One of my best friends put me to shame recently.
She shared that she had found herself weeping during her prayer time because of the terrible state of the world. It felt as if she was experiencing God’s own grief over the world he loved so much.
Her comment was convicting. I had to ask myself: Do I always have the heart of God? Oh, I get “anxious” about the state of the world. And yet, I have not found myself weeping for the people who have not yet experienced the saving love of Jesus—a love which I have enjoyed but often fail to share. I think it is this concern for the lost that has led Sr. Ann Shields to write her new book: More of the Holy Spirit.
There are “many hundreds of thousands of Catholics who do not really know Christ,” states Sr. Ann. “There are many who have left the Church, disillusioned with the scandals and the lack of pastoral care.” She agonizes over this tremendous loss, but she doesn’t just wring her hands in worry and concern. Rather, she addresses a need for repentance and offers More of the Holy Spirit as a “handbook of essentials in how to live the Christian life with power, love, and hope.”
Sr. Ann addresses her reflections primarily to “those who were baptized in the Spirit through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.” It was for now, she says—“precisely for this time”— that the Lord equipped us with the gifts of his Holy Spirit. But have we done enough with them? Have we remained faithful to the purposes of God?
New Pentecost, New Evangelization. During a recent lecture in the school of theology at the University of Notre Dame, a priest professor quoted from a book by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa about the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. One of the Catholic graduate students responded with, “What is the Charismatic Renewal?”
It is more than forty-five years since this great Pentecostal renewal swept through the Church, taking root in more than one hundred countries and touching the lives of over one hundred and fifty million Catholics around the world. Many of us who experienced it find it hard to believe that there are still so many Catholics who have never even heard of the renewal or the power of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Sadder still, as Sr. Ann notes, many who were renewed so profoundly in the Holy Spirit seem to have abandoned the gifts they have received. Some got bored or wanted the Spirit only to tend to their own hurts; some wanted to use his gifts for personal fulfillment. We need to repent, she says, “for treating the gifts of the Holy Spirit as a kind of personal possession—to be used when and where and how I think fit.”
Those words resonate deeply with me. In June 2012, I spoke at the National Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Of the 2,500 or so people in attendance, 1,800 were Haitians, Hispanics, or Filipinos—they were lively and clearly filled with the Spirit. The “Anglo” renewal was in the minority, and most had grey hair.
As the conference indicated, the majority of charismatics in the United States today are from the “ethnic” renewals. For the most part, the Anglo renewal is not growing. Many who had been involved seem to have disappeared. Granted, some have gone on to do other work within the Church. But are they consciously and actively using the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Sr. Ann and I agree that “the New Evangelization can only be successful if there is a ‘New Pentecost’ in our hearts.”
God Has More for Us. Come, Holy Spirit, in your power and might, to renew the face of the earth. We pray this prayer often. Do we understand, though, that we have a role in bringing about its fulfillment?
The announcement of Jesus as Lord of the whole world, which all Christians since Pentecost are meant to proclaim, meets the resistance of economic, social, cultural, and political forces in our world. But the Spirit given to us is greater than this resistance, so that God’s work may be done through us. Yes, God the Spirit will declare that the world is in the wrong (John 16:8-9). But as theologian N. T. Wright has said, God also intends that it is “we, trembling, but in the power of the Holy Spirit” who will make that declaration!
By virtue of our baptism and confirmation, Christ is in us. His Spirit has come in power to enable and empower us to prophesy, to discern the things of God, to speak words of wisdom and knowledge, to heal the sick, and to expect and perform miracles. Sr. Ann Shields highlights these realities and poses a stirring challenge to all Catholics—but especially those touched by the Charismatic Renewal:
Let us together staunch the hemorrhaging that is going on throughout the body of Christ. Let us roll up our sleeves and sacrifice our own comfort to go out into the highways and the byways to bring back the lost of our own families and the lost among the strangers in our midst. Exclude no one. Go out in the power of God’s Spirit. Go out equipped with the light, strength, power, and gifts that God has given you.
There is more power in the life of the Spirit than we could possibly imagine and greater works for us as Christians than we could ever expect. God has more for us. Much more. The challenge is now upon us to be bold and use the gifts he has given us to renew the face of the earth.
Dorothy Garrity Ranaghan is a founding member of the People of Praise, a charismatic, ecumenical, Christian covenant community. Her most recent book is Blind Spot: War and Christian Identity (New City Press).
More of the Holy Spirit: How to Keep the Fire Burning in Our Hearts, by Sr. Ann Shields, SGL, is available from The Word Among Us online at www.wau.org and from Amazon.com. To read an excerpt, visit our website, and click on “Books.”