Charterhouse Chronicle by Bronwen Astor THE Charismatic
Movement is alive and well, if a trifle elderly in my neck of the woods. We Catholics are celebrating 25 years since those wondrous days in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. followed shortly after by a weekend in Ann Arbor, of Catholic student.; in theology who were suddenly "baptised in the Holy Spirit".
In those days the Pentecostals asked when were we going to leave the Catholic Church and join them? Nowadays that is not the question and the ongoing dialogue between the Pentecostal Church and the Vatican (we are the only Church that is holding such a pow-wow with them) bears witness to the importance of the theological understanding of the third person of the Trinity.
Why is the Holy Spirit so important? Surely it is enough to love Jesus and follow him; to love God the Father and do his will?
Charles Whitehead, the International President of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Council which meets in Rome with the Pope, put his finger on the point when speaking recently at the Alton meeting. Educated by Jesuits he told us how as a young man he tried to conform to the teaching of the Gospel with clenched jaw and gritted teeth. However hard he tried he failed over and over again. Don't we all. And then he discovered the Holy Spirit. Or was it that the Holy Spirit discovered him? There is choice on both sides, he assured us, God's and ours. God chooses and creates and we choose whether to respond or not.
Bishop Langton Fox writes in the 25th Anniversary Edition of Goodnevi:s what it was that struck him at his first Charismatic prayer meeting to which he had gone in some trepidation and with a "bodyguard": "What we found were 300 to 400 normal practising Catholics who looked redeemed!
It took me a whole week to analyse it but I discovered that what they had was charity... its a consequence of having love they had peace and they had joy."
What happens is that the power and motivation in a person, maybe for only the brief time of the prayer meeting, has gone beyond the ego or self and re-connected with its source.
I say for only a "brief time" because to make this a fully permanent state of consciousness demands a lot of work on the psyche and a maturity of psychological growth.
We may side-step the ego temporarily in this way but if it is not yet a particularly strong ego we may not have gone permanently beyond it, renounced and re-aligned it and rejoined our self in the place deepest in the psyche where the Trinity dwells. Disappointment, therefore, often follows the initial exhilaration. As Charles reminded us, we are on a journey. If we think we have arrived we are in big trouble!
0 N the same day I was at Alton a similar meeting was taking place at Worth Abbey where 120 people gathered for praise and worship led by a dynamic group of young people. Fr Michael Benjamin who spoke at the meeting tells me there are songs of a fresh stirring of the Spirit prompting spontaneous Life in the Spirit seminars. He also notices more priests becoming aware of the power of healing.
Talking of healing I was at the memorable Mass at Arundel Cathedral last August to hear Fr Jozo from Medjugorje speak so movingly about his trip to America to plead for help. After endless talking with top politicians one of them suggested they stop to pray. Fr Jozo was overjoyed. Prayer, together with fasting; is what Our Lady insists will help most to bring peace.
After Massat Arundel Fr Jozo laid his hands on the ten priests who had turned up to concelebrate and commissioned them to minister to us all. I will never forget the look of utter astonishment on a young priest's face as the woman in front of whom he had barely touched keeled over "slain in the spirit". Soon people were falling quietly about everywhere and the clergy, but not the laity, were astounded at the manifestation of deep healing taking place.
FURTHER news of the spread of the healing Renewal movement comes from various youth groups that are living in community around Britain and from the many conferences, groups and prayer meetings throughout the world. We shall hear more of this from Fr Ranier° Cantalamessa OFM, the Pope's personal preacher to the pontifical household. when he comes to Britain next Easter for the Priests' Charismatic Retreat Week and the Day of Renewal in London. Be. there!
We ended our meeting at Alton with a lovely Communion service conducted by a nun. As always at charismatic Masses we erupted at the sign of peace. This can be very off-putting for those not in the mood. I remember a Spanish friend of mine once shot her neighbour into the pew in front with the force of her heartfelt slap on the back. A prayer meeting will take a similar form whatever the country. Praise in song and tongues, prayer, prophecy and silences: followed by a speaker closely linking Bible texts to emphasise the work of the Holy Spirit. Then more singing (a lot of the early songs are regularly incorporated into our parish Masses). and a period of intercessory prayer with perhaps laying on of hands for those who ask.
Separation rather than healing is much in the news. Breakdowns of countries, marriage breakdowns. nervous breakdowns: a process of splitting to establish and consolidate new self awareness.
This counteracts the deeper/higher process of unifying which initially appears to be self-threatening.
All the more urgent then, it would seem, that we realise there is a new vigour to be had beyond the death of the self or ego.
The choice is open to us to receive supernatural grace. love and fellowship, peace and joy. In the forthcoming months and years I think we shall all be needing a lot of that.
Fr Ronald Rolheiser's column appears this week on page 5