Thursday, September 30, 2004

Charismatic?

Reading the excellent article about Discernment by Peter Kreeft, I was struck by this:
I assume that many readers of this page are (1) Catholic, (2) orthodox and faithful to the teachings of the church, (3) conservative, and (4) charismatic. I have had many friends -- casual, close, and very close -- of this description for many years. In fact, I fit the description myself.

I kept coming back to it. Peter Kreeft called himself charismatic? Wasn't that speaking in tongues, shouting "Hallelujah, Lord!" with hands in the air, possibly holy rolling? Snakes? No, probably no snakes ... that seemed too extreme. But, he had mentioned also being conservative, orthodox and faithful to the teachings of the church. That did not seem to go with being charismatic.

Worse, yet, when I thought about it, I suddenly realized that I might have some of those charismatic characteristics. I prayed out loud with my CRHP (pronounced "chirp) sisters, we would "pray over" someone who needed it for whatever reason by crowding around and laying our hands on her, we are very into the Holy Spirit ... I really didn't like where this seemed to be going. So I thought that I'd better get a few facts. A short Google later, I was in possession of some very interesting information ... a real definition of a charismatic Christian.
Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as glossolalia [speaking in tongues], healing and miracles, are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today.

The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charis (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

Often confused with Pentecostalism (which it was inspired by), Charismatic Christianity tends to differ in key aspects: Charismatics reject the preeminence given by Pentecostalism to glossolalia, reject the legalism sometimes associated with Pentecostalism, and often stay in their existing denominations ...

While Charismatic Christians are not exclusive to any single denomination, Charismatic theology is not uniquely Protestant. There is a burgeoning Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II is reputed to have a Charismatic Priest as his personal pastor. wordIQ Dictionary & Encyclopedia
So, not necessarily speaking in tongues but primarily very open to the graces, miracles, power and presence of the Holy Spirit. And even the Pope might be on board with this. Ok. I was feeling better, less freakish anyway. In fact, thinking about it, I realized that definition could be used on practically everyone who has gone through the Christ Renews His Parish retreat and formation.

Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), to which I have referred repeatedly in this blog, is an amazing process. It begins with a two-day retreat held in isolation from the world, but on church premises. The main emphasis during that time is a series of witnesses telling of their personal encounter with Christ based on one of a series of topics, such as Renewal, Reconciliation, Discipleship, etc. There are various other activities that I won't go into here but suffice it to say that you almost can feel the Holy Spirit flowing during that time. The retreat participants can then go on with their "team" to a series of weekly meetings that go on for six months while they study Scripture and prepare to give the next retreat.

Nothing I say here can adequately describe how close that CRHP team becomes and how God works in and through their lives. We shared miracles, graces, answered prayers ... and no speaking in tongues. During that time is when I realized that I suddenly felt about the Holy Spirit as I did about God and Jesus. He was an active participant in my life. The Holy Spirit used CRHP to change my life so much so that sometimes I feel like a different person ... and have had people who knew me before mention it independently.

Mulling all this over and continuing on my Kreeft readings in Fundamentals of the Faith, I came across this passage that pulled it all together for me.
When Paul visits the church in Ephesus (Acts 19), he notices something missing -- I think he would notice exactly the same thing in most of our churches and preach the same sermon -- and he asks them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2). Why would he ask that unless he saw a power shortage? Why did twelve fishermen convert the world, and why are half a billion Christians unable to repeat the feat? The Spirit makes the difference ...

We have received the Spirit by faith and baptism. "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom 8:9). But we need the release, the empowering, the anointing of the Spirit. Such empowerment is probably what the New Testament means by baptism in (or of or with) the Holy Spirit. It is supposed to happen at confirmation. Apparently, it usually does not. Millions of confirmed Catholics receive it afterward, usually in charismatic prayer meetings or seminars. The charismatic movement is obviously God's answer to Pope John XXIII's prayer for a new Pentecost. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both blessed it but said that it will fulfill its purpose only when, like the early liturgical movement, it ceases to have a separate identity of its own and is absorbed into the whole Church. In other words, every Catholic should be a charismatic, baptized in the Spirit, empowered like the apostles.

The difference this baptism in the Spirit makes is not primarily in any particular charismatic gift, such as tongues. Paul clearly says not to get hung up on tongues (1 Cor 12-14). The difference is far greater: like the difference between a picture and a live person, between dead orthodoxy and living truth, between words and power. If we are not certain that Jesus Christ is present in us, working, acting, making a difference, rather than just being a teacher, an example, a lovely but remote historical figure, then we need Pentecost. And when that happens, the world will be won again.
What CRHP does is just what Kreeft describes above ... it brings a new Pentecost. No wonder people come out of there glowing. Like the apostles they just can't stop telling people the Good News. When you find something like that you want to share it with everyone. Now I finally understood why the apostles had to have the Holy Spirit before they could accomplish anything. It literally changes you from the inside out. No wonder it is called Christ Renews His Parish ... and our priest and deacon are 100% behind it. And I understood why Peter Kreeft could call himself orthodox, conservative, and charismatic. It turns out that is what I am myself.

Now we just need to find a new word that doesn't carry all those negative connotations ... because I know what I thought about charismatic Christians. "Spirit filled?" Kinda crazy but not as bad. "Full of grace?" Hmmmm, no one is going to understand that at all and ... still kinda wacky. Well, I'll keep working on that part. All I know is CRHP made me into a charismatic Catholic and I couldn't be happier. If this is the future of the Catholic Church I can't wait to see the day when all Catholics are charismatic Catholics.

UPDATE: I think the best alternative to the term charismatic is one that a CRHP sister suggested. How about a whole heartedly practicing Catholic?

UPDATED UPDATE: I have been pleased to get response from CRHPers in other parishes. And, I think we have a winner from a person who is familiar with CRHP and the Holy Spirit, "I think it's a Catholic who has finally stopped practicing and started really living it!" I like that ... fully living the faith!

This person went on to add: "I describe the process this way: think of a jar filled with water. Now, put a lid on that jar and put it under a flowing faucet. What happens to the flowing water? It does not enter the jar at all but bounces off. Unscrew the lid, however, and the constantly flowing water flows into the jar and the water in the jar overflows. The jar is constantly filled to thee brim and overflowing with fresh water.

We are the jar...the water is the Holy Spirit. The lid is how we close ourselves off to the workings of the Spirit. CRHP, the charismatic renewal, or any other kind of real and profound experience of God causes us to allow God to unscrew the lid and let the Spirit flow. For some of us, God has to take one of those instruments used for unscrewing a lid that is on real" tight! For others, the lid comes off easily."

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