The Flame: January/February 2017
Dear Readers of The Flame,
2017 begins a year of Jubilee for the Catholic charismatic
renewal. This is not an official “Holy Year” declared by the
Vatican. We just completed one of those Jubilee Years, the
Year of Mercy, on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.
This Jubilee Year for the Catholic charismatic renewal
remembers the amazing events that took place on a weekend
retreat in February of 1967. College students from Duquesne
University gathered for a retreat where they experienced the
Person, power and gifts of the Holy Spirit in a unique and
unexpected manner. In times that predated the internet and
cell phone, this movement of the Holy Spirit spread like
wildfire to college campuses at Notre Dame and the University
of Michigan. It quickly became a worldwide movement in the
Catholic Church that has transformed tens of millions of lives.
Though this movement appeared suddenly and unexpectedly,
people prayed, longed for and sought out this kind of
encounter with the Holy Spirit. I think of three people who
were special ambassadors of the Holy Spirit and the
charismatic renewal that would follow.
The first is Blessed Elena Guerra (1835-1914). This Italian nun
wrote 12 confidential letters to Pope Leo XIII asking him to
encourage greater devotion to the Holy Spirit among
Catholics. The Pope responded by writing an encyclical on the
Holy Spirit (Dividum Illus Munus in 1897). He also wrote a
private letter to bishops around the world prescribing that a
Novena to the Holy Spirit be prayed before the beginning of
the 20th Century.
Blessed Elena Guerra said:
Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in
every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit
desired to give himself to all men and all who want him
can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the
apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose
ourselves like them to receive him well, and He will come
to us as he did to them.
The second person who summoned the Church to pray for the
coming of the Holy Spirit is St. John XXIII. Though he
announced his intention to convene an ecumenical council on
January 25, 1959, it was not formally summoned until he
published an apostolic constitution called Humanae Salutis on
Christmas Day 1961. At the close of that document we have
his now famous prayer:
Renew Your wonders in our time, as though for a new
Pentecost, and grant that the holy Church, preserving
unanimous and continuous prayer, together with Mary,
the mother of Jesus, and also under the guidance of St.
Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the
reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace.
The third person is Rev. David du Plessis. He was a South
African Assembly of God minister who was instrumental in
promoting the baptism of the Holy Spirit among all Christian
Churches. His openness to ecumenical relations eventually led
him to be invited as an observer to Vatican II. (His acceptance
of the invitation led the Assembly of God leaders to put
pressure on him to surrender his preaching credentials. They
were restored in 1980). Rev. David du Plessis experienced a
conversion of heart that would lead him to become an
ecumenical ambassador of the Holy Spirit. In his own words:
I could remember days when I had wished I could have set
my eyes upon such men to denounce their theology and
pray the judgment of God upon them for what I considered
their heresies and false doctrines…After a few introductory
words I suddenly felt a warm glow come over me. I knew
this was the Holy Spirit taking over, but what was He doing
to me? Instead of the old harsh spirit of criticism and
condemnation in my heart, I now felt such love and compassion
for these ecclesiastical leaders that I would rather
have died for them than pass sentence upon them. (From
his autobiography, The Spirit Bade Me Go, found on the
Wikipedia article on David du Plessis)
Many things have happened in the charismatic renewal and in
our world in the last 50 years. However, the best of those things
have been cultivated through the prayers of people like Blessed
Elena Guerra and St. John XXIII and the love of people like Rev.
David du Plessis. As we approach this Jubilee Year of the
Catholic charismatic renewal, let us seek to cultivate a greater
sensitivity to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our day. To
quote Don Miller, a longtime local leader in the charismatic
renewal in the Diocese of Cleveland, “Prayer and love are the
most powerful things in the world.” Prompted by the Holy Spirit
let us pray and love to birth an ever deeper experience of the
Person and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries
PS: At the urging of the General Service Committee of our
diocese, I am making an appeal for our readers to prayerfully
consider joining our Partners in the Renewal. Partners commit
to support Catholic Renewal Ministries with prayer and
financial support. They receive a monthly letter from me that
describe what’s happening on the local scene regarding the
renewal. To become a Partner in the Renewal, please fill out
the form on page 5 in this issue of the Flame.
PPS: Hope to see you at the monthly charismatic Mass in
January. It will be at my parish, St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville.
Also, mark your calendar for Dr. Mary Healy on January 20.
Details are in this issue of the Flame.