Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
Mary and the Charismatic Renewal
Mary's role in God's plan was beginning to be examined by some conservative Protestants in the early 1970's. J. Neville Ward, a Methodist minister, wrote a book on praying the Rosary, "Five for Sorrow and Ten for Joy". Basilea Schlink, a Lutheran nun, suggested Protestants consider the meaning of the text of Lk 2:35 that seemed to connect Mary with Jesus in a special way regarding the salvation of the world. Around the same time an international conference of the charismatic renewal was held at Notre Dame University (South Bend, Indiana). Many Protestant observers were present at this large charismatic gathering including David Wilkerson whose book, "The Cross and the Switchblade", was one element that inspired those first few who became the seed bringing forth this Catholic charismatic renewal.
Joseph Cardinal Suenens in a keynote address at the Notre Dame conference revealed that the secret of being in union with the Holy Spirit was to be in union with Mary. The assembled crowd responded with a great and unified reaction of praise of God to this proclamation. However, it seems that some Catholics as well as some of the Protestant observers were not pleased with this suggestion. Around this time David Wilkerson had a vision which he later published under the title, The Vision, in 1974.
In his book, The Vision, Wilkerson indicated that charismatic Catholics would be persecuted by the rest of the Church for turning away from the Virgin Mary and the authority of the Pope. He further suggested that those returning to the tradition of the Church would allow their pentecostal experience to lie dormant and that others should have to "come out from among them". This line of thinking that relationship with the Virgin Mary was somehow in opposition to centring one's life around the person of Jesus Christ seemed to fly in the face of what Mother Basilea Schlink had been suggesting that Protestant too, examine Mary's role.
Many of Wilkerson predictions in, The Vision, have come to pass, many others seem quite unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, it seems that many Catholics in the renewal at the time joined in this turning away from devotion to Mary. This was compounded by the fact that expressions of devotion to Mary in many Catholic charismatic prayer meetings was already greatly limited. This of course was not true of all prayer groups. In fact, the prayer groups under the influence of the Madonna House Apostolate were generally quite rich in both Marian and eastern rite Catholic devotions.
The original restriction of Mary and other Catholic devotions in prayer meetings was the result of a complex process. For one thing many of the people coming into the renewal in the beginning had lacked knowledge of their faith. Others had been away from the practice of their faith. Secondly, since the charismatic renewal had already begun in many Protestant churches assistance was often obtained from Protestant leaders. The presence of many newly converted Catholics and some Protestants provided the background for such ideas that the prayer meeting was only to praise Jesus and therefore no mention of Mary was appropriate. There was also a fear of offending the Protestants present, by praying to Mary.
An experience of a friend of mine can illustrate how erroneous is the idea that Catholic practices are offensive to Protestants. This friend was living in Northern Ireland in the early '70's. She attended the first gathering of an ecumenical prayer group there. After some initial nervousness both the Catholic and Protestant sides prayed spontaneously. Then about three quarters of the way through the meeting a Protestant women spoke up and said, "When are you Catholics going to say a Hail Mary?" Surprised and somewhat sheepishly the Catholics responded with a Hail Mary.
It would seem that Catholics are more timid about their own devotions than are Protestants offended by them. For that matter, one should not fail to practice what one knows to be true in difference to human respect. Therefore, effort must be made by leaders to avoid false fears about non-Catholic sensitivities and to maintain an openness to Catholic teaching at parish or regional Catholic prayer meetings.
A third problem in the beginning was a lack of leadership on the part of the Church. It seemed that many bishops were fearful of a renewal of Montanism despite the fact that the US Catholic Conference of Bishops had recommended that bishops encourage their priests to get involved in the renewal. Montanism was a 4th century heresy similar in many ways to the present day charismatic renewal. However, its followers place personal prophecy above Church authority. I must admit I have come across some people in the renewal who seem to display a faith in their personal prophecy that borders on infallibility. Nevertheless, the Renewal has been faithful and obedient to Church authority.
I have been moved with what I believe is the spirit of prophecy on a number of occasions. I can relate stories when things have unfolded that confirmed what the Lord seemed to have spoken through me. On the other hand, I know of instances when I was simply wrong in what I had thought was a word inspired by God. I know others who have made similar mistakes. However, those who regard their own gift as infallible have caused individual and collective damage to the renewal. This has created legitimate fear in the hierarchy, which has lead to resistance by the Church in a number of ways to the charismatic renewal, such as limiting public demonstrations of the renewal.
I believe leaders in the renewal need to be on guard against any signs of Montanism. They can encourage a healthy discernment of spirits that will see non-confirmation of prophecies as well as the usual confirming of them. Most of us who have been in the Charismatic renewal for a while will know of instances where people were directed by a false spirit of prophecy to embark on some venture which turned into disaster. Nevertheless, we must not discourage the spirit of prophesy, we must see it has proper direction and that it is subject to appropriate direction.
I would say a fourth problem that arose in the early stages of the charismatic renewal was part of the general confusion following the Second Vatican Council. Many priests and religious were experiencing difficulties in maintaining their vocations. The baptism of the Holy Spirit often renewed the spirit of these people. However, some of them and others in the Church then questioned why such renewal experiences were not available in the Church previously. This led to scepticism of the Church’s role and function.
I think a brief review of the move of the Spirit in the 20th century seems appropriate to be inserted here. In 1897 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed an encyclical on the Holy Spirit after the persistent bidding of a holy nun. It was hoped that the people of God would respond so that God would: "Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth" (Ps. ciii., 30). However, there was little to no response in the Catholic Church. However, a small group of Christians at Bethel Bible College in Topeka Kansas came to believe if one laid hands on a person and prayed the ‘speaking in tongues’ would be released in the person. This was a sign to them of the presence of the Holy Spirit and their inspiration gradually began to spread. This movement really took off with actions of an African-American preacher who studied under the leaders of this renewed look at the charismatic gifts. By the power of the Holy Spirit he started a Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles in 1906.
From this so called Asuza Street Revival of 1906 Pentecostalism spread throughout the US and Europe. In the beginning of the movement it was regarded with suspicion from the mainline and evangelical churches. However, starting in the 1960s members of mainline Christian churches began to become involved in what was later dubbed the Charismatic Movement. The movement has since spread all over the world and even some of the churches that opposed the movement have since joined it. Last of all it seems; it came to the Catholic Church beginning in 1967.
I would like to make two comments about the Charismatic Renewal coming to the Catholic Church. First, God used those open to the Spirit in other denominations to create interest or even envy in the minds and hearts of some Catholics. This reminds me of what Paul was hoping would happen to the Jews so that they would join the Christian Faith (Rm 11:11). Therefore, by this means the Holy Spirit is answering Pope Leo’s call to renew the face of the earth and indeed He has since come in power in the Catholic Church born of Him at the first Pentecost.
My Second point on the coming of the Charismatic renewal to the Catholic Church is that the Spirit has not come by anyone’s works or efforts but the will of the Spirit Himself. The Spirit moves wherever it wills as implied in John 3:8 so we cannot judge the move of the Spirit in the history of the Church. Another scripture verse gives more insight into this and is found at James 5:7, “Be patient therefore, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the… early and the late rain.” The first few centuries of the Church was for the early rain and today we are getting the late rain. Therefore questioning why the Spirit moves in the way He does is speculation beyond our capacity. So, we accept this late rain of the Spirit with gratitude and faith.
Another problem in questioning the move of the Spirit is an assumption that people today are holier or more open than Christians of past ages. This is clearly false as God always has his faithful and even his sinful people who have been used in every age of the Church. God could have inspired any of these people at any time to create renewal. And in deed there have been many renewal movements throughout the history of the Church. The fact that He has chosen to act now is not so much about those who are responsive to His call but because He has chosen to do this at this time. In fact, I think our age is morally one of the worst in history. Perhaps this is the very reason for the renewal of the gifts of the Spirit because where sin abounds His grace abounds even more (Rm 5:20).
A primary part of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements is the personal experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience often a complete conversion experience was the principal source of vitality and impetus behind the renewal. In many case it took people from a life of sin to a life of faith, hope and charity. It is widely believed that this experience of spiritual renewal that comes with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a necessary means of renewing the Church in this time so assailed by the evils of materialism and loss of faith.
Not only does the Baptism of the Holy Spirit give the sinner a dramatic and real experience of God but those who are faithful but languishing in spiritual dryness can experience a new life to their faith. For some there is no dramatic identifiable experience but even these will be seen to find changes in their spiritual life. The Mass will have more tangible meaning as will prayer and almost universally people report the Bible comes alive for them.
The emotional experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not last forever. In the beginning people who see you know there is something different about you. It is almost like the glow Moses exhibited to the Hebrews after speaking to God on Mount Horeb. However, in time the glow fades and each person is called upon to live their life in the darkness of faith – not seeing yet believing. This is why the Apostles recognized the need to encourage perseverance in the Faith.
The experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is never repeated but God in His mercy offers renewal; occasionally on a large scale such as from a parish mission, retreat or conference but often on a small scale at almost every meeting where there is praise and worship of our God. Charismatic prayer meetings are often seen as place where members get their faith batteries charged to prepare them for their lives in the world.
St. Paul said that were sin abounds grace abounds all the more (Rm 5:20). It seems that the opposite is also true; where grace, as in the case of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, is given Satan also finds some means of attack. For instance, I know many personal stories and historical ones where a person who has had a great conversion experience and the understanding that comes with it only to be overcome by pride and self-righteousness. I would say that if one does not humbly hold to the teachings of the Church he could be tempted to embark on his own version of Christianity resulting in a new sect or religion.
All conversion experiences are not truly inspired by God although the potential for such experiences is engrained in every human being. Whether from God or not these experiences can be very powerful and show many of the same characteristics of true conversions from God. For instance, I once heard a woman speaking about her conversion. Everything she said was very similar to what I had either experienced myself or had heard in the testimonies of others. However, this woman had a conversion to her husband’s religion; to a particular Hindu god.
Once again let me strongly state that I believe every Catholic needs to experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience will give new life to the faith each person already has. Once a person has experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, usually through the Life in the Spirit Seminar, the person then needs firm direction in the Faith. With effective evangelization and catechises the person newly baptised in the Spirit will grow in depth of understand and appreciation of all of the gifts God has given to the Church. Many of the gifts of the Church are acknowledged in this little book; the knowledge of the Trinity, the Eucharist, Mary, the saints, confession and so on.