality. But as long as it’s true to Catholic doctrine, this lay movement can do a lot of good for those who feel called to it. What are the Catholic elements of the Charismatic movement?

Cooperation with Grace

Any good Catholic lay movement should teach us to cooperate with grace. Grace is the presence of the Holy Trinity in our souls. In grace, the Holy Spirit acts in us to make our hearts more like Jesus’. He gives us a share in the Divine Nature. He invites us to participate in the Divine Life of the Holy Trinity. And the Holy Trinity wants our free participation in this relationship. So the Holy Spirit calls us to cooperate with grace.
Many critics of the Charismatic Renewal reject it because of its Protestant origins. But the Charismatic movement has a Catholic understanding of grace. The Charismatic movement encourages people to identify movements of grace in their lives. It then encourages us to cooperate with those movement of grace.

Active Faith

One of the largest problems in the Church today is minimalism. This is an error of practice rather than belief. It’s the attitude that we only need to fulfill the smallest requirements of “membership” in the Church. It’s the new legalism but much more lazy. Any good lay movement would seek to move its members beyond minimalism. It would move its members to a deeper relationship with God and an active spiritual life.
The emotionalism and sensationalism of Charismatic spirituality can be damaging. But the movement encouraged people to engage in their faith. Charismatic Catholics didn’t snore their way through Mass. They received the Holy Eucharist with full awareness of Jesus’ Presence. The Mass doesn’t have to be wild and entertaining for this to happen. In The Wild Goose, Father Dave tells his viewers to ask the Holy Spirit for a deeper awareness of the Mass. That’s a great approach for a lay spiritual movement.

Deeper Prayer & Daily Spirituality

Al Kresta often says that any good book on prayer should lead you to pray more. We can say the same thing about spirituality movements. Aside from the Sacraments, prayer is the most important dimension of spirituality. Grace calls us to have a real relationship with God. To develop a real relationship with God we need to talk and listen to Him. It’s true that the Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of our faith.” But we need to participate in the relationship the Holy Mass gives us. That requires a daily spirituality. It requires daily prayer, sacrifice and acts of Charity. Any good lay spirituality movement would encourage deeper prayer and daily spirituality.
The Charismatic Movement encouraged daily prayer. The connection with the Holy Spirit encouraged deeper, more personal prayer as well. The movement also emphasized personal mission, which encouraged daily acts of charity.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

How many Catholics know what the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are? How many Catholics use them? The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are “actual graces” that helps us to deepen our relationship with God. They help us to participate in the Divine Life. Unfortunately the Gifts have become little more than ornament of the faith. We barely learn about them in Sacramental preparation for Confirmation. We might get a plaque listing them as a Confirmation gift. But after our Confirmation we don’t explore how they are working in our life. We don’t explore how to cooperate with them.

The Charismatic movement brought the Gifts of the Holy Spirit into the spotlight. Charismatic Catholics identified ways the Holy Spirit was at work in their life. They practiced ways to cooperate with Him. This led to an openness to the Gifts. Unfortunately catechesis didn’t always follow this impetus. Specific instruction in the nature and effects of the Gifts is still lacking. But if we could fix this problem, the effect on lay spirituality could be powerful!

Charismatic Grace

If few Catholics know the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, even fewer are even aware of the Charismatic graces. Charismatic grace is empowerment by the Holy Spirit to serve the Kingdom of God. The Charismatic graces help us to take part in Jesus’ mission as Priest, Prophet and King. They often build on our natural talents. But the “Charism” extends the effects of our actions beyond what we are naturally capable of. God acts through us to do more than we could on our own. The Charismatic graces are not well defined. Saint Paul offers a list, but his purpose is to illustrate a point, not to be exhaustive. But the Holy Spirit operates in each of us according to the mission God had planned for us from the time of our birth. So Charismatic grace differs from person to person in effect and in scope.

The Charismatic Movement did a great service for Catholics. It made them aware of the Charismatic gifts. Unfortunately it overzemphased the expressive, flashy and rare gifts. This gave the term “charism” a bad reputation among Catholics. In this case the movement may have done more harm than good. But that doesn’t change the fact that Charismatic grace is real. It doesn’t change the fact that the Church teaches about Charismatic grace. It doesn’t change the fact that Catholics need to stop ignoring this teaching. With a small course correction, the Charismatic Movement could enflame the laity to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. It could encourage Catholics to become active in the mission of Jesus.

A Call for Theological Refinement

Areas for Continued Theological Refinement

  • Connection to the Sacraments
  • More Complete Catechesis
  • Warnings of St. Paul
  • Proper Place of Emotion


These elements of the Charismatic Movement make it a beneficial lay spiritual movement. It won’t be the only solution. But it could be a vibrant lay movement to overcome minimalism and modernism. But the Charismatic Movement needs to continue maturing. Let’s take a look at some areas where theological refinement is necessary.

Connection to the Sacraments

Some critics of the Charismatic Movement hate the term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” After all, there is “one Baptism” for the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 4:5). Baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot replace the Sacrament of Baptism. But this is an argument of semantics. “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” isn’t a prayer, a ritual or a Sacrament. It’s a spiritual experience that occurs when you open yourself to the Holy Spirit. The terms comes loosely from Saint John the Baptist’s statement:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

The Book of Acts reveals the reception of the Holy Spirit to be the Sacrament of Confirmation. But the Pentecostal tradition is at the root of the Charismatic Movement. And it does not have the Sacrament of Confirmation. So there is a danger that Baptism in the Holy Spirit could replace the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Charismatic Movement can’t pit itself against the Sacramental life of the Church. It might even be wise to abandon the term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” in favor or a better description.

But there’s nothing wrong with the experience of Baptism in the Holy Spirit when put in the right context. First we recognize that we’ve already received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Charismatic graces in Baptism and Confirmation. Then we pray to the Holy Spirit or have others pray for us. We abandon ourselves to His Will and open ourselves to His influence. In the language of the Church, we are making ourselves disposed to receiving Sacramental grace. Therefore we’re more aware of how the Holy Spirit is working in our lives and more willing to cooperate with Him. So Baptism in the Holy Spirit directly draws on the graces of the Sacraments.

Pope Benedict XVI described this in his Regina Caeli address on Pentecost in 2016.

. . . let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us recover awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever timely sources of grace.

Notice how he ties Baptism in the Holy Spirit with Baptism and Confirmation. To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to recover an awareness of the Sacraments and their graces. The Charismatic Movement needs to embrace the Sacraments. It needs to see itself as a response to grace.

More Complete Catechesis

Another area of theological refinement is the understanding of cooperating with grace. The Charismatic Movement has always encouraged people to cooperate with grace. But it hasn’t been so good at teaching clear, concise definitions of grace. The Charismatic Movement needs to focus more on solid catechesis. Adults need to learn about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Fruits of the Spirit, the Charismatic Graces.

Warnings of St. Paul

Saint Paul could have helped the Charismatic Movement avoid many of its problems. In 1 Corinthians 14, St. Paul warns that we should use our Charismatic Gifts for the good of the Kingdom of God. Gifts that build our relationship with God are important. But we must never use them in a self-serving way. That’s why 1 Corinthians 13 also teaches us that without love, none of our gifts matter. The Charismatic Movement must guard against behavior that seeks attention and celebrity. We should accept and exerise our Gifts in a spirit of humility, communal benefit and love.

Proper Place of Emotion

The final area of theological refinement is the role of emotion. I worry that bishops and priests are looking to the Charismatic Movement as a source of emotional enticement. I’m afraid they want to rival the “seeker friendly” ecclesial communities. But that would be a mistake. Seeker friendly communities appeal to emotion. But they fall far short feeding the intellect and the will. What do we call relationships based only on emotion? We call them infatuation. We call them puppy love. We don’t call them real love. Real love requires intimacy and a choice to love, to commit, and to sacrifice.

Emotion does play a role in faith, as it plays a role in other relationships. But we need to train our emotions with our reason and free will. Then they’ll reflect what we know and choose. That’s why the Church has always appealed first to the intellect through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. It appeals to the will through disciplines and sacrifices. When we’re well formed our emotions will follow. Our passionate love for God will be part of a true relationship with God. So the Charismatic Movement needs to refine its emotional appeal. It needs to help people put their emotions in proper context.

The Charismatic Movement has the potential to become a powerful lay spiritual movement. It could help many Catholics start living their faith in their daily lives. It could help defeat the attitude of minimalism. The attitude that has stagnated the Catholic imagination. But if it’s going to do this, it needs to continue to mature. It needs to continue to refine its teaching. Then it will find its true place among Catholic lay movements.

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