The Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Having its beginnings from a retreat for college students in 1967, The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been described as a “chance for the Church” (Pope Paul VI), “a special gift of the Holy Spirit” (Pope John Paul II), and is called to share the “current of grace” which is baptism in the Holy Spirit (Pope Francis). Read about the birth, growth, and objectives of this move of the Holy Spirit and what our recent Popes have said about it as well.

What is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal?

“The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Romans 5:5

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) began at a retreat for college students from Duquesne University at The Ark and The Dove Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA) in February 1967. The students had spent much of the weekend in prayer, asking God to allow them to experience the grace they received in both baptism and confirmation. The students, that weekend, had a powerful and transforming experience of God, which came to be known as ‘baptism in the Spirit’. The account of the weekend and the experience of the Spirit quickly spread across the college campus, then to other campuses throughout the country.

The charismatic experience soon moved beyond colleges and began to have an impact on regular parishes and other Catholic institutions. Loose organisations and networks were formed. Catholic charismatic conferences began to be held, drawing over 30,000 at Notre Dame campus in South Bend Indiana in the mid 1970’s.

The Renewal caught the attention of the Church, and the leaders of the movement met Pope Paul VI (1975) as well as Pope John Paul II several times. In addition, several of the bishops’ conferences, of various countries, have written pastoral letters of encouragement and support for the movement.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is not a single, unified worldwide movement. It does not have a single founder or group of founders as many other movements do. It has no membership lists. It is a highly diverse collection of individuals, groups and activities—covenant communities, prayer groups, schools, small faith sharing groups, renewed parishes, conferences, retreats, and even involvement in various apostolates and ministries—, often quite independent of one another, in different stages and modes of development and with different emphases, that nevertheless share the same fundamental experience and espouse the same general goals.

The common thread for the Movement is the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’. For many people, this new, powerful, and life-transforming outpouring of the Holy Spirit takes place in the context of a specifically designed seminar called ‘Life in the Spirit’, although many have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ outside of the seminar.

“We live in the Church at a privileged moment of the Spirit. Everywhere people are trying to know Him better, as the Scripture reveals Him. They are happy to place themselves under His inspiration. They are gathering about Him; they want to let themselves be led by Him.”

Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75

The Growth of the CCR

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is currently present in more than 200 countries and has touched the lives of over 120,000,000 Catholics. In some countries the number of participants seems to have diminished in recent years, while in other places the number continue to rise at an amazing rate.

The Five Objectives of the CCR

The deepest identity of the CCR and its essential mission described in the preamble of the ICCRS Statutes, specified in five objectives, as follows:

  • To foster mature and continuous personal conversion to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
  • To foster a decisive personal receptivity to the person, presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. These two spiritual graces are often experienced together in what is called in different parts of the world a baptism in the Holy Spirit, or a release of the Holy Spirit, or a renewal of the Holy Spirit. They are most often understood as a personal acceptance of the graces of Christian initiation and as an empowering for personal Christian service in the Church and in the world.
  • To foster the reception and use of the spiritual gifts (charismata) not only in the CCR but also in the broader Church. These gifts, ordinary and extraordinary are abundantly found among laity, religious and clergy. Their proper understanding and use in harmony with other elements of the Church life is a source of strength for Christians on their journey towards holiness and in the carrying out of their mission.
  • To foster the work of evangelization in the power of the Holy Spirit, including the evangelization of the unchurched, the re-evangelization of nominal Christians, the evangelization of culture and social structures. CCR especially promotes sharing in the Church’s mission by proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed, and by bearing witness to Jesus Christ through personal testimony and through those works of faith and justice to which each one is called.
  • To foster the ongoing growth in holiness through the proper integration of these charismatic emphases with the full life of the Church. This is accomplished through participation in a rich sacramental and liturgical life, and appreciation of the tradition of Catholic prayer and spirituality, and ongoing formation in Catholic doctrine. This is guided by the Church’s Magisterium, and participation in the pastoral plan of the Church.

Messages from the Popes

Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.

Saint Paul VI, Pope

“We rejoice with you, dear friends, at the renewal of the spiritual life manifested in the Church today, in different forms and in various environments. […] In all that, we can recognize the mysterious and hidden work of the Spirit, who is the soul of the church.”

Address of Paul VI on the occasion of the first International Leaders’ Conference

Grottaferrata • Rome, Italy • 10 October 1973

“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”

Address of Pope Paul VI to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal on occasion of the Second International Leaders Conference

Rome, Italy • 19 May 1975

Saint John Paul II, Pope

“I am convinced that this movement is a sign of His action (of the Spirit). The world is much in need of this action of the Holy Spirit, and it needs many instruments for this action. […] Now I see this movement, this activity everywhere.”

Private audience of Pope John Paul II with the ICCRO Council

Rome, Italy • 11 December 1979

“This morning I have the joy of meeting this assembly of yours, in which I see young people, adults, old people, men and women, united in the profession of the same faith, sustained by longing for the same hope, bound together by bonds of that charity which “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rm. 5:5). To this effusion of the Spirit we know we owe a deeper and deeper experience of the presence of Christ, thanks to which we can grow daily in loving knowledge of the Father. Rightly, therefore, your movement pays particular attention to the action, mysterious but real, that the third person of the Holy Trinity plays in the Christian’s life.”

First audience of Pope John Paul II with the Italian Renewal

Rome, Italy • 23 November 1980

“The first dimension of renewal consists, therefore, in this: “to live according the Spirit”, in this continual growing in the Spirit, resisting the gratifications of the “flesh”, opening oneself to the strong, sweet attraction of God. This inner renewal, this healing of the very roots of life and this formation of a mentality dominated by the “promptings of the Spirit” is your vocation as Christians, your vocation as men and women, youths and adults of our time who want to give witness, who want that model to flourish in the world of today, the model of spirituality and even of courtesy…”

Address of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the National Congress of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit”

Rome, Italy • 15 November 1986

“As you celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, I willingly join you in giving praise to God for the many fruits which it has borne in the life of the Church. The emergence of the Renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. […] At this moment in the Church’s history, the Charismatic Renewal can play a significant role in promoting the much-needed defence 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.”

Audience of Pope John Paul II with the ICCRO Council

Rome, Italy • 14 March 1992

“How can we fail to praise God for the abundant fruit which in recent decades the Renewal has brought about in the lives of individuals and in communities? Countless people have appreciate the importance of Sacred Scripture for Christian living; they have acquired a new sense of the value of prayer and a profound yearning for holiness; many have returned to the sacraments; and a great number of men and women have achieved a deeper understanding of their baptismal call, and have committed themselves to the Church’s mission with admirable dedication.”

Message of Pope John Paul II to participants to the Seventh International meeting of the CFCCCF

Rome, Italy • 9 November 1996

“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”

Audience of Pope John Paul II with the National Service Committee of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit”

Rome, Italy • 4 April 1998

“There is no holiness without prayer. In fact, as we see in the lives of the Saints, Christians are worth as much as they pray. […] This commits that the groups and communities of the Renewal be ever more places of contemplation and praise, where the heart of man is filled with the love of God, opens up to the love towards his brother and becomes capable of building history according to God’s design. It is in the Church—home and school of communion—that we which must oppose the culture of hatred and revenge, may the groups and Communities of the Renewal (RnS) be significant places and models of brotherhood and love, of patience and reciprocal welcoming. May the experience of forgiveness and the value given to every spiritual gift help everyone to build a fellowship nourished by the breath of the Spirit of the Risen Lord.”

Address of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the National Congress of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit”

Rimini, Italy • 28 April 2001

“Yes! The Renewal in the Spirit can be considered a special gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in our time. Born in the Church and for the Church, your movement is one in which, following the light of the Gospel, the members experience the living encounter with Jesus, fidelity to God in personal and community prayer, confident listening to his Word and a vital rediscovery of the Sacraments, not to mention courage in trials and hope in hardship. Love for the Church and submission to her Magisterium, in the process of maturing in the Church supported by a solid permanent formation are relevant signs of your intention to avoid the risk of favouring, unwittingly, a purely emotional experience of the divine, an excessive pursuit of the “extraordinary” and a private withdrawal that may shrink from apostolic outreach.”

Address of Pope John Paul II to the participants in the National Congress of the Italian “Renewal in the Spirit”

Rimini, Italy • 14 March 2002

Pope Benedict XVI

“Today I would like to extend the invitation to all:  let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us recover awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever timely sources of grace.”

Regina Caeli, Solemnity of Pentecost

St Peter's Square • Rome, Italy • Sunday, 11 May 2008

“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to participants in a meeting organized by the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships

Paul VI Hall of Blessings • Rome, Italy • Friday, 31 October 2008

“Dear friends of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, do not grow weary of turning to Heaven: the world stands in need of prayer. It needs men and women who feel the attraction of Heaven in their life, who make praise to the Lord a new way of life. And may you be joyful Christians! I entrust you all to Mary Most Holy, present in the Upper Room at the event of Pentecost. Persevere with her in prayer, walk, guided by the light of the living Holy Spirit, proclaiming the Good News of Christ.”

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to participants in the meeting sponsored by “Renewal in the Holy Spirit”

St. Peter’s Square • Rome, Italy • Saturday, 26 May 2012

Pope Francis

“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […]

You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […]

The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […]

I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).”

Address of the Holy Father Pope Francis to Charismatic Renewal at the 37th Convocation of the "Renewal in the Holy Spirit"

Olympic Stadium • Rome, Italy • 1 June 2014

“The Charismatic Renewal has reminded the Church of the necessity and importance of the prayer of praise. When we speak of the prayer of praise in the Church, Charismatics come to mind. When I spoke of the prayer of praise during a homily at Mass in Santa Martha, I said it is not only the prayer of Charismatics but of the entire Church! It is the recognition of the Lordship of God over us and over all creation expressed through dance, music and song.”

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to members of the "Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships"

Paul VI Audience Hall • Rome, Italy • 31 October 2014

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