by Jim Murphy
As we reflect on 40 years of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, we must recognize the significant blessing the Pontificate of John Paul II was for this movement. Like a good father he encouraged us when we were young and helped us to grow as both he and we advanced in years.
Like a loving father, John Paul II often counseled us and showed us ways to grow closer to The Lord. One area he addressed was the challenge of formation:
Make no mistake, John Paul II loved the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. As a good parent, he wanted to affirm us and yet take something that was good and make it better. John Paul II saw the Renewal not as a self serving association that would care only for its own. Rather, he recognized that the CR was a sovereign action of the Holy Spirit, a gift from God for the good of the entire Church. Our Holy Father knew that the entire Church needed what the CR had to offer. Therefore he called us to a maturity that would allow us to serve all in the Church and truly help build up the body of Christ.
The Pontiff saw formation as the key to this maturity. He urged us to consider this seriously, and strongly act in the development of people within the Renewal. He outlined this a little more clearly in his address to Charismatic Leaders in June1998:
“The enthusiastic faith which enlivens your communities is a great enrichment, but it is not enough. It is accompanied by a Christian formation which is solid, comprehensive and faithful to the Church’s Magisterium: a formation based upon a life of prayer upon listening to the Word of God, and upon worthy reception of the Sacraments especially Reconciliation and Eucharist. To mature in faith, we have to grow in knowledge of its truths. If this does not happen, there is a danger of superficiality, extreme subjectivism and illusion.
As we seek to be formed in maturity with the Renewal, we would do well to consider key points of our beloved father’s advice:
Faithful to the Church’s Magisterium: Hopefully, by this stage of our lives, we are past the need to “do our own thing.” We are part of the Church; we are at the very heart of the Church. We are not trying to develop an alternative Church, we are trying to love and serve the Church that already exists, the Church established by Jesus Christ. To be sure, we have all seen the flaws within the bride of Christ. Yet as Christ has remained faithful to her, so must we. The Church demands of us, and has the right to expect from us, an unwavering loyalty to the Magisterium.
Life of prayer: One of the central elements of CCR has been a life of prayer. Yet, we honestly have to recognize that it is all too easy to abandon prayer due to the demands of life and ministry. Here is a fact: One can not be formed in maturity if one is unwilling to be formed in prayer.
Listening to the Word of God: What wisdom lies within the pages of this Holy Book! The very wisdom of God! If we truly want to mature, we must allow ourselves to be formed by what God speaks to us. The very effort of listening, and then acting on what we have heard will take us far down the path of maturity.
Worthy reception of the sacraments: With the extraordinary graces offered to us through the sacraments we have a fast-track to maturity! We must participate in the sacraments as often as possible in order that we will be formed in the Spirit of God. All efforts of formation must include helping people appropriate these four key elements into their lives: A sincere love and relationship with the Church, a life of prayer, listening to and following the Word of God, and worthily receiving the sacraments.
Can you imagine the fruit that would be born in our lives if everyone in the CCR put these four areas among their priorities? What blessings we would experience! How the Church would prosper! If for no other reason than for the love of a great father who walked with us for so many years, let us seriously consider the role of service God has given us, and resolve to be formed in maturity, that we may be a blessing to the Church and prove ourselves the grateful sons and daughters of John Paul ll.