Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
To answer this question, let us first look at what is meant by Baptism in the Spirit. As generally understood in the Charismatic Renewal, Baptism in the Spirit refers to a life-transforming experience of the reality and presence of the risen Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. It is not a sacrament itself but a coming to life of the fundamental graces of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. It enables the power and efficacy of these sacraments to come to fruition in a new way, resulting in a new empowerment for service and evangelization.
Many in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal are convinced that this grace is for every member of the Church. Others are hesitant before such a claim, pointing out that the CCR is only one of many new ecclesial movements in the Church, each having its own distinct charisms. In fact, important truths are expressed in both of these positions.
On the one hand, Baptism in the Spirit is indeed a grace meant for every baptized Christian. One of the strongest affirmations of the universality of this gift was made by Pope Benedict XVI in his Regina Caeli address on Pentecost Sunday, 2008, when he said, “Today I would like to extend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel” (emphasis added). The Holy Father explained that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was “the crowning moment of Jesus’ whole mission,” the gift that he died and rose to give us. On another occasion, the pope stated that “Christ’s entire mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit, to free us from the slavery of death and ‘to open heaven to us’.” Certainly it cannot be assumed that Pope Benedict was using the biblical phrase “Baptize in the Holy Spirit” in exactly the same way as the Charismatic Renewal uses it today. Yet clearly he is calling for a renewal of the graces of baptism and confirmation in a way that is directly linked to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Moreover, he is well aware of the use of this term in the Renewal for the grace that has transformed the lives of so many millions of Christians.
Thus the CCR is in one sense the bearer of a grace that belongs to the whole Church and is meant for the renewal of the whole Church. At the same time, however, it must be recognized that the CCR is also a specific movement in the Church with its own distinctive spirituality, structures, forms of prayer, and patterns of Christian life. The CCR was raised up by God to treasure and foster the grace of Baptism in the Spirit in a particular way, but it is not the only way of responding to this grace. In his apostolic letter Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II exhorted the faithful to esteem the various charisms expressed in different ecclesial movements: “All of us, Pastors and lay faithful, have the duty to promote and nourish stronger bonds and mutual esteem, cordiality and collaboration among the various forms of lay associations. Only in this way can the richness of the gifts and charisms that the Lord offers us bear their fruitful contribution in building the common house” (31).
This twofold reality also applies to particular charisms that are exercised in the Renewal. For example, are prophecy and healing for the whole Church? In the sense that these are basic endowments of the Church, the answer is yes; they belonged to the ministry of Jesus and were part of what he passed on to the Church through the Twelve (see Mt 10:7-8; Mk 16:15-18; 1Cor 14:1). However, the particular forms that these gifts take in various times and settings cannot be made mandatory for any person or group. The forms for the exercise of these gifts found in the CCR are particular expressions that should not be seen as the norm for everyone.
Sometimes leaders in CCR state that our goal should be to disappear into the Church, as the whole Church becomes renewed. This is a worthy aim, but at the same time it must be kept in mind that the goal of renewing the Church will not be fully realized until Christ comes in glory! As a movement within the Church, the CCR is called to live out the grace of Baptism in the Spirit with a particular intensity so that we can be a continual leaven within the whole body of Christ as it moves through history.