A Gentle Revolution

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2009

Last month (October 20-25, 2008), we at CHM had the happy privilege of sponsoring an international leaders conference for Catholics. The special aspect that made this conference noteworthy was that it was co-sponsored by the Vatican office for Charismatic Renewal in Rome (ICCRS), but CHM was responsible for the content of all the talks during the six days. This conference was our second of this kind, co-sponsored by the Vatican – the first being in April 2007, attended by 460 international leaders. This one was to be a Level II, building on the first, but most (3/4) of the participants were new and had not attended the first conference. In spite of the present worldwide financial crisis, 320 participants came from 37 countries. Some countries were well represented (like Spain), while other countries (such as Zambia) had to sacrifice in order to send one. Archbishop Jose Palma from Leyte in the Philippines was among the 25 priests who concelebrated Mass every day, and our own Bishop Victor Galeone, (Diocese of Saint Augustine, Florida) celebrated the opening Mass.

For those of you who are Protestants, this conference should also be an encouragement, because now Catholic Church leaders are openly encouraging the baptism in the Spirit and healing prayer, which gives an official approval that contributes to a general acceptance among all Christians of genuine spiritual renewal.

In those who came and took part, we again witnessed extraordinary life-changing healings and, occasionally, deliverance. Some of the speakers, too, were Protestant (Don Williams and Mike Evans). Judith was featured, of course, with her teaching as a witness to those whose cultures still do not allow women to take leadership and teaching roles, which are now so familiar to us that we hardly notice. And then they saw the results of our gifted prayer ministers’ work, most of them laypeople who were humbly showing how powerfully laypeople, as well as clergy, can minister and build up the body of Christ. Together with the music team from Augusta, Georgia, the entire conference was a marvelous example of Christians harmoniously working together to increase the Kingdom of God.

Oreste Pesare, the director of the international Catholic renewal office in Rome was there, of course, as an integral part of the conference. Immediately afterwards, he flew back to Italy and then went to Assisi to be part of the international Catholic conference for charismatic communities. There the leaders were surprised by an unexpected visit by Pope Benedict XVI, who gave them a private audience in which he encouraged them to develop the wise use of charisms in the Church. “He also thanked the Catholic charismatic renewal for helping to bring back the charisms in the heart of the body of Christ.” Oreste also added, “I want to thank you … on behalf of all the ICCRS Council for the wonderful job that you have done for this past School of Healing Prayer that we have organized together. Your serious dedication to this important event made it a great spiritual experience for all the participants. … I hope to have other occasions to work with all of you in the future.”

My own commentary on all this is that what is now happening is a great encouragement to someone like myself who has had the opportunity of seeing the extraordinary difference between the way it was 40 years ago when the Catholic Charismatic Renewal got started and we did our best to share what we had experienced. Naturally, some responses were very skeptical. “Are you taken in by the fundamentalist ‘faith-healer’, emotional nonsense that we see out there?” These negative attitudes were reinforced by a most popular Pentecostal author of that time who predicted that Church authorities would soon pull the rug out from under us and stop us from speaking about “Pentecostal” renewal. But his predictions never came true. In fact, I (and the others in Catholic charismatic renewal) had a truly remarkable success in speaking about the baptism of the Spirit and the accompanying charisms to the Church at large. After forty years, there are still church leaders out there who are basically ignorant (or even hostile) to the charismatic renewal but the changes in the direction of understanding and acceptance are (to my mind, at least) miraculous.

And the ICCRS conference that we hosted here is a vibrant, living example of renewal at the heart of the Church – not just at the fringes. There’s a long way to go, but how far we’ve come is extraordinary. That, too, is unbelievable! Never would we have believed that in our lifetime, so much would change.

But we have seen it – a gentle revolution. Praise God!

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan/Feb 2009 Issue