Friday, 30 July 2010
Baptism in the Spirit
"My first encounters with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal were all negative. I found the earliest meetings in Washington DC in 1967, under the room where I lived at the Catholic University of America, noisy, emotional, and very disturbing of my work, sleep and peace. I definitely did not like the charismatic renewal. Having transferred to Rome to teach at the Pontifical Gregorian University, my superiors assigned me for several months to open and close the doors of a university building on Sunday afternoons for the first charismatic group in Italy, or at least one of the very first. My Sundays were ruined. I opened and shut the doors in bad humour, and did not attend the meetings, not even for a minute. As a result of my rudeness, the entire group prayed that I would receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and join the group.
In the summer of 1975 at a small meeting in the state of New York, in a retreat house that just happened to be a charismatic retreat house, I felt an interior urge, forceful almost to the point of violence, to ask the heads of the retreat house to pray over me. And so: I received the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues, some charisms, a profound inner healing and immense joy. It changed my life permanently.
Results of prayer vary
My experience has taught me that the principal mission of the charismatic renewal, and of each group and of each community in particular, is to offer the possibility to as many people as they can, a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the so-called Baptism in the Holy Spirit. However, since it is the Lord and not we who pour out the Spirit, the results of our prayer vary. Some people seem to receive nothing; others at first seem to receive little or nothing and then find themselves receiving much. Others immediately feel the results of the prayer and know that they have received great things from God and that their lives have changed forever.
Jesus is the One who baptizes in His Spirit. And so I have witnessed baptisms in the Holy Spirit often when we have prayed over people in prayer groups and retreats and charismatic conferences. I have seen many spontaneous baptisms in the Spirit and I have known of baptisms in the Holy Spirit that have taken place in personal prayer, at Mass, and in other unusual situations.
Different contexts in which Baptism in the Spirit can be offered.
It seems to me that the principal mission of any part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is to offer the prayer for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This can be done in the context of a seminar, the seminar can take place over a period of weeks, or even months as in the case of a group that meets monthly. Or the seminar can take place in a short retreat, even in a one-day retreat. Or at a charismatic conference.
The charismatic renewal is not an institution, not an organization primarily, nor even a group of organizations. It is a movement of the Spirit. Not a movement of people nor of their leaders. Not a planned programme. The charismatic renewal is an outpouring of grace, and the main grace is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It does depend on the Lord. But we need to cooperate by offering the possibility of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to everyone who has not yet received a real baptism in the Spirit. Yes, Jesus baptizes in His Spirit, and he does it how and where and when He wants to. But we need to set things up, to pray over people, and first to give them some sort of preparation however brief and rudimentary.
We can pray over people
In many places, and not only in the more developed nations, the charismatic renewal is limping badly, diminishing in numbers and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and even dying. In those many places, in spite of moribund prayer groups and lacklustre leadership there is hope. Hope in the Lord. We can pray over people. We can advertise by asking pastors to announce seminars to receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with dates and times and telephone numbers and where they will take place, by placing posters in churches and other places, and by telling people and encouraging them to come and receive great graces. We can leave the rest up to the Lord.
Relying on Jesus and not on ourselves
What do we have to be afraid of? Of a “revolving door” prayer group where people make the seminar, get prayed over and vanish? There is nothing wrong with the revolving door. Those people who do not remain in the group or in the community have had the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit; they have changed, they will not be the same. And there will be others. Are we afraid of our own incompetence in giving the seminar?
We are all incompetent; it is part of our charm and the key to relying on Jesus and not on ourselves. We have nothing to be afraid of except this; not doing what the Lord calls us to do. “Jesus Christ’s entire mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit…” (Pope Benedict XV1, Osservatore Romano, January 26th 2008). Jesus has been revealed as the One who has come to baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit” (Pope Benedict XV1, homily on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord). Pope Benedict makes it clear that this wonderful grace is for everyone. Our calling in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is to be channels for the Lord – living it, proclaiming it and ministering it.” (Charles Whitehead, Goodnews, March 2008)"
Fr Bob Faricy SJ has been a speaker and a writer about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for over 30 years.