fTHERThe 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 PraiseDuquesne 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. Amen.
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.