I am a Catholic Charismatic. I serve in the Praise and Worship Ministry of my community.
This means that I am very much used to leading a congregation in spontaneous prayer, even spontaneous singing (i.e. singing with words and music made up on the spot). The Charismatic Renewal is mainly about being aware (sensitive might be a better word) of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life and in the world, and consequently seeking to be led by the Spirit in one’s daily living. This surrender to the Spirit naturally translates to how a Charismatic prays, which may involve the raising of hands, expressive singing, spoken prayer, as well as praying in tongues. This is why you will rarely see a Charismatic leading prayer by reading from a pre-written speech. We trust that we will be given the words to say as led by the Spirit (see Romans 8:26).
This description may seem to completely go against the idea of using “formula” prayers such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, and basically the Mass as a whole. But allow me to share with you what the culture of the Charismatic Renewal did for me, and how it changed the way I celebrated Mass.
I think the shortest way to tell this story is to quote the past 3 popes on what they thought of the movement.
The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit. —Blessed Pope John Paul II, to the National Service Committee of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit,” Rome, Italy, 4 April 1998
The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church. —Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, at the meeting of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities, Rome, Italy, 31 October 2008
I don’t think that the charismatic renewal movement merely prevents people from passing over to Pentecostal denominations…No! It is also a service to the church herself! It renews us.–Pope Francis, en route to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, 28 July 2013
There are 3 words in “Catholic Charismatic Renewal.” And while some catholics might question the “Catholic” and squirm uncomfortably at the external signs of “Charismatic,” very few can deny that there is a true “Renewal” taking place (go here to read some true-to-life stories of renewal). And that was what the movement did for me: it opened my eyes, ears and heart to the spirit behind the prayers, removing the veil of familiarity and allowing me to discover the movement of the Spirit in the composition of these prayers that I had been hearing (but probably not listening to) since I was a child. Sure, I can pray with my own words “as led by the Spirit,” but I believe it is the same Spirit directing my heart towards Heaven as I fervently recite a centuries-old prayer that was written by someone also led by the Spirit.
The Renewal is not just a way for the Spirit to teach us a new way to pray/worship, it teaches us how we are supposed to pray in the first place–led by the Spirit, and filled with the Spirit.
I firmly believe that any Catholic Charismatic who is called to deeper faith will appreciate and embrace the magnificent beauty of the Liturgy (with all its rules), and of the Church as a whole. And any community that does not lead its members Rome-ward must ask themselves what still makes them Catholic.
Love for the Church and submission to her Magisterium, in the process of maturing in the Church supported by a solid permanent formation are relevant signs of your intention to avoid the risk of favoring, unwittingly, a purely emotional experience of the divine, an excessive pursuit of the “extraordinary” and a private withdrawal that may shrink from apostolic outreach. —Blessed Pope John Paul II, during the National Congress of the Italian “Renewal In the Spirit,” Rimini, Italy, 14 March 2002
Pray, worship–with all the life and zeal and joy of the charismatic renewal. But take on the responsibility of attaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Church–Her Creed, Cult (Liturgy) and Code. It is well and good that the heart behind our worship is evident–why not engage the mind as well? It can only lead us closer to worshiping the Lord in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).
You must love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. –Mark 12:30
Let those who know, love. And let those who love, know–that they might love even better.
Two sides, with two different temptations. What is the answer, then? Not one, nor the other, but BALANCE. More on this in Part 3!