Questions and answers
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
Can I be a good Catholic without participating in charismatic prayer? Sometimes this question is raised by people who prefer traditional forms of prayer and do not feel drawn to the singing in tongues, loud praise, clapping, and similar expressive forms of prayer that they find in the Charismatic Renewal. How should we respond?
It is important to make a basic distinction: all are called to accept and embrace the charisms of the Holy Spirit and the charismatic dimension of the Church, but not all are called to belong to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal with its particular spirituality and its specific modes of prayer, worship, fellowship, and ministry.
Vatican Council II strongly affirmed the importance of the charismatic dimension of the Church. For instance, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity says,
The Holy Spirit Who sanctifies the people of God through ministry and the sacraments gives the faithful special gifts also (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7), “allotting them to everyone according as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11)…. From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who “breathes where He wills” (John 3:8).
Subsequent popes have further developed this teaching. For instance, Saint John Paul II stated that at Vatican II “the Church rediscovered the charismatic dimension as one of her constitutive elements.” He also said,
“I would like to cry out… 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.”
This exhortation means that all Christians should be radically open to the charismatic working of the Holy Spirit. It does not, however, mean that everyone is called to belong in an explicit way to the Charismatic Renewal. God raised up the Renewal as a current of grace to treasure and foster the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that he wants to bestow on the whole Church. But the CCR also has its own spiritual style that is not for all. We should guard against the human tendency to limit the work of the Holy Spirit to that which is most familiar and congenial to us. The Holy Spirit works in an infinite variety of ways, and he brings unity from the rich diversity of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12).
So the forms of prayer and worship found in the CCR cannot be called obligatory. In fact, no specific kind of worship is obligatory in the Catholic Church except the liturgy itself. There are people living a full life in the Holy Spirit who practice mostly silent, contemplative prayer; or liturgical prayer with
Gregorian chant; or the rosary and other devotions; or other traditional forms of prayer.
That being said, even if particular forms of prayer are not obligatory, they may be highly recommended and spiritually beneficial. It is good to reflect on the many exhortations in Scripture to praise God exuberantly:
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! (Ps 47:1)
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. (Ps 33:1-3)
David danced before the LORD with all his might…. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. (2 Sam 6:14-15)
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart. (Eph 5:18-19)
So those in the CCR who love charismatic styles of prayer and praise need to speak about these in a balanced way. We rightly encourage others to participate in charismatic prayer meetings with singing and praise. We can explain that praising God aloud, with hands raised or even dancing, is a beautiful way of giving glory to God with our whole human nature, body and spirit. Expressive worship helps us forget ourselves; it puts our troubles into right perspective as small in comparison with the greatness of God; it stirs up joy and love for God; it draws a group of people into a deep experience of fellowship. Using tongues, prophecy and other charismatic gifts in the context of worship also allows the Holy Spirit to work in a powerful way in our midst. But we must avoid giving people the impression that they are not good Catholics if they choose not to participate in these forms of prayer.