Don't get me wrong, I'm all for encouraging genuine Charisms

Having begun a little salvo on the use of the phrase “Baptism in the Spirit”, I don’t want any of you out there to get me wrong. I am all in favour of people discerning and using their Holy Spirit given charisms, and also in favour of new (and old) movements in the Church that promote specific charisms. But I believe that all Christians receive charisms for ministry through the Sacrament of Baptism. The reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens and confirms these charisms, as can a later subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit, but even those who have not received valid Confirmation (eg. Protestant Christians) or this subsequent experience (eg. non-Charismatic Christians) have received charisms for ministry. Whether they have discerned their charism or have put it to use is another matter, of course. That’s why we have programs such as “Called and Gifted”.

The Pope has just recently made comments in his latest “question and answer” session with the Roman clergy. Here he gave two rules for ecclesial movements to flourish in the Church:

1) As St Paul says, “Do not extinguish charisms.” If the Lord gives us new gifts, we must receive them with thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit gives us new initiatives with new aspects of Christian life.

2) But if the movements are really gifts from the Holy Spirit, then they will seek to unify, edify and serve the Church.

He used, as an example of the past, the Fransciscans, and as an example of the present, The Neo-Catechumenal Way. I believe that CCR has demonstrated in an exemplary way both these qualities, however, I believe there is also need for what the Pope calls “patient dialogue” which can overcome the “many complications” which occur with the rise of new movements and the recognition of new charisms. However, CCR ought not to assume that their undergirding theology has been given the imprimatur of official Church teaching, just because the Church has received their movement and charism as a gift from God.

What the Pope had to say on this matter is very wise, and I often wonder what today’s Church might have been like if a) on the Roman side, the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the early 16th Century had had the ears to hear what Martin Luther was saying to the Church, and b) on Luther’s side, if he had been a little more concerned about serving the unity and edification of the Church.

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2 Responses to Don't get me wrong, I'm all for encouraging genuine Charisms

  1. Clara Geoghegan says:

    Hi David, thanks for the rap on the Called and Gifted Workshops. I was going to reply to your blog on ‘Baptism in the Spirit’. I agree with you in that Baptism and Confirmation are the only sources of spiritual gifts. Unfortunately many in the Catholic charismatic movement have been exposed to Pentacostalist theologies and have adopted the term ‘Baptism in the Spirit’ to explain the phenomenon that not all Baptised Catholics appear to manifest their charisms. The terminology is wrong, but they are trying to name that event which alters the consciousness of Christians and places Jesus at the centre of their lives. To my mind it is a conversion experience – dramatic for some, or part of an ongoing conversion for others.

    My colleagues at the Siena Institute are struggling with the same issue – Why is it that only about 10percent of practicing Catholics are ‘alive in the Spirit’? Their term for this small perscentage is “Intentional Disciples” although even this has been the subject of much debate. (see Intentional Disciples at: )

    The Called and Gifted Workshop presumes that all the Baptised have been gifted but that they have not all been given the tools for discerning that giftedness. The workshop assists participants in identifying and utilising their particular charisms. Responses to this have been overwhelmingly positive as people recognise the ways in which they can become channels of the Holy Spirit.

    In the baptised the Church has vast untapped spiritual resources but has somehow forgotten how to turn on the tap. The charismatic movement has found a key, but that key does not appeal to all. Called and Gifted is another less threatening means of awakening those gifts.

    Keep up the good work,


  2. Schütz says:

    Yep, this is the right way to go, I think. We need to acknowledge the experience, but we need to name it in a way that is more in keeping with the Catholic faith. One way that I like to approach it (and as I hope to blog in the near future, I believe this can be found as the reason for those strange cases in Acts) is that while baptism and conversion/faith belong together dogmatically and are causally linked, they do not always occur at the same time. Indeed, this is a clear fact in every case. No one has a conversion experience exactly when they are baptised! It either happens before hand (as with most adults seeking baptism) or afterwards (as with most infants who are baptised). But we err when we separate the two, because baptism is the architypical “sacrament of conversion”. Yes, I know that the Catechism gives this name to the Sacrament of Penance, but in that sense, Penance is a return to Baptism, or the Sacrament of On-going or Subsequent Conversion–this is proven by the fact that the correct sacrament to administer to an unbaptised person who repents of their sins is not Penance but Baptism. Perhaps then the proper distinction is that Baptism is the Sacrament of Original Conversion. But then in the minds of too many Catholics, Baptism is a past event, destroyed by sin (“shipwrecked” was the old term) while in fact, Baptism continues to the be the source of our faith and conversion throughout our lives. And so, even the dramatic conversion experienced by the Charismatics who call this experience “Baptism in the Spirit” is really a new experience of the Baptism they have already received.

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