You will receive power…
The scene: Jesus has been crucified and his body mysteriously goes missing from the tomb. Followers report encounters with the risen Jesus but it’s now ten days since the last one. On that occasion, the disciples saw Jesus ascend into heaven after instructing them to wait in Jerusalem where they would receive ‘power from the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 1:8). They are bewildered and uncertain about what to do.
The apostles were together when a rush of a violent wind filled the entire house. Tongues of fire appeared among them and rested on each one. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Peter said to the people outside, “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the Holy Spirit”. Many were baptized and that day about three thousand people were added to the church.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Wow! When Jesus promises something, we can be certain that he will deliver! The scriptures tell us that from that time on, the disciples went out boldly to distant parts of the earth, preaching and baptising so that the numbers of followers multiplied. In fact, history tells us, that Christianity spread so quickly, it was nervously observed by the highest levels of authority in Rome.1
Profile: Fr Ranrieo Cantalamessa O.F.M “We tend to overlook Peter s opening words to the crowd that first Pentecost morning, to our own peril. His denial of drunkenness in the wake of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit should stop us in our tracks. What was going on here?” Fr Cantalamessa is the official preacher to the Vatican Household, appointed by John Paul II in 1980. He is openly Charismatic and has written an excellent book, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit that walks the reader through scripture and the Church Fathers, explores the intoxicating infilling of the Spirit through the Sacraments.
Pentecost: Jewish Roots
What is often overlooked in the Christian story of Pentecost is its Jewish precursor, Shavuot. This festival commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. Using calculations based on biblical texts, this was determined to be fifty days from Passover, the day that the Israelites’ fled from Egypt in the ‘Exodus’.
Thus the period between Passover and Shavuot was fifty days and was also known as the ‘Festival of Weeks’. Christians later adopted the Greek word for fiftieth day, ‘Pentecost,’ for the feast.
Shavuot, along with Passover and Sukkoth, was one of three major feasts in the Jewish calendar which was observed by fervent Jews through pilgrimage to the holy city, Jerusalem. As devout Jews, the apostles were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Tradition holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was present, though it is not clear from the scriptures if other women were also in attendance.
The Charismatic Renewal
The Charismatic Renewal refers to a grassroots movement of Christians from all denominations energised by a deep appreciation and connection with the Holy Spirit. Its roots can be traced to the late 19th century, when Bl. Elena Guerra founded the Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Italy which encouraged a devotion to the Holy Spirit. A renewed interest in the Holy Spirit among a number of groups grew across the Christian denominations and in 1963, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican II with a prayer for a ‘new Pentecost’.
The movement gained momentum in 1967, when a group of students at Duquesne in the USA met for a retreat and experienced a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit which quickly spread from college campuses to parishes across America and internationally. Within a few short years, conferences drawing tens of thousands of people were being held and communities were being formed across the world.
Movement of the Spirit
This unique movement has no individual founder, no real structure and numerous communities, prayer movements and groups.
They are all bound by the common experience of an out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and the charisms to live the universal call to holiness and build up the life of the Church.
In 1993, the Vatican offically recognised the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. Based in Rome, it organises and communicates with the various parts of the Charismatic Renewal and the Vatican.
For more on this topic
What is a Charism?
“Charism” is the Greek word used in the New Testament for “favor” or “gift.” Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to all Christians by the Holy Spirit to give them the power to be a channel of God’s goodness. All charisms ought to be exercised in the service of God2. All Baptised people are given charisms.
According to Catholic teaching, it is the faith of the Church that every baptised person possesses one or more of the charisms.3
There are gifts of the Holy Spirit that we are given to keep and gifts we are to give away. The traditional “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit” and the “fruits” of the Spirit are gifts given to us to keep and are part of our inner transformation as Christians.
Charisms, on the other hand, are given to us to give away, and are one of the ways God continues to enter the world through our cooperation. They always benefit other people.
What are the Charisms
Since the beginning of Christianity, there have been a collection of charisms to empower people to preach, teach and to live the Christian life. Whilst graces are given to individuals and are focused on the interior holiness, charisms are a gift for a particular purpose that builds up the Church. They are wonderfully rich gifts of apostolic vitality, however, they must be carefully discerned in prayer to ensure that they are indeed of the Holy Spirit. St Paul identifies the following charisms (1 Cor 12, Rom 12):
- Discernment of Spirits
- Speaking in Tongues
- Understanding Tongues
God calls each of us to a work of love that will fill our lives with purpose and joy. Discerning our charisms can help us discover that call, simplify our life and avoid burnout. When we work within our charisms, we feel energized as God has gifted us to make us more effective, and it becomes easier to say, “no” when people ask us for things that we don’t really have to give.
Understanding our charisms also has the benefit of freeing us from the need to compare ourselves to others because we recognize that our giftedness and calling are different from theirs. It can also make a big difference in family life as we come to understand and cherish our spouse’s gifts and nurture the emerging gifts of our children.
The New Evangelisation
The Church calls all Catholics to participate in a new evangelization (the sharing of Christ’s love with others, especially our fellow Catholics), and our charisms empower us to play an essential role.
Unlike natural talents which are often ‘inherited’ from our parents, charisms are given to us by the Holy Spirit, whom we received through Baptism and Confirmation.
Charisms are supernaturally empowering. In other words, they enable us to have an effectiveness that surpasses our natural, human abilities. For example, if a doctor possesses a charism of healing, he may well find that his patients get well in extraordinary ways, either recovering more quickly than would be expected naturally, or getting well when natural healing would not have occurred at all. A naturally gifted teacher might also have a charism of teaching which empowers her to teach about God’s love with exceptional effectiveness.4
As we celebrate the gift of motherhood, let us remember the mother of Jesus, who was not only present at the Descent of the Holy Spirit, but so perfectly lived in communion with God, that the Holy Spirit was able to conceive within her, the Son of God. She is said to have a mystical spousal relationship with the Holy Spirit. She is also our spiritual mother and one of the fruits of the Charismatic Renewal is a renewed devotion to Mary and the Rosary.
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2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2003
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 951
Over to you! How does your parish and family celebrate Pentecost? Have you been involved in the Charismatic Renewal or have you discerned your own charisms? Got any cool stories? We’d love to hear them so please share in the comments below!
Authors: Kiara and Francine Pirola
This article featured in the May 2013 edition of the CathFamily eMagazine. For more from this edition, check out: