Pope Francis Gives Direction to Charismatic Renewal and New Movements
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On November 22, 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Congress sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It brought together new movements and communities in the Catholic Church - from across the globe. These movements are not only flourishing, but multiplying in the Catholic Church. They are also playing a vital role in reaching out to Christians of other communities. Pope Francis sees these movements collectively. He also recognizes them as one of the greatest missionary resources of the Catholic Church in her work of reaching out to this age with the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He views the time in which we live as a new missionary age.
Pope Francis at the last Pentecost Sunday Mass. Included in the massive crowd were members of the diverse ecclesial movements from around the world.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On November 22, 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Congress sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It brought together new movements and communities in the Catholic Church - from across the globe. These movements are not only flourishing, but multiplying in the Catholic Church. They are also playing a vital role in reaching out to Christians of other communities.
Pope Francis sees these movements collectively. He also recognizes them as one of the greatest missionary resources of the Catholic Church in her work of reaching out to this age with the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He views the time in which we live as a new missionary age.
Francis is a good pastor who wants to ensure that the members of these ecclesial movements do not fall prey to one of the common temptations faced by enthusiastic movements, to turn inward and become, to use one of his favorite words of warning to the whole Church, self-referential.
Over the last few pontificates, the term ecclesial movements has become the preferred term used to refer to the multiple movements which are growing up within the Catholic Church and inspiring a tremendous spiritual renewal. They all demonstrate that Jesus Christ has indeed been raised from the dead - and that He continues His ministry through His Body, the Church, of which we are members.
I believe that the term ecclesial movements is helpful and we should begin to use it. It does not focus on a particular movement - but on the Lord and His Church. Movements come and go, but the Church endures. Even if we participate in a particular movement, our call is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus and help them to find a home in His Body.
Though each movement may have a unique charism and mission, they have some important common elements which are discernible. For example, they all invite Christians into a personal relationship, an encounter, with the Lord Jesus Christ.
They all proclaim that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and is still alive in our midst in the Church which He founded. They all emphasize the universal call of all baptized Christians to holiness. They all point to living faith as united with action and directed toward mission.
On May 21, 2013, Pope Francis addressed a massive crowd which included the leaders of ecclesial movements. It was Pentecost Sunday. He told them: "The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission."
The last three Popes have used the language of encounter, emphasizing that encountering the Lord personally brings faith alive! Pope Francis continues to emphasize this need for encountering the Lord. In fact, he is even more insistent about it.
The ecclesial movements are 'evangelical' in the fullest sense of the word. They call men and women into an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Evangel. This encounter awakens the grace of Baptism within them and changes them, opening them to conversion of life. The movements invite the men and women of this age to experience the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit which the Lord promised, right here and now, and not view it as a past event alone.
Then, all who experience such an encounter with the Risen Christ, and are clothed in the Spirit, are invited to find their home in the Heart of His Church. From that base of operation they are enlisted into a mission into the whole world, to take their place in the ongoing redemptive mission of the Lord, as it continues through His Body, the Church.
The last conference for ecclesial movements in Rome exceeded over 120,000 representatives. There were representatives from over 150 ecclesial movements in attendance, reflecting their growing diversity and numbers.
The Successor of Peter seeks to unite them in the one mission of the Church in this moment in history. He is issuing a call for laborers in the vineyard of a new missionary age. He does this because he is the Vicar of Christ. The word Vicar means representative. It is Jesus Himself who is calling us into the fields of this current age which are ready for harvest.
Men and women from every walk of life who have encountered the Risen Lord Jesus and believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, are needed for this new missionary age. Men and women who understand that the very nature of the Church is missionary - and that every member of the Church is called into that mission.
I offer below some excerpts from this pastorally wise, inspiring talk given to the leaders of the new movements and communities. The problem with much of the coverage of this pontificate is that we do not read or hear these kinds of instructions from this Pope.
In these words, we can see the gift that Pope Francis is for the Church in this new missionary age. He certainly recognizes the contributions of the new movements and communities.
However, he warns them all of against the pitfalls which can accompany enthusiastic movements. He encourages them all to move toward Christian and ecclesial maturity. He calls them into the fullness of communion. He invites them to live, as I like to say, in the heart of the Church, for the sake of the world.
He calls them to develop an authentically Catholic Christian vision, one which is rooted in Catholic teaching, but has a heart for the whole Christian people and enters into the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ for unity - so that the world may believe. (John 17:21) The direction that Pope Francis gave to Charismatic Renewal and the new movements is for all of us.
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From Pope Francis
Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!
At the heart of your deliberations in these days are two elements which are essential for Christian life: conversion and mission. These are intimately connected. In fact, without an authentic conversion of heart and mind, the Gospel cannot be proclaimed; at the same time, if we are not open to mission, conversion is not possible and faith becomes sterile.
The Movements and New Communities that you represent are moving towards a deeper sense of belonging to the Church, a maturity that requires vigilance in the path of daily conversion. This will enable an ever more dynamic and fruitful evangelization. I would like, therefore, to offer you a few suggestions for your journey of faith and ecclesial life.
First, it is necessary to preserve the freshness of your charism, never lose that freshness, the freshness of your charism, always renewing the "first love" (cf. Rev 2:4). As time goes by, there is a greater temptation to become comfortable, to become hardened in set ways of doing things, which, while reassuring, are nonetheless sterile. There is the temptation to cage in the Holy Spirit: this is a temptation!
However, "realities are more important than ideas" (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 231-233); even if a certain institutionalization of the charism is necessary for its survival, we ought not delude ourselves into thinking that external structures can guarantee the working of the Holy Spirit. The newness of your experiences does not consist in methods or forms, or the newness itself, all of which are important, but rather in your willingness to respond with renewed enthusiasm to the Lord's call.
Such evangelical courage has allowed for the growth of your Movements and New Communities. If forms and methods become ends in themselves, they become ideological, removed from reality which is constantly developing; closed to the newness of the Spirit, such rigid forms and methods will eventually stifle the very charism which gave them life.
We need always to return to the sources of our charism, and thus to rediscover the driving force needed to respond to challenges. You have not been schooled in such a spirituality. You have not attended an institution of spirituality in this way. You are not simply a small group. No! You are rather a movement, always on the way, always in movement, always open to God's surprises which are in harmony with the first call of the movement, namely the founding charism.
A further issue concerns the way of welcoming and accompanying men and women of today, in particular, the youth (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 105-106). We are part of a wounded humanity - and we must be honest in saying this - in which all of the educational institutions, especially the most important one, the family, are experiencing grave difficulties almost everywhere in the world.
Men and women today experience serious identity problems and have difficulty making proper choices; as a result, they tend to be conditioned and to delegate important decisions about their own lives to others. We need to resist the temptation of usurping individual freedom, of directing them without allowing for their growth in genuine maturity. Every person has their own time, their own path, and we must accompany this journey.
Moral or spiritual progress which manipulates a person's immaturity is only an apparent success, and one destined to fail. It is better to achieve less and move forward without seeking attention. Christian education, rather, requires a patient accompaniment which is capable of waiting for the right moment for each person, as the Lord does with each one of us. The Lord is patient with us! Patience is the only way to love truly and to lead others into a sincere relationship with the Lord.
One other consideration we must never forget is that the most precious good, the seal of the Holy Spirit, is communion. This is the supreme blessing that Jesus won for us on the Cross, the grace which the Risen Christ continually implores for us as he reveals to the Father his glorious wounds, "As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (Jn 17:21).
For the world to believe that Jesus is Lord, it needs to see communion among Christians. If, on the other hand, the world sees divisions, rivalries, backbiting, the terrorism of gossip, please. if these things are seen, regardless of the cause, how can we evangelize? Remember this further principle: "Unity prevails over conflict" (Evangelii Gaudium, 226-230), because our brothers and sisters are always of greater value than our personal attitudes; indeed, it is for our brothers and sisters that Christ has shed his blood (1 Pet 1:18-19); it has not been shed for my ideas!
In addition, real communion cannot exist in Movements or in New Communities unless these are integrated within the greater communion of our Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church. "The whole is greater than the part" (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 234-237), and the part only has meaning in relation to the whole.
Communion also consists in confronting together and in a united fashion the most pressing questions of our day, such as life, the family, peace, the fight against poverty in all its forms, religious freedom and education. In particular, New Movements and Communities are called to coordinate their efforts in caring for those wounded by a globalized mentality which places consumption at the center, neglecting God and those values which are essential for life.
In order to attain ecclesial maturity, therefore, maintain - I say again - the freshness of your charism, respect the freedom of each person, and always strive for communion. Do not forget, however, that to reach this goal, conversion must be missionary: the strength to overcome temptations and insufficiencies comes from the profound joy of proclaiming the Gospel, which is the foundation of your charisms.
In fact, "when the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment" (Evangelii Gaudium, 10), the true motivation for renewal of one's own life, since all mission is a sharing in the mission of Christ who always precedes and accompanies us in the work of evangelization.
Deacon Keith A. Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties. He has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture and currently serves as Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel. He is also the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online.
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