On the afternoon of 1st June 2014, Pope Francis attended Rome’s Olympic Stadium to meet with the participants in the 37thNational Convention of Renewal in the Holy Spirit that was organised by Renewal in the Spirit in collaboration with ICCRS (International Charismatic Catholic Renewal Services) and CFCCCF (Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowship).
Whilst there, he knelt by his chair as the 55,000 participants prayed over him using the gift of tongues.
The pictures and reports of his involvement with Catholic Charismatics streamed into both the social and mass media round the world. However, a small minority used the opportunity to re-circulate attacks on Catholic Charismatic Renewal claiming in some cases that speaking in tongues was gibberish and the spirit that was acting in the lives of those committed to renewal was the spirit of Satan himself.
I have been involved in Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) for about 8 or 9 years and was ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’ on March 19th, 2007. I have spent several years researching the movement and wrote a dissertation on the subject for a Master’s Degree. I obeyed what St Paul called upon us to do in his first letter to the people of Thessalonica:
“Do not stifle the Spirit or despise the gift of prophecy with contempt; test everything and hold on to what is good and shun every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:19-22).
In Matthew’s account of the Gospel, Jesus says:
“Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits … I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.” (Matt 7 15-16 and 30).
My personal experience is that since coming into contact with CCR, I have read the Bible almost every day, in fact as a Catholic I didn’t even possess a Bible now I have 3 hard copies, 1 electronic copy and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament; I have been part of a Bible Study Group for more than 5 years; I read religious books, encyclicals, apostolic exhortations in preference to novels; I attend Mass during the week whenever possible and have a great understanding of the Mass and after years of simply undertaking the Easter Duty of attending confession, I try and examine my conscience on a regular basis and attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation much more often than previously.
Moreover, what was a personal and private faith has grown into something which I take every opportunity to share gently with anyone who is willing to listen.
Furthermore, I have seen the lives of friends change dramatically as they have come into contact with CCR. I have seen people give up their jobs and live life more simply in trust and obedience to the calling of the Lord. When I attend CCR events and conferences, there is great love expressed among these communities; Mass is a joyful celebration, long queues form as many people go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a regular presence; workshops on Lectio Divina are over-subscribed and the praise of God is so uplifting.
If all this was the work of the devil, why are so many returning to Confession, receiving Holy Communion and praising the name of Jesus? Why are people healed? Why have successive Popes supported the CCR? Pope Benedict said that Charismatics are the hope of the Church. Why have people like Ulf Eckman, a former charismatic pastor and the founder of the charismatic Livets Ord organization in Sweden, which brought the Word of Faith movement to that country, and who was a key-note speaker at a CCR event in England a few years ago now converted to Catholicism? This would be the last thing that Satan would want!
The fruits of CCR alone convince me that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. I have researched, I have read and I have tested and my faith has come alive. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who I talk to throughout the day. I take my problems to the foot of the cross. I invoke the intercession of our Blessed Lady and I share my faith. I love God and he loves me and each and every one of us.
Thank God for the blessing of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.