Is a new wave of the Holy Spirit about to break over the Catholic Church?

Updated: Jul 4, 2018

by Bruce D. Reekie

During 2017 the Jubilee Cross travelled around Australia to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. The Jubilee Cross was a part of the Golden Jubilee Event, organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships at the invitation of Pope Francis, to commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1967.


This remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit, predicted by English evangelist Smith Wigglesworth in 1936 and championed by South African preacher David du Plessis,[1] culminated in the 1975 Congress on the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. For du Plessis and other observers, it was so exciting that “all of us felt we had lived through a Pentecost such as you could have only once.”[2] Over the course of the next 40 years (a generation by biblical standards), the renewal spread around the world. Italian journalist, Alessandra Nucci, estimates that of the 700 million Charismatic Christians in the world, 160 million are Roman Catholic.[3]


In an address to the Council of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office on Saturday, March 14, 1992, Pope John Paul II, who, as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, had been deeply moved by the visit of American evangelist Terry Law and the music group Living Sound to Krakow, Poland, some twenty years previously,[4] declared: “At this moment in the Church's history, the Charismatic Renewal can play a significant role in promoting the much-needed defense of Christian life in societies where secularism and materialism have weakened many people's ability to respond to the Spirit and to discern God’s loving call. Your contribution to the re-evangelization of society will be made in the first place by personal witness to the indwelling Spirit and by showing forth His presence through works of holiness and solidarity.”[5]


Six years later, in a speech to the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities during Pentecost, 1988, Pope John Paul II said: “It is as though what happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago were being repeated this evening in this square, the heart of the Christian world. Like the Apostles then, we too find ourselves gathered in a great upper room of Pentecost, longing for the outpouring of the Spirit … This is the atmosphere we wish to relive, imploring the gifts of the Holy Spirit for each of us and for all the baptized people.”


Moreover the Pope implored: “Today, I would like to cry out to all of you gathered here in St Peter’s Square and to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Spirit! Accept gratefully and obediently the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to bestow on us! Do not forget that every charism is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church … Today, from this upper room in St Peter’s Square, a great prayer arises: Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts! Come, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and Love! The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here. Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messenger of the Gospel, witnesses to the risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour of man …”[6]


The end of the old and the beginning of the new

The concept of ‘Jubilee’, the fiftieth year in a cycle of seven sabbatical years, was an initiative of social justice in ancient Israel.[7] In this ‘Year of the Lord’s favour’, land that had been leased or sold by families to avert poverty reverted to its original owners, and indentured Israelite slaves were set free. The word ‘jubilee’ comes from the Hebrew word yobel, which denotes the blast of a horn. Indeed, it was the sounding of the ram’s horn throughout the land that inaugurated the Year of Jubilee and signified liberty to all the inhabitants. Thus ‘Jubilee’ represented a pivotal moment in history—the end of the old and the beginning of the new—and embodied the hope of restoration of a lost inheritance.


Following this line of thought, the organizers of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Golden Jubilee 2017 noted that the May 31st to June 4th gathering in Rome was not just “a nostalgic look backwards” but also “an anticipation of the days ahead.” It was both “an historic and prophetic moment” in which “the Renewal gathered to seek wisdom and the grace of God in order to live and work in a new season of Pentecost.”[8]


The Roman Catholic Church is at a crossroads, facing sharp criticism over its alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims and the perverse behaviour of some its priests. However it is at such a time as this, when the Church stands arraigned before the world in weakness and humiliation, that it is most likely to be clothed with power from on high. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12.9). Such is the paradox of grace: When we are at our weakest point, and by implication, utterly dependent on God, we are actually at our strongest due to His empowering Spirit (2 Cor 12.9-10).


Similarly, James exhorted his readers: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4.10). Ironically, abasement is the pathway to exaltation, if we embrace it with gratitude and allow God to use it to develop His character within us (James 1.2-4). As Job discovered, the gold of God’s glory is forged in the crucible of suffering and humiliation (Job 23.10).


King Solomon presented the challenge some 3,000 years ago. When heaven is shut up and there is no rain, when locusts are devouring the land and pestilence is spreading among the people, we have a choice to make: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7.14). If necessity is the mother of invention, then crisis is surely the mother of opportunity. Perhaps the current testing of the Church may yet issue in a “new season of Pentecost” as predicted at the gathering in Rome.

[1] David du Plessis, A Man Called Mr Pentecost (Plainfield: Logos, 1977), 2-3.

[2] Du Plessis, A Man Called Mr Pentecost, 242.

[3] Alessandra Nucci, The Charismatic Renewal and the Catholic Church, The Catholic World Report, May 18, 2013.

[4] James Gilbert, Storm Chaser: The Terry Law Story (Tulsa: World Compassion, 2015).

[5] Pope John Paul II, Address of His Holiness John Paul II to the Council of the “International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office”, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1992/march/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19920314_charismatic-renewal.html

[6] Pope John Paul II, Holy Father’s Speech for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/laity/documents/rc_pc_laity_doc_27051998_movements-speech-hf_en.html

[7] Leviticus 25.8-55

[8] Catholic Charismatic Renewal Golden Jubilee 2017, Official Report of Jubilee, http://www.ccrgoldenjubilee2017.net/official-report-of-jubilee/

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