Is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal still relevant? ABSOLUTELY. The Holy Spirit has not finished with us yet.
CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL – PREGNANT WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
ICCRS Councillor, Chairperson NSC Australia
The Lord spoke is speaking prophetically, promising that He is doing something NEW. These words are being echoed around the world leaving us in no doubt that something new is taking place. I have reflected on this and another phrase I have heard on numerous occasions “the Holy Spirit comes to ‘disturb’ us” . During my reflections, two recurring questions which I find perturbing also came to my consciousness. The first “Is everyone who receives prayer for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit really baptised in the Spirit?” and the second “Is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal still relevant today?”
This article shares my reflections on these prophetic promises and questions by using the analogy of a pregnancy and they are written with the knowledge that these thoughts may be more pertinent to the current Renewal in the Western World.
The figures tell us that since 1967 over 120 million Catholics (a conservative estimate) have received prayer for Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Church began with 120 through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Surely then, 120 million baptised with this same anointing would have a profound and lasting effect upon the Church of today? I have always assumed that by willingly participating in a Life in the Spirit Seminar, all who received the prayer for a new release of the Holy Spirit, would accept this grace with open arms and begin a new and transformed life of love, intimacy with the Lord, power and mission. If that is the case, if this prayer transforms us into Disciples, why are we experiencing a decline in the number of people attending prayer meetings?
I conducted a survey (not exactly a morgan gallup Poll!) amongst my friends and asked them this question: “If you could imagine your life as a pregnancy experience what stage e.g. time of conception / the pregnancy itself / birth / new life, growth etc – would best describe your experience of your initial prayer for Baptism in the Holy Spirit?” The majority stated that their experience felt like a Birth / a time of New Life. The experience so transformed their relationship with God that they were indeed living a new life with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The medical profession tells us that to achieve pregnancy it is important to be healthy. Initially if we have unhealthy habits (e.g. smoking, drinking) we must avoid these, to have a better chance of achieving conception. Not making these changes could jeopardise our ability to create new life. Could it be that, although some people receive the prayer for the BHS, they make a conscious decision to continue with unhealthy habits (i.e. sin) in their lives and this decision causes them not to conceive in the first place, therefore the beginning of new life in God’s Spirit never actually begins?
We are also advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy so both parent and the growing child will thrive. Could it be that through neglect (lack of prayer / lack of healing / isolation from CCR community) many have been unable to bring to growth the new life offered to them?
The first fluttering of a new child in the womb are difficult to detect. There is awareness of changes happening within but questions such as “Is this really the child or my imagination?”Arise. However as the movements become stronger it’s easier to recognise this new life. The same can be said for our journey in the Holy Spirit. To nurture this new life within we must co-operate with Grace. In the beginning we may not be sure if this really is the Holy Spirit, yet as with pregnancy, we are filled with joy at the possibilities. We are in awe at what could be happening and give thanks. Sadly for some, the busyness of life, the attachments of the world takes their attention. Consequently, the gift within is left undetected, lies dormant and is never given the opportunity to grow.
Tragically (as with abortion) there are some who, for various reasons, have made a conscious decision to terminate this new life of the Spirit growing within them and go back to life as it was before the prayer.
My reflections have bought me to the conclusion that through choice there are some who reject the graces offered to them through this powerful anointing prayer of Baptism in the Holy Spirit and therefore never experience or grow in this new life in God’s Spirit.
One of my friends from the survey commented: “if I answered this question in the first few years after Baptism in the Holy Spirit I would say that I was at the point of new life and growth (after the birth of the baby, in other words) because something new and beautiful and powerful was born at the time. However, all these years down the track, and now knowing the depths the Holy Spirit leads one to, I would say I am really only into the middle of my pregnancy”
This leads beautifully into my reflections on the second question: ‘Is the Renewal still relevant?’ Again I reflected on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in terms of a pregnancy. Ordinarily, we could view Pope Leo’s prayer at the beginning of the 20th Century as the time of conception, the pregnancy being the time leading up to the Dusquene Weekend and the coming of the Holy spirit upon the students as the time of birth. Rapid growth occurred as this Fire spread across the world. Individuals who received this prayer for Baptism in the Holy Spirit were indeed given a new life of love with God. There is nothing wrong with this analogy, however I think if we limit our view of the Renewal as the time of birth, new life/ growth, we are missing a huge part of the picture.
Has this new move of the Holy Spirit accomplished what it was sent to do? You would agree that we have witnessed lives being changed. We have witnessed people being healed and seen many experience the love of God in new and profound ways. We have witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit and our hearts sing in Praise and Thanks to God for His love and wondrous works among us. Yet we are now becoming discouraged because we rarely see or experience God’s signs and wonders as we have in the past. We are becoming tired, we are loosing hope. We ask “Has this move of the Holy Spirit grown to maturity and is now dying a natural death? If we adopt our previous view of the Renewal being a time of new birth and growth, then this is a logical conclusion. “But!” Could it be that there is another way to see it?
What if we are still pregnant and the birth has not yet taken place?
How different the picture is if we see the Renewal as still in the state of pregnancy. Perhaps the mystery of birth has not yet taken place. Perhaps we are pregnant and our responsibility is to continue to nurture this new life within, to make ready and prepare for the new birth. And what an amazing birth it will be (John 14:12) “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”
To give birth is excruciating, it comes at the end of a long waiting time and is achieved only through intense pain. Women share that when their time of birth comes near, they are fed up, uncomfortable, impatient and exasperated. They just want it to happen NOW. Generally however they have no control over when the child will be born. Once the birthing process has started it’s impossible to back out, nor do you want to (though that thought may cross your mind!) The pain is all consuming, yet the joy of holding the child at the end of it wipes away the pain which has gone before it.
To conclude the pregnancy analogy, my sense is that we have been looking at it the wrong way. We have not delivered the baby – we are still pregnant! I believe the Lord is preparing us for new birth, disturbing us, making us uncomfortable but also inviting us to get ready; to be excited; to long, wait and pray for the NEW, with great expectation. It’s my belief that we haven’t seen the full birthing of the Holy Spirit yet and this birth will be something like we have never seen before. Our first ‘yes’ to the Lord both personally and as a Body was the beginning of a new pregnancy. We are privileged to carry the Spirit within, to nurture Him in order that He may come to full birth.
Is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal still relevant? ABSOLUTELY. The Holy Spirit has not finished with us yet. Alleluia.