Pope Francis looks on as dancers perform during an encounter with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1. The pope knelt onstage as the crowd prayed over him by singing and speaking in tongues. These Catholics are participants in a movement especially devoted to the Holy Spirit and the gifts that he poured out on the first Pentecost. CNS photo/Paul Haring
Pope Francis looks on as dancers perform during an encounter with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1. The pope knelt onstage as the crowd prayed over him by singing and speaking in tongues. These Catholics are participants in a movement especially devoted to the Holy Spirit and the gifts that he poured out on the first Pentecost. CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio |Catholic News Service

On the eve of Pentecost 2014, Pope Francis attended a conference in an Italian stadium with 50,000 Catholics who appeared every bit as excited as the soccer fans who had swarmed the venue a few weeks later.

These Catholics were participants in a movement especially devoted to the Holy Spirit and the gifts that he poured out on that first Pentecost.

If we examine the account of what happened on Pentecost, we get an idea of what this modern-day movement is about. We see the apostles and other disciples who, though they had witnessed many miracles and even seen the risen Lord, were still timid and confused about what Jesus had really come to do.

Before he ascended, the Lord told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit fell upon them and that they would become his witnesses. Nine days later, when they gathered together, they found out what that meant.

We all know the story of the sound of the mighty wind and the appearance of the tongues of fire. The most important thing, however, is the difference brought about by the coming of the Spirit. For the first time, we see the disciples joyful, fearlessly preaching the Gospel in the tongues of all peoples.

The disciples emerged from the upper room so exuberant that some observers mocked them. They thought they were drunk because they were so happy. Three thousand of those who heard them, however, were so moved that they were baptized.

As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles, we see further results of the Spirit's power in the disciples -- tongues, prophecy, healings and other miracles -- not the least of which was the extraordinary affection the disciples had for one another. We also see a new understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures and how they predicted, prefigured and prepared for what Jesus taught and accomplished.

John had baptized Jesus in water, but on Pentecost, the ascended Lord had baptized the disciples with the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the church's history, similar gifts and miracles appear in the lives of the saints. But generally, most Christians did not expect these manifestations of the Spirit to be part of the normal experience of being ordinary Christians.

In fact, some Christian groups developed the theory that these gifts of the Spirit were special equipment provided for the booster phase of Christianity and were no longer needed and therefore are no longer to be expected.

This theory was actually proposed by one of the bishops on the floor of the Second Vatican Council. But the idea was so vigorously shot down by other bishops that in the council's central document on the church, "Lumen Gentium," we read the exact opposite. We read that the charisms of the Holy Spirit are forever poured out upon the faithful of every rank for the building up of the church.

The document goes on to say that all these charisms, whether humble or more extraordinary, ought to be received with thanksgiving, for they are vitally important if the church is to fulfill her mission ("Lumen Gentium," No. 12).

Interestingly enough, Pope John XXIII, in preparation for the council, had distributed a prayer worldwide beseeching God for a "new Pentecost."

In 1967, after the close of the council, a group of Catholic college students who met at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for a retreat experienced many of the same things we see in the Pentecost account.

Many know this account. They said they experienced joy, zeal and prayer in tongues or unknown languages. This experience of the "baptism of the Spirit" quickly spread like wildfire among Catholics of all ages and countries.

Such experiences had begun to erupt among Protestants earlier in the century, so it was natural that these Catholic "charismatics," as they're called, learned much about this experience from their Protestant Pentecostal sisters and brothers in Christ.

But from the start, prominent Catholic prelates and theologians participated in and advised the movement, which came to be organized in various communities and prayer groups around the world. They included Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens, one of the four moderators of Vatican II, and Cardinal Avery Dulles. They are two examples from the early days of the movement.

Also, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household under the last three popes, is an example today.

It would be a mistake to see the charismatic renewal merely as one spirituality among many in the church, or a style of worship that appeals to some and not to others.

The raising of hands, the "hallelujahs" and "amens" and tambourines borrowed from Pentecostal Protestant culture -- these you can take or leave as you like. But such features don't touch the essence of the movement.

The renewal is really about the recovery of the joy, the power and the full complement of spiritual tools that were given to the church on its birth day. And this is something that we all should be excited about.

D'Ambrosio writes from Texas. He is co-founder of Crossroads Productions, an apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization.

Second Vatican Council and the renewal movement

By H. Richard McCord | Catholic News Service

The Holy Spirit is neither predictable nor controllable. We see this throughout church history.

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost caused the apostles to act in ways no one ever thought possible. The Acts of the Apostles tells about the many "signs and wonders done among the people at the hands of the apostles" (Acts 5:12).

The impact of Pentecost even shaped the thinking of Pope John XXIII when he convened the Second Vatican Council. His prayer for the council entreated the Holy Spirit "to pour forth the fullness of thy gifts upon the ecumenical council" and to "renew thy wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost."

Just as the first Christians were empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, modern-day believers received the graced teachings of Vatican II and responded to its call for renewal. The council, in "Lumen Gentium," spoke about "charismatic gifts," saying the Holy Spirit "distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the church."

Shortly after the council spoke of the receiving and using of such charismatic gifts, it became real for some students and faculty at Duquesne University. During a weekend retreat they had an intense experience of the Holy Spirit.

What we know today as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal traces its origin to that moment.

Not unlike the force that radiated from the upper room in Jerusalem, the energy for a Spirit-inspired renewal quickly spread to other places in the United States through campus ministries, parishes, prayer and study groups, and newly formed covenant communities.

Now, as it nears its 50th anniversary in 2017, this movement -- often simply called "renewal" -- has taken hold among at least 120 million Catholics in 238 countries. Like other elements of Catholicism, it is growing fast in Asia and Africa and is strong in Latin America where 16 percent of Catholics identify themselves as participants.

This year, in preparing for the movement's 50th anniversary, its leaders in the U.S. are proposing exploring their identity as a movement, to celebrate being fully Catholic and fully charismatic and to promote greater use of the charisms.

What we can tell from these proposals is that, first, no individual is the founder of the renewal movement nor does it have a unified organizational structure. It has arisen from a "movement" or surprising gift of the Holy Spirit given for the renewal of the whole church. There is no grand plan for this work, other than each person responding more fully to the grace of baptism.

Renewal does not see itself as a sectarian group or separate from the church. It urges members to embrace the entire body of Catholic teachings and structures in communion with the pope and bishops.

Just as the Holy Spirit is Christ's eternal gift to his church, "charismatics," as they're called, are formed, empowered and led by that Spirit. They offer their gifts in service of the church and allow these gifts to be tested and affirmed.

Their goals emphasize the role baptism in the Holy Spirit plays in their lives. This baptism is not an additional sacrament but something the movement calls a "reawakening in Christian experience ... manifested in a broad range of charisms."

Some charisms may be extraordinary but most will reveal themselves in ordinary situations. Charismatics use whatever gifts they have in ways that mediate God's love and build up the body of Christ.

With faithful attention to these goals, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal can continue to be a force for renewal started by the Holy Spirit through the Second Vatican Council.

McCord is the former executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He is currently a freelance writer and ministry consultant.

Finding common ground among Catholics

By Janelle Alberts | Catholic News Service

Last year, on a flight home from World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis had this to say about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement:

"I'll tell you something about the charismatic movement. ... In this moment of the life of the church, the movements are necessary. They are a grace of the Spirit, and in general, they do much good for the church. The charismatic renewal movement is not just about winning back a few Pentecostals, but it serves the church and its renewal."

No doubt many Catholics wanting to support the pope may first have asked this question about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement: What is it?

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, which began in 1967, has its roots in the first Pentecost. We can look at this passage from Acts 2: 2-4 for guidance:

"And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."

Like any movement, the pendulum swing of individual and group practices cuts a swath far and wide. We need to keep in mind that Catholic charismatics go to Mass, just as any Catholic would do.

However, the idea behind this movement is that believers are "gifted" by an infilling of the Holy Spirit with a range of biblical gifts: prophecy, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing spirits and speaking in tongues, which is also based on biblical happenings, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:

"To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

"To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.

"But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes."

Like many Catholics who are not charismatics and don't understand some of the practices, Pope Francis admitted that he, too, initially was not always comfortable with charismatics' manner of praying.

"I did not have much love for charismatics," he said on June 1, just before inviting charismatics to an event at the Vatican in 2017, marking 50 years of the movement.

He later said that the movement was "a current of grace in the church and for the church."

Like Pope Francis, we, too, can find common ground with others, especially if we know that we all contribute to God's kingdom for the benefit of all.

Alberts, who lives in Chagrin, Ohio, is a freelance writer and media relations specialist

Food for Thought

On June 1, Pope Francis made a confession while surrounded by 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome.

"In the early years of the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not have much love for charismatics," he admitted. "I used to think: 'They strike me as some kind of samba school!' I didn't share their style of prayer or the many new things that were happening in the church. Later, I got to know them and I finally realized all the good that the charismatic renewal was doing for the church."

Clearly, his views have changed as he invited the crowd to return in 2017 to celebrate the movement's 50 years.

"When I think of charismatics, I think of the church herself, but in a particular way: I think of a great orchestra, where all the instruments and voices are different from one another, yet all are needed to create the harmony of the music," he said.

He charged them with a special mission: "To give a witness of spiritual ecumenism to all our brothers and sisters of other churches and Christian communities who believe in Jesus as Lord and savior."