‘Baptism of the Spirit’ marks Charismatic Renewal
ST.PAUL, Minn. (The Catholic Spirit) - Karin Treiber was there at the beginning.
On a weekend retreat with a Duquesne University Catholic group near Pittsburgh in February 1967, she was among a group of students who say they experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in an unprecedented way. A new way. An apostolic way.
Treiber describes it as understanding that the Holy Spirit was present to them in the same way the Spirit was present to Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost.
The “Duquesne Weekend” was the spark that ignited the charismatic movement’s wildfire, which spread across the United States and around the world. Known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the movement is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
After the weekend, Treiber remembers that all she could say about it was that she “was touched by God” - and her heart was changed.
Treiber speaks of the experience as if recollecting a dream - the “waterfall of light” that interiorly washed over her in prayer. Feeling a presence in the chapel. Seeing an invisible hand ripple over another praying student and immediately understanding it to be God. Experiencing profound joy and peace.
Not all the students experienced the Spirit like Treiber says she did. But those that did were drawn together through their increased desire for prayer, Scripture, the Eucharist and talking about God.
Baptism in the Spirit
What the students experienced that weekend is known as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” - an opening up of the individual to the graces received in the sacrament of baptism.
After Duquesne, that experience of the Spirit moved through the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and then to other colleges and faith communities. One hundred million Catholics around the world have been involved in the Renewal during the past 40 years, according to the archdiocesan Charismatic Renewal Office.
The movement is called “charismatic” to emphasize the charisms, or personal gifts of grace, from the Holy Spirit, as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.
As a “renewal” it is a rediscovering of the way early Christians are believed to have experienced the Holy Spirit, said Father Timothy Nolan, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Charismatic spirituality is at the foundation of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake, Minn., which Father Nolan founded in 1981 as Archbishop John Roach’s liaison to the movement.
Father Nolan was ordained Feb. 18, 1967 - the same weekend the Duquesne students were baptized in the Spirit. Three years later, he said, he profoundly experienced the Spirit at a retreat, which began his involvement in the movement.
The heart of the Renewal is not the experience of the charisms or expressive prayer, but a relationship with the alive and risen Jesus, he said.
“It’s surrendering and yielding to the Spirit of Jesus living in us, empowering us to live our Christian life,” Father Nolan said. “He’s really alive and present now, and we can have a very real relationship with him.”
Charismatic worship is often characterized by the raising of hands, clapping, song and spontaneous praise.
“It’s very scriptural,” Father Nolan said of the expressive prayer. “If you read the psalms, they’re very exuberant. The commandment is to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength - sounds like what we do at a football game, doesn’t it?”
The charisms described by Paul include faith, healing, miracles, prophecy and speaking in tongues.
It’s easiest to first introduce Catholics unfamiliar with charismatic prayer to the gifts of healing and inspired preaching, Father Nolan said.
Speaking in tongues - praying in a language unknown to the person speaking it - may seem to be the most mysterious of the gifts, but it’s a result of the Holy Spirit joining to a person’s spirit in prayer, Father Nolan said.
He described it as singing in Latin at eucharistic benediction - one may not understand the words, but he or she knows they are beautifully praising God.
Today, charismatic communities exist worldwide and have had a special impact in Latin America, where, in some countries, more than half of Catholics have been involved in some way, according to the Charismatic Renewal Office.
Locally, in the 1970s, 800 to 1,000 people were gathering at the largest weekly prayer meeting. More than 30 parish-based prayer groups had formed by the late 1970s, some of which are still active. The moment bore the St. Paul Catholic Youth Center, which became a center of charismatic life.
Two “covenant communities” - charismatic groups of lay people, priests and religious dedicated to Christian community life - are active today in the Twin ...
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