ICCRS, FCCCA, CHARIS, does that mean anything to you? Probably not! And yet, it is worth being well informed about it, because a new entity created by Pope Francis has seen the light of day a few years ago and proposes to vivify and stimulate in depth the spiritual and evangelizing dimension of the whole Catholic Church. Have I succeeded in capturing your attention?
On June 8, 2019, Pope Francis delivered a speech to many representatives of the Charismatic Renewal gathered in Rome from June 6 to 8. Referring to the idea that Pope Saint Paul VI had shared with the participants of the III International Congress of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1975, he told them that the Charismatic Renewal is “an opportunity for the Church.”
Indeed, Saint Paul VI had affirmed in 1975 that “the Church and the world need more than ever before that the wonder of Pentecost be continued in history (…) Nothing is more necessary in such an increasingly secularized world than the witness of that ‘spiritual renewal’ which we see the Holy Spirit stirring up today in the most diverse regions and environments.”(Address of Pope Paul VI to the participants in the Third International Congress of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Friday, May 19, 1975).
At the meeting held in Rome on June 8, 2019, Pope Francis also thanked ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) and the Catholic Fraternity for having “paved the way” and for having “allowed CHARIS (…) to be a reality today. ” But what is the purpose of this new entity called CHARIS, and why does the Holy Father Francis consider it essential for the vitality of the Catholic Church? The following are excerpts from an interview conducted by Vatican News with Fr. Awi and Mr. Jean-Luc Moens in 2018, which allow us to understand the purpose and role of the new entity:
VN – On December 8, 2018, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life erected a new service for the current of grace that is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This service is called CHARIS, an acronym for Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service. (VN = Vatican News)
Fr. Awi – CHARIS is called to serve all the expressions of the current of grace that is the Charismatic Renewal. Its statutes will come into force on June 9, 2019, the Solemnity of Pentecost. On the same day, the Catholic Fraternity of the Charismatic Communities of the Covenant (still called Catholic Fraternity) and ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) will definitively cease their activities. It is important to note that CHARIS is not the result of the merger of these two organizations, but a brand-new service that inaugurates a new stage in the life of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I believe that after Pentecost, the newness will manifest itself more and more clearly. It should also be noted that CHARIS is not an organization of government but a service of communion, according to the express will of the Holy Father.
VN – How is this new service structured?
Fr. Awi – CHARIS is placed under the responsibility of a Moderator, assisted by a Council called International Service of Communion, composed of 18 persons from all over the world. Some of them are the expression of the different continents while others represent the different realities of the Charismatic Renewal. For this first mandate, all the members were appointed by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
The first moderator is Jean-Luc Moens, a married layman, father of a family, who has been involved in the Charismatic Renewal for more than 45 years. Father [now Cardinal] Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Preacher of the Pontifical Household, is the first Ecclesiastical Assistant according to the Holy Father’s desire.
The Pope strongly desired that the Holy See create CHARIS so that the Charismatic Renewal and the whole Church may know that the Charismatic Renewal fully belongs to the universal Church.
One of the essential aspects that the Holy Father wanted to highlight is undoubtedly the importance of communion, that is, unity in diversity. CHARIS is at the service of all the charismatic realities of the world, and none of them has priority over the others. In no country can any community, group, organization or movement claim to lead the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
VN – CHARIS is a new service. Can you explain what is new about it?
Jean-Luc Moens – (…) The Statutes of CHARIS emphasize three dimensions: the diffusion of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christian unity, and service of the poor. These dimensions are at the service of evangelization, in which the Holy Father calls the Renewal to participate and to which he is committed.
The diffusion of baptism in the Spirit may not seem like a new fact. This is what the Charismatic Renewal has been doing since its birth. What is really new today is that the Pope himself asks that the baptism in the Holy Spirit be known throughout the Church. He has done so on several occasions in a very clear manner. It is a new step for the Charismatic Renewal, a challenge that must be taken up in the service of the universal Church.
Pope Francis also exhorts the Charismatic Renewal to return to its ecumenical roots, that is, to work dynamically for Christian unity. This is something that was very present at the birth of the Charismatic Renewal and which in many places has been gradually set aside. The Pope asks us to bring it back to the forefront.
Service of the poor is not new, either. What is new, however, is to encourage explicitly the “charismatics” to serve the poor and needy. This should not surprise us: the Holy Spirit is love. It is normal, therefore, that those who want to depend totally on Him should be witnesses of love. That is why service of the poor is at the heart of the Renewal.
The three dimensions I have just emphasized are naturally included in the call to evangelization that is addressed to the entire Charismatic Renewal. Baptism in the Spirit is the experience of Pentecost that puts the apostles on mission. Compassion and charity give new strength to evangelization because “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). Christian unity is also part of the challenge of mission because Jesus calls us to it: “That they may be one so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
For the first time also, we have a young woman under 30 years of age in the team of the International Communion Service of CHARIS. She represents young people from all over the world because young people are also protagonists of the International Charismatic Renewal. And they are a priority for CHARIS.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit; Christian Unity; service of the poor.
These three dimensions, as you can now imagine, will affect all Church movements, all religious communities, ecclesial associations or organizations. They are all called to work in this direction, according to the Holy Father’s desire. In stages, of course! By first taking a lucid look at our contemporary reality in order to better discern and then plan our pastoral and evangelizing interventions (See, Judge, Act)!
And given that we will soon be embarking on a great evangelization project in our Diocese of Pembroke, why not initiate it by integrating these three realities from our very beginnings? Are we all going to have to conform and become “charismatics” according to the right or wrong interpretations we make of the term, in order to fulfill the Holy Father’s desires? My answer to this question is yes and no.
“Yes”, because we need to be better trained in the ways of welcoming the coming of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. How do we do this? By cultivating charity, fidelity, purity, prayer and humility. These virtues must form a whole, otherwise the Spirit will be absent from our most beautiful apostolates or projects. These ways of inviting the coming of the Spirit into our hearts will allow us to welcome the various gifts that the Spirit will want to communicate to us in order to build his Church; to evangelize better; to enter more into communion with our Christian brothers and sisters of various Christian denominations; and finally, to reach the most needy of our brothers and sisters (on the material and/or spiritual levels) and to assist the most needy in a concrete way.
But I also say “no,” because it is not a question of desiring only to “receive or possess” so-called “charismatic” gifts, or of seeking to conform by servile obedience to the Holy Father’s desire, for example, by learning to repeat prayer formulas mechanically or intellectually, or by reciting acts of faith learned by heart, or by performing actions without true interiority. The important thing is not to say: “I am charismatic because I have this or that gift,” but rather to say: “I am baptized in the Holy Spirit, because I maintain a daily loving relationship with Jesus through my moments of prayer and solitude, and because I try to live the virtues of charity, fidelity, purity and humility. All of these dispositions allow me to welcome the gifts that the Spirit will communicate to me in order to fulfill my mission as a Christian; that is why I also desire to establish ecumenical relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters, without forgetting to commit myself to serve the poorest in my community.”
I conclude my reflection by inviting us all to contemplate Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, as a model of a woman baptized in the Holy Spirit. In her, the spirit of recollection was intense; very intense. She knew how to recollect herself in God even in her ordinary activities. And her great joy was undoubtedly to be able to spend her solitary moments in silent contemplation, but never to the detriment of charity, which I imagine often led her (as it happens to all of us) to leave her solitude in order to show kindness or patience to anyone who approached her. Let us not doubt that the “Full of grace” always held love of neighbor as the highest priority of her spiritual life, to the point of leaving her most beautiful meditations without hesitation when an opportunity for charity presented itself. “Leaving God for God”, said a great spiritual woman, following the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who always saw God in her neighbor. May Mary become our model when it comes to listening to and welcoming the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. May she grant us, through her powerful intercession, to persevere and remain faithful to the end. Those are the signs that dwell in the heart, mind and soul of the person who is truly “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”