by Cyril John
In his book, The Shape of the Church to Come, Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ pointed out: "If we are honest, we must admit that we are, to a terrifying extent, a spiritually lifeless Church." What he meant was that many Christians today have not experienced the in–dwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. As a result of this, we seem to be more like a Church without Pentecost. We seem to be a powerless people without the Holy Spirit. The Church was born in the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Holy Spirit was the sole motivating agent for the early Church. From the Acts of the Apostles and the Church history we realize that the early Church was truly Spirit– filled and Spirit–led. Healings, miracles, signs and wonders were an integral part of their life and fellowship. This leads us to the realization that all believers, without exception, need the power of the Spirit to live their lives fully and fulfill their vocation and mission in the Church. Cardinal Leon–Joseph Suenens must have been quite bold when he pointed out that "We are all average Christians, but that doesn't mean we are normal Christians. We are abnormal Christians, handicapped children of God, because we have not allowed the Holy Spirit to do His full work in us. But if we are to live normal, full Christian lives, the power that we have received at Baptism has to come out of the freezer. We need a release of the Spirit within us." Out of the deep freeze and onto the fire–that's what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (BHS) has done to millions of Catholics all over the world in the past forty two years since the Duquesne weekend. There is nothing extraordinary about the BHS for it is essentially that which happened to the 120 disciples when the Holy Spirit descended on them on the day of Pentecost.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has certainly succeeded in ushering in a new springtime in the Church in the past four decades. From a small group of people in a classroom in the Duquesne University in Pittsburg who had the bewildering experience in February 1967, today it has grown to be a world–wide movement that has practically influenced about 125 million people in 235 countries. However, one needs to bear in mind that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is "like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened" (Lk 13:21). We need to constantly ask ourselves: to what extent has the BHS turned out to be leaven to the whole Church? The fact remains that 'a grace' that was meant for all Church has been confined to only about 12% of the faithful. Just as the first Pentecost was not for any select group, the New Pentecost is meant for all.
Pope Paul VI famously referred to the Renewal as "a chance for the Church and for the world." In 1996 Cardinal Suenens wrote: "With the passing of time the phrase of Paul VI on the Renewal as 'good fortune for the Church' still remains a wish only partially fulfilled, because this grace was not grasped at every level of the Church or taken to its heart. To interpret the Renewal as a 'movement' among other movements is to misunderstand its nature; it is a movement of the Spirit offered to the entire Church and destined to rejuvenate every aspect of the Church?s life. The soul of the Renewal–Baptism in the Spirit–a grace of Pentecostal refreshment offered to all Christians." Commenting on this, Fr. R. Cantalamessa pointed out: "It is with infinite sadness that I see that the Charismatic Renewal has ended up confined to one part of the Church only, and regarded by the rest as something alien that they feel fully justified in keeping well clear of it." The BHS is a grace that is meant to be transmitted into each and every sphere and activity of the Church. Praising and singing in tongues, prophesying and healing should become part of the day–to–day life in every parish community and family. Hence, we should admit in all humility that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, in fact, has just begun!
Cardinal Suenens exhorted us: "To my friends in the Renewal all over the world I should like to say that the Renewal is destined for the entire Church, and that their constant preoccupation should be that the waters of the river flow into the sea in loyalty to their source." Pope John Paul II told the ICCRS Council when he met them in 1979 shortly after becoming Pope: "I am convinced that this movement is a very important component in the total renewal of the Church." This does not imply that everyone should formally enrol themselves as 'members' of the Renewal. It simply means that, like the yeast, the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit should permeate into the entire Church. Thereby the Catholic Charismatic Renewal will lose its separate identity and all the Church will once again become 'a Church with the Pentecost' reliving the Acts of the Apostles. It is a grace meant to transform existing ecclesiastical structures such as parish council, Small Christian Communities, Catholic Association and other associations and strengthen them in their faith.
Blessed Elena Guerra appealed to Pope Leo XIII, "Holy Father, call the faithful to the Cenacle without delay! Imitating Saint Peter who goes ahead to make ready the Upper Room, let us all go into the Cenacle! Let us turn to the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit may turn to us." The Church must continually come back to the Cenacle, the Upper Room, to be enlightened again and become a burning bush, as it was on the day of Pentecost. For Pentecost is not a one off event. The Church needs a permanent Pentecost. More than ever, the Church and the world need the miracle of Pentecost to be continued today. Everywhere the trumpet is being sounded about the need for the people of God to return to the Upper Room in intense worship, adoration and intercession. We are being called to awaken from slumber and be empowered anew by the Holy Spirit. Let us once again become passionate adorers of the Lord and powerful instruments of intercession for the Church and the world. The Pentecost is an ongoing experience and we should start praying fervently and look forward expectantly for a New Pentecost!
The mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century was an outcome of this renewed devotion to the Holy Spirit introduced in the Church. Once again in recent years in many countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia, National Service Committees and ministries have started promoting Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit. With this objective in view the ICCRS has launched Operation Upper Room: "Pentecost of the Nations?For a New Culture of Pentecost" as a priority project. It is an appeal to National Service Committees across the world to observe 10 days prior to the "Upper Room of Jerusalem" in one heart and in constant prayer (Acts 1:2-14) becoming "burning bushes" in adoration and intercession.
I have been sensing considerable burden that the Holy Spirit is calling the whole Church to return anew to the Upper Room in prayer and expectation for a new Pentecost! As someone has rightly said, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is "a spiritual shock" for the entire Church that is meant to transmit an impulse, "a current of grace." It should produce results that are identical to the first Pentecost about 2000 years ago: "And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Let us pray and endeavor ceaelessly to restore the Church to her original character. With our eyes of faith let us look up and see "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21:1) the Spirit of God is already creating!"
Copyright ICCRS May-June 2009 Newsletter – With Permission.