The Flame: July & August, 2005

Dear Readers of The Flame,

I recently attended the Association of Diocesan Liaisons meeting in Sacramento . The meeting was titled Charis ms Past and Present: What the Saints Can Teach Us about Charismatic Renewal. Our presenters, Ralph Martin , Dominic Berardino and Patricia Treece, unveiled the charismatic activity of the saints and highlighted lessons for charismatics today.

However, built into the program of the meeting were two panel discussions in which our presenters gave us their sense of the condition of the charismatic renewal in the United States . Here are some of their thoughts.

Dominic Berardino, the president of Southern California Renewal Communities, described the charismatic renewal with the phrase “well positioned.” There was a growing hunger for God in people. Fragmenting of culture and fleeting amusements (even the false spiritualities of the new age movement) were creating a desire for the real power of the Holy Spirit. Dominic’s second phrase for the renewal was “elbow grease.” Charismatics need to do the work-setting up chairs, greeting people, advertising and carrying out charismatic outreaches. As the old phrase goes, “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on us.” Dominic was sensing that some charismatics see the ms elves as too spiritual to do the mundane. Therefore, “elbow grease!”

Ralph Martin noted that prosperity stifles one’s felt need for God. He cited Poland . Under communism the economy tanked but the church flourished. Now, under more of a free market system, the Polish economy is growing but the faith is weakening. However, Ralph was quick to note that the recent clergy scandals in the United States have humbled many of leaders. They are seeking formation progra ms for priests that are genuinely spiritual and orthodox. At Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit , some of the newer members of the faculty are longtime participants in the renewal. They are influencing the next generation of priests. Ralph also encouraged charismatics to “persevere” and “to keep putting on Life in the Spirit Seminars!”

Finally, Patricia Treece, a wonderful author on modern saints (St. “Padre” Pio, for example) had some very simply advice: hang in there!

Perhaps an apt summary of these panel discussions on the state of the renewal in the United States can be found in the words of the prophet Haggai. He was inspired to motivate God’s people to rebuild the Temple . He told them, “Take courage, all you people of the land…and work!” (Haggai 2:4)

And where do we find courage? One place where we charismatics can be encouraged will be at Magnificat High School on August 12 and 13. This is the new site for our annual charismatic conference. This year’s theme is Called By My Name and the conference will feature Fr. Tom Forrest, a longtime leader in the renewal on the national and international scene, and Fr. John Gordon, from the Archdiocese of Newark who is working with pre-seminary students at Franciscan University . This conference will be a tremendous source of grace and courage for all who participate. Sign up information is in The Flame. I will look forward to seeing your there!

Persevering in the power of the Spirit,

Fr. Bob Franco