Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2006
Charismatic spirit saved his priesthood
Renewal movement helps create a closer relationship with Jesus
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Charismatic Catholics are people who have fallen in love with the Holy Spirit."
- Fr. Peter Coughlin
The leaders described the Catholic charismatic renewal as a movement that seeks to foster an awareness of the gift of God's Spirit and to help people develop a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"Charismatic Catholics are people who have fallen in love with the Holy Spirit," Coughlin said.
"I think we have an improved relationship with the Lord," added Horwood, who leads the movement in English-speaking Montreal.
The movement is growing in Canada as people seek a deeper relationship with God, the four leaders said.
They couldn't provide specific numbers "because people come and go," but said more than one million people have been baptized in the Spirit in Canada and between two and three million have been involved with the movement in some way over the years, from attending conferences and prayer meetings to healing Masses.
The movement, which has been in Canada since 1968, is present in almost all dioceses and priests and bishops throughout the country support its activities.
But Coughlin said some priests still see the movement as a threat, mainly because its members are far more expressive than other Catholics. Members are known to lift their hands in praise, pray loudly and sing with genuine joy. Once a pastor made a fuss because a woman opened her hands during the Our Father, noted Coughlin.
Because charismatics believe in the biblical concept of spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues, prophesying and physical healing, some priests see the movement with suspicion, dismissing it as Pentecostalism.
But slowly, over the years, the movement has been gaining respect and support, in part because they are active and in part because the late Pope John Paul II always praised its works. He once referred to it as a "new springtime" that brings conversions and priestly vocations to the Church.
In Edmonton, where between 160 to 200 people attend weekly prayer breakfasts and there are at least 20 charismatic prayer groups, Archbishop Thomas Collins paid a visit and spoke to charismatic Catholics soon after becoming bishop.
"At one point, the charismatic renewal was measured by the number of people attending prayer meetings, but the renewal is much larger than that," noted Coughlin.
In Canada the charismatic renewal movement publishes magazines, newspapers and books, and produces radio and television shows. It also runs retreats and seminars, some of which have caught the attention of the Church at large.
Over the years, many parishes throughout Canada have been offering the charismatic New Life in The Spirit Seminar, a spiritual development process that seeks to lead participants into a deeper and more intimate relationship with God by making them more aware of and more open to the power and the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The focus of the retreat, which is rooted in Scripture and supported by teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and papal encyclicals, is to renew parishes by helping members experience the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Pope John Paul once described this experience as "a grace directed to sanctify all people, to renew in them the taste for prayer, and to discover with the Holy Spirit the sense of thankfulness, of joyful praise, of confident intercession, and be converted into a new fountain of evangelization."
Several thousand people in the Edmonton Archdiocese have taken the Life in the Spirit Seminar, noted Janssen. Those who have taken the retreat are using it to renew their parish and to implement the archbishop's program for the archdiocese.
"We are alive and well in Canada and around the world," Coughlin said.
Charismatic Catholics are not a threat to anybody because they live lives of service like any ordinary Catholic, noted MacDonald, who coordinates the movement in Atlantic Canada.
He said charismatic Catholics in his region are involved in everything from youth programs to service to the poor.
And in many parishes they are involved as cantors, readers and Eucharistic ministers. "We are not the perceived threat we are made out to be," MacDonald said. "We are just Catholics who are open to what the Lord wants to give us through the power of the Spirit, whatever that might be."
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