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In the autumn of 2012 there will be a synod in Rome on the subject of the New Evangelisation. One of those appointed as a consultor to the Pontifical Council to Promote the New Evangelisation is Ralph Martin, an American Catholic Charismatic. Ralph was one of the pioneers of Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in the United States. He is a full time evangelist and has recently completed a PhD in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas in Rome.

It is poignant that such a high profile Charismatic, who was invited by Cardinal Suenens, one of the four moderators of the Second Vatican Council, to establish the first international office for CCR in Brussels as it was on the eve of this Council that Pope John XXIII threw open the windows of the Vatican and prayed for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to blow through the Church with the following words:

“Renew Your wonders this day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.”

The result was the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit throughout the Second Vatican Council which was almost immediately followed by the first seeds of Catholic Charismatic Renewal being sown among students attending a retreat at Duquesne.

The history of the prayer for a New Pentecost actually started a little earlier, at the end of the nineteenth century when an Italian nun Blessed Elena Guerra wrote a series of twelve letters to Pope Leo XIII between 1895 and 1903 urging him to rediscover the Holy Spirit and lead the Church back to the Upper Room. She sought a permanent Pentecost acclaiming that ‘Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in every time and every place … we only have to dispose ourselves like them [the apostles] to receive him’. On January 1st 1901 the Pope acceded to this request, encouraging every Catholic Church to prepare for Pentecost by praying a novena.

Pope Leo XIII did so in his apostolic letter Provida Matris Caritate which called for a sacred novena between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost for the specific intention of reuniting the Christian church.

So it seems quite fitting that Pope Benedict XVI has on several occasions called for a New Pentecost. In New York on April 19th 2008 he exclaimed, “As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” In May, 2008 the Pope wrote, “Today I would like to ex­tend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our Baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.” (L’Osservatore Romano)

In the discussions leading up to World Youth Day in the same year he said “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses,”

At the conclusion of its annual meeting in Albania in October 2011, the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences concluded “There will be no new evangelization without a new Pentecost!”

It is clear that we as Catholics cannot undertake the New Evangelisation under our own strength. Only through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit can we begin re-building Christ’s Church, in our homes, our parishes, and beyond.

Suggestions as to how we may begin to achieve this will follow in subsequent posts. Meanwhile, one suggestion is to start praying the prayer of Pope John XIII shown above.