Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Church is Not Coca Cola

Marcio Campos:
…In Brazil, the Catholic Church has lost a number of the faithful in these recent years.  Is the Charismatic Renewal movement one possible way for ensuring that the faithful do not go to the Pentecostal Church or other pentecostal churches?  Many thanks for your presence and many thanks for being with us.

Pope Francis:
It is very true what you are saying about the fall in numbers of the faithful: it is true, it is true.  The statistics are there.  We spoke with the Brazilian bishops about the problem at a meeting held yesterday…  You asked about the Charismatic Renewal movement…   the movement, with good leaders, has made great progress.  Now I think that this movement does much good for the Church, overall. 

In Buenos Aires, I met frequently with them and once a year I celebrated a Mass with all of them in the Cathedral.  I have always supported them, after I was converted, after I saw the good they were doing.  Because at this time in the Church – and here I’ll make my answer a little more general – I believe that the movements are necessary.  The movements are a grace of the Spirit.  “But how can you control a movement which is so free?”   The Church is free, too!  The Holy Spirit does what he wants.  He is the one who creates harmony, but I do believe that the movements are a grace, those movements which have the spirit of the Church.  

Consequently I don’t think that the Charismatic Renewal movement merely prevents some people from passing over to pentecostal denominations.  No!  It is also a service to the Church herself!  It renews us.  Everyone seeks his own movement, according to his own charism, where the Holy Spirit draws him or her.

Press conference on plane returning from WYD Rio

Reflection – I’m loving this press conference so much that I want to just keep at it for the rest of the week or so. Pope Francis is good at the spontaneous back and forth stuff, and makes so many good points in these answers.

Here we see his general attitude towards the charismatic dimension of the Church. The Charismatic Renewal itself, yes, but also the whole movement of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of individual members of the Body of Christ, causing new movements and communities and ways of being Church to spring up continually as the genius of God meets the ingenuity of human beings. Madonna House is part of that charismatic movement in the church, even if we are not a ‘Charismatic’ community per se.

Too often the charismatic element of Christianity is set in opposition to the institutional element, as if the Holy Spirit pits one way He moves in the Church against another. Because the institutional Church is the Church founded by Christ in the Spirit, right? All of that ‘calling of twelve men who he named apostles’ who promptly after Pentecost went forth and established churches with leadership structures in every city they went to—it’s all right there in the Bible, folks.

So the Holy Spirit is not contradicting Himself, pitting one divine action against another. That would be incoherent. But there is no question that ‘charism’ and ‘institution’ operate in a creative tension where each serves the other, not without difficulty and stress, since we are all sinful human beings, but nonetheless.

Institutions can become lifeless and mechanical, and so God stirs up people like Francis or Dominic or Dorothy Day or Catherine Doherty to rejuvenate them. Charisms can be chaotic or (since they reside by definition in flawed individuals) corrupted by personal ambition or sin; the institutional church is tasked with the (often thankless) job of ensuring that all charisms are tested and kept within the communion of and service to the whole Church.

I love it that Pope Francis also says that this is not just about getting fallen away Catholics to come back to the Church. Yes, of course we want that (why wouldn’t we?), but the Church is not a corporation trying to market itself with a jazzy new ad campaign or new ‘messaging.’ The Church is not the New Coke. We are trying to be faithful and responsive to the action of the Holy Spirit, not ‘to get our people back’, but because being faithful and responsive to the Spirit is the Church’s sole raison d’être in this world. 

Our first obligation is obedience to God, not pandering to the whims and fancies and fashions of man. We want people to come back to the Church, not because we’re trying to bolster our membership roles, but for their sake, for their salvation. The charismatic movements in the Church, be they huge phenomena like the Charismatic Renewal or tiny little seeds like Madonna House, if they are genuine, are about nothing else except the call to personal holiness which is personal surrender to God’s will, and a life poured out in love and service to God’s people in the communion of God’s Church.

1 comment:

  1. I am a cradle Catholic who was Catholic because I was Catholic until I went to my first Charismatic prayer group 20 years ago. I remember thinking...How come so few know about this & how did I not know about this! If more Catholics experienced this movement, we'd be an On-fire faith family. Some of the benefits: a deeper yearning for Christ, Awareness of charisms, love of Church, deeper devotion to BVM, better understanding of the Holy Spirit, reverence for the Eucharist, sanctity of life and for the Word...& much more. Thanks for the great post.


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