“The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has helped many Christians to rediscover the presence and power of the Holy Spirit …and this rediscovery has awakened in them a faith in Christ filled with joy.” Pope John Paul II, Address to Charismatic Renewal Leaders, 1998

Since 1967, the Charismatic Renewal has been experienced by more than one hundred million Catholics around the world. It has received the approval of the popes and the American bishops who wrote: We assure those in the Charismatic Renewal of the support they enjoy from the Bishops of the United States and we encourage them in their efforts to renew the life of the church. (North American Bishops Pastoral Statement, 1984).

All true renewal is characterized by a return to the source. Charismatic Renewal is a return to the very beginnings of the church: Pentecost. The heart of this is baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is not a substitute for the sacrament of Baptism. Rather, it is an experience of the fullness of this sacrament, the Holy Spirit working in a new way to empower us in our Christian lives and in our service to others. The charismatic gifts are experienced as ways in which the Holy Spirit enables us to yield ourselves more to God’s direction and power.

The vision of the Charismatic Renewal is the renewal of the face of the earth through the renewal of the church, the body of Christ. As each member of the body is renewed and takes a more active role in the church, the church itself becomes more effective in its mission.

As the American Bishops have stated: “Clearly, the Charismatic Renewal has as its goal the transformation of all the members of the People of God.”


What is Charismatic Renewal?

by Jean Beers

Charismatic Renewal is a movement in the Catholic Church, which fosters in people a release of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The word charismatic comes from the Greek word charism, or gift, and combined with the word renewal, means a renewal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Everyone who has been baptized has received gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our Confirmation, in which we are anointed for service, increases those gifts. Catholics are familiar with many gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, healing and miracles, to name a few.

Though we all receive the Holy Spirit and his gifts in the Sacraments, we need to “fan into flame the Gift of God you have received.” (2 Timothy 1:6.) This reawakening of sacramental grace is what is referred to in charismatic renewal as “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Millions of Catholics have had experience with the gifts spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles at Pentecost: speaking in tongues, prophecy, discernment of spirits, knowledge, and miracles. We are seeing the gifts of the Spirit being released and growing awareness of the charisms in our time. But what is the purpose of the gifts?

You will Receive Power

Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8

What is this power of the Holy Spirit? The apostles waited in Jerusalem as Jesus told them, with his mother Mary in their midst. After waiting and praying for nine days, they experienced the Holy Spirit coming on them as wind and fire. Their immediate response was to praise and glorify God. They spoke in other tongues as the Spirit prompted them.

Mary had received the power of the Spirit more than once before—the angel called her “full of grace.” She believed his message and received the power of the Spirit to conceive in her body the Son of God. She received the power of the Holy Spirit again on Pentecost and used the gifts he bestowed on her along with the whole Church.

The Holy Spirit was sent to empower the disciples of Jesus and to build them up to do the work he had entrusted to them of making disciples of all nations. To this day, the Holy Spirit is being sent to believers to empower them to be his witnesses, that is, to be able to tell others about Jesus. This power enables us to love in a more godly way and to forgive more fully. We initially receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and then in a special rite in the sacrament of Confirmation.

We experience the Spirit in our life—urging us on, helping us, sanctifying us. And, like Mary, we are called to times of renewal,
to receive more fully his power and gifts. Actually, we release the power of the Spirit whom we have already received in Baptism.

The Gifts of the Spirit

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.” (CCC, 2003) When we use these gifts, or tools, we are aiming at specific needs. The gifts strengthen us and others personally. For instance, the gift of healing is given for those who need healing.

Some gifts are listed in the scriptures and include: tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, discernment of spirits, healing, miracles, words of knowledge, and words of wisdom. (1 Cor. 12:6-10 and Romans 12:6-8) These gifts help us to remain close to Christ and to do the work he has for us.

The gifts of the Spirit are freely given. The Spirit distributes his gifts to us, not because we are worthy, but because we need all the help we can get to live a Christian life in this world.

When we begin using the gifts of the Spirit we may feel like children trying to handle an adult tool. God does give his gifts to us, his children, who receive his gifts in childlike faith. Of course, that is why we may use his gifts immaturely. God doesn’t wait for us to be mature to issue gifts. He wants us to start using them—and also, to grow up in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is constantly teaching, encouraging, and helping us. We experience that help not only by inner guidance, but through one another. As we grow in faith and in the use of the gifts, we find that the gifts of other people fit together with our gifts. One may give a message in tongues while another may interpret; one may prophecy while another may confirm the prophecy. The gifts of the Spirit are really interactive!

The Fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit (memorized by many of us) are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, modesty, gentleness, self-control, and chastity. (Galatians 5:22) The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident as we learn from the Lord and follow him. “By their fruits you will know them.” The fruit grows as we stay close to the Lord and receive his life, like branches receive life from the vine. We need his gifts and his fruits.

How to Receive

Jesus has gone before us and models the life in the Spirit. He was baptized in the Jordan River, then the Holy Spirit fell upon him and led him into the desert. As John the Baptist says of Jesus in Matthew 3:11, “… He will baptized you with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Just as we receive Holy Communion by coming forward, by reaching out, by opening our mouth, by faith in Jesus, in a similar way we receive the power of the Holy Spirit by faith and trust. God is ready to give us the Spirit. Luke 11:13 states, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” It is our willing disposition that is the important key.

To prepare ourselves, we turn away from sin—from anything keeping us from God—and we ask for, and give, forgiveness. We renew our baptismal vows, renouncing Satan and all his deceptions. We turn away from our sins and confess them to the Father, we renounce all involvement in cults, etc. in obedience to the first commandment, “You shall not have other gods besides me.”

Then we ask for the Holy Spirit in simple faith. We can experience the release of the Holy Spirit alone as we pray privately, but just like the people in the Acts of the Apostles, we are helped when others pray for us. The pattern in scripture is for people to lay hands on the one who is seeking. The ministry of others increases our faith. They also can help us to release our prayer language by their encouragement and prayer.

The prayer language, which is the gift of speaking in tongues, is given for the purpose of building us up. (1 Corinthians 14:2) It is one of the most practical gifts God gives to us, one which we can use daily. With it, we speak to God and we also use it to pray for others, especially when we don’t know exactly how to pray for them.

Whether a person receives baptism in the Holy Spirit alone or with others, soon there will be a desire to share the gifts, to confirm spiritual experiences and receive encouragement and strengthening. For these reasons charismatic prayer groups have formed.

From the beginning, renewal leaders have been connected to their local bishops. In the U.S., the Ad Hoc Committee on Charismatic Renewal reports to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) Office, located in the Vatican, serves the growth and development of charismatic renewal through out the world.

Much has been written about using the gifts of the Spirit, spiritual growth, and the study of scripture. When we search the scripture, and pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, He will answer our prayer.

© 1997 Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal (WWCCR)
P.O. Box 33609, Seattle, WA 98133-0609
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