1 January 1985
A new document approved by the United State Bishops’ Conference “commends the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the fruit of holiness and good works born in the lives of those who become involved in this movement”.
Noting with joy that two popes have spoken very encouragingly about the Charismatic Renewal since their own earlier statements about it in 1969 and 1975, the U.S. Bishops’ Liaison Committee for Charismatic Renewal has issued this (1984) Pastoral Statement because they “have seen the Charismatic Renewal mature in its grasp of the core of the Gospel and those realities which belong constitutively to the inner nature of the Church”.
The Bishops’ stated purpose in preparing the new document is to “endeavor to assist each bishop in his pastoral responsibility not to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good”. Hence it reminds them that “the call to discipleship and to baptism is an invitation to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and with the Holy Spirit as the power of God who gives us access through Christ to the Father who dwells in inaccessible light (1 Tm. 6/16). It is also an invitation to enter into personal bonds with the whole people of God”. The Statement then goes on to affirm regarding Charismatic Renewal:
“Many lives have been touched at this personal level. Have undergone a deep conversion, and have radically reoriented themselves towards God, and have been able to nourish themselves on the bread of true doctrine which the Church offers to them in the name of Christ. For many people, rediscovering the personal dimensions of the faith has meant rediscovering the experience of Church, Eucharistic life, the sacrament of penance, Mary’s role and the ancient discipline of fasting. From this has come a new depth of personal prayer, nourished by the two tables of the Lord, the table of his Body and the table of his Word. Many, too, have rediscovered the centrality of the cross, which remains at the heart of Christian discipleship even after the glory of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. From an intensified relationship to the triune God comes new growth in love for all the members of the human family”.
The Bishops then go on to evaluate/list various areas of Church life “significantly” influenced by Charismatic renewal:
- “It has contributed in an even more profound way to the realization of the role of the laity in the mission of the Church…”
- “The gifts are charisms of ministry, neither to be confused with ecclesiastical office, nor to be seen as expressing only emotional content…New appreciation of the role of the prophetic charisms does not signal undue attention to what is peripheral, rather, it represents due attention to what is foundational…”
- “The Charismatic Renewal has grasped the communitarian dimension of the Good News. The return to different forms of community is prompted by the deepest Christian instinct…There are inter-parochial prayer groups, parish prayer groups and covenant communities; some are wholly Catholic in membership, some are ecumenical. In all of the various community forms there is evidence of a great spiritual hunger for God, his presence and his Word…”
- “Because the Charismatic Renewal is at the Church, (it) has contributed significantly to the revitalization of parish life in the areas of liturgy, music, evangelization, Scripture, prayer and youth outreach. It also provides the kind of Christian environment in which many are hearing the call of the Lord to serve the Church as servant leaders…”
- “The emergence of covenant communities is a development of major importance…they have become a significant sign of the kingdom of God present in power. Through collaboration with the local bishop, these communities have developed new approaches to the pursuit of full Catholic life…”
- “Within some of these covenant communities are households of men and households of women who are single for the Lord, that is, living a life of committed celibacy, evangelical simplicity and poverty, developing profoundly human and graced bonds of friendship and fellowship, which make these celibate communities effective tools of evangelization, especially among the youth…”
In the latter part of the document, the Bishops offer valuable guidelines to help leaders grow in their breadth of Christian vision and the practice of holiness. For example, regarding the problem of some Catholics leaving the Church:
“Discovering in the Charismatic Renewal that the faith is not found principally and first of all in exterior forms but in a personal relationship with God and with their brothers and sisters, many have had awakened in them a new spiritual awareness and hunger. It may happen that such people judge that they cannot find in their parishes the food and fellowship for which they have an authentic need. Turning to sources they believe will satisfy them, some then leave the Church. At times no theological judgment on the Church is involved in this step, nor even necessarily a rejection of it. What is involved rather is a pragmatic judgment: these people want food and fellowship to meet the needs as they perceive them and they go where they can get them. In other cases, however, there is a rejection of the Catholic Church and a harsh judgment upon it. Unfortunately, some even attempt to proselytize other Catholics. This problem emphasizes the need for strong leadership and well-developed formation programs. Sound formation, sensitive pastoral leadership (including that of parish priest) and genuine fellowship will call people closer to the Church, not lead them away”.
Regarding “sound formation”, the Bishops want leaders to continue to offer Life in the Spirit seminars, for they are very fruitful means of holiness: “Large numbers have benefited from Life in the Spirit seminars and other formation programs which are regularly offered in most charismatic groups. We would encourage those who present programs for a fuller life in the Spirit not to be discouraged but to persist in their apostolic ministry, even though many who have been through these seminars, whose lives have been touched and changed, do not remain in formal contact with the Charismatic Renewal. Seeds have been sown and lives have been redirected. Many are thus enabled to serve the Church and pursue the full Christian life in the Church. These instructional programs are very helpful in the preparation for the sacraments of initiation where the young discover with a sense of expectancy the meaning of a full life in the Spirit, and adults, some for the first time, experience the joy of living out their sacramental commitments”.
The Statement offers more guidelines, regarding ecumenism, healing, deliverance, evangelization, social concern, and leadership (to be exercised by laity, priests and bishops), and concludes with a Commendation of Charismatic Renewal: “We especially rejoice in the efforts to foster the pursuit of Holiness, to encourage Catholics to a fuller participation in the Mass and Sacrament, to develop ministries to serve the parish and local Church, to foster ecumenical bonds of unity with other Christians, to participate in evangelization, and to assist the development of this renewal in other countries. While this renewal pursues the gospel priority of giving first emphasis to the praise, thanks, worship and love of God, we remind all that such love is not complete if it does not reach out to all our neighbors, especially the poor. We wish those in the Charismatic Renewal to know that we make our own the view of Yves Congar: “The Charismatic Renewal is a grace for the Church”. We assure those in the Charismatic Renewal of the support they enjoy from the bishops of the United States, and we encourage them in their efforts to renew the life of the Church”. (Emphasis Ours)
Taken from the ICCRS Newsletter, January-February 1985