God cares! On the heels of the Second Vatican Council, the charismatic movement arose to take on a significant role in the Church’s mission. It began in 1967, a time of civil unrest in the United States, particularly on college campuses and in inner city ghettoes. Vietnam demonstrations, civil rights protests, and racial riots were regular features on the evening news. Then there was the unspeakable demoralization that followed the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
One part of God’s merciful response to the world’s woes at this time was to touch a small group of college students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In February 1967, these students, some of whom had already embraced the underpinnings of the Gospel message through the Cursillo movement, gathered for a weekend retreat on the Holy Spirit… They emerged with the goals of inspiring faith, praying with others, sharing the Gospel message, and highlighting the role of the Spirit. Just six years later, in 1973, thirty-five thousand Catholics of all ages gathered for a national conference at Notre Dame University—both to celebrate the Spirit and to seek his strength and empowerment as Jesus’s followers. And so began a new openness to baptism in the Spirit and to the charismatic renewal among Catholics, mostly through prayer groups.
Marks of Renewal
The spread of prayer groups in the first decades of the renewal brought forth several spiritual phenomena. The first was spontaneous group prayer, which became the context for praying in tongues and for gestures like raising one’s arms to God. The second was meditation on Scripture passages and their prophetic meaning, a form of lectio divina, Latin for “sacred reading.” The third was individual prayer for healing and other needs, through the laying on of hands and group intercessory prayer. The fourth was inspired teaching, to advance the faith formation of those present. Even now, we see these phenomena filtering into faith-sharing groups plus parish and regional ministries, thus bringing the best of the Renewal and its spiritual riches into the whole Church.
Golden Jubilee Challenge
This year we celebrate fifty years of charismatic renewal, or what Pope Francis refers to as a “current of grace…a renewing breath of the Holy Spirit for all the members of the Church.” This ongoing blessing and challenge is meant to raise questions in us.
- Have I accepted the proclamation of salvation in Jesus? Have I been transformed by the Good News? Has this transformation filtered into every fiber of my being, every thought and action?
- Am I ready to share my faith and let God’s love spill out on those around me, through the charisms and fruits of the Holy Spirit that I am being given?”
- Am I open to evangelizing, to giving flesh to the message of Jesus in word and deed, knowing that the Holy Spirit will change hearts and minds? Will I move from accidental kindnesses and invisible beliefs toward intentional acts of faith that enable others to experience Jesus in new ways?
excerpted from our newly revised and expanded booklet: An Introduction to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.