Pope to Charismatic Renewal: Be stewards not ‘inspectors’ of God’s grace

06/02/2014 VATICAN-Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has confessed that in his years as Archbishop of Buenos Aires “I did not like the charismatics, I thought they were like a samba school. Then I saw the good they do for the Church and eventually became chaplain of the movement in Argentina. But you must be careful of careerism, internal power struggles and the temptation to control who can and who cannot receive grace. Be stewards of God’s grace.” This was his message to the fifty-two thousand people from 55 countries gathered for the 37th National Convocation of Renewal in the Spirit, held at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, June 2-3. Below is the full text of the Francis’ speech (transcript by AsiaNews).

Thank you so much for your welcome. Surely, someone obviously told the organizers that I like this song: “Spirit of the Living God.” When I used to celebrate Mass in Buenos Aires with the Charismatic Renewal, they would sing this song with so much joy. Thank you! It has made me feel right at home. I thank the Renewal in the Spirit, the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships for this meeting, which gives me so much joy. I am also grateful for the presence of the first people who had a strong experience of the power of the Holy Spirit. You, Charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord: you have been born from a desire of the Holy Spirit as a current of grace in the Church and for the Church. This is your definition: a current of grace.

What is the first gift of the Holy Ghost? The gift of himself, who is love and helps us to fall in love with Jesus. This love changes lives, for it is said “to be born again to life in the Spirit.” Jesus said so to Nicodemus. You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity that the Holy Spirit brings to service to the Church. When I think of you I see the image of the Church, but in a particular way. I also think of a big orchestra where every instrument and voice is different, but are all part of a harmony of music. St. Paul tells us, as an orchestra, no one in the Renewal must think they are more important than the other: please! Because if someone begins to think they are more important or greater, then the plague begins. No one can say ‘I’m the boss’. You, like the whole Church, you have only one head: the Lord Jesus! Repeat after me: who is the head of the Renewal? The Lord Jesus! The Lord Jesus! And we can say that, with the power that the Spirit gives us, because no one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit.

As you may know, because news travels fast, in the early years of the Charismatic Renewal in Buenos Aires I did not love the charismatics: and I used to say of them “they look like a samba school.” I did not agree with their way of praying and the so many new things that were happening in the Church. After I got to know them and I began to understand the good that Renewal does for the Church. And this story, which began with the samba and moved on, ends in a particular way: a few months before taking part in the Conclave, I was appointed by the Conference of Bishops as chaplain of the Renewal in Argentina.

The Charismatic Renewal is a great power at the service of the Gospel: you have found the love of God for all his children and the love for the Word. In the early days it was said that you always carried a Bible and the New Testament with you: do you still do this today? I’m not so sure! Return to this first love, always carry the Word of God in your pocket read a bit; always carry God’s Word. God’s people and the people of the Renewal, be careful not to lose the freedom that the Spirit has given us. The danger for the Renewal, as is often said by our dear Father Raniero Cantalamessa, is excessive organization: you need it, but do not lose the grace of allowing God to be God. There is no greater freedom than that: to let the Spirit lead, refusing to calculate everything, and allow Him to guide us where He will, to enlighten us. He knows what is needed most at all times and in every era.

Another danger is to become “inspectors” of God’s grace. Sometimes the leaders become perhaps unwittingly administrators of grace deciding who can and who cannot receive it. If some of you are doing this, I beg you to stop doing so! You are stewards of God’s grace, not “inspectors.” Do not carry out a “customs control” of the Holy Spirit. In the documents you have a guide and a safe route to avoid mistakes: theological and pastoral orientation, ecumenism, service to man. This is a path: evangelization, ecumenism, care of the poor and welcome of the marginalized. And all this on the basis of worship: worship of God is the foundation. I have been asked to tell the Renewal what the Pope expects of you: the first thing is the conversion to the love of Jesus that changes lives and makes the Christian a witness of God’s love.

The Church expects this testimony, and the Spirit helps us to live in consistency with the Gospel for our holiness. I expect you to share the grace of the Church in the Holy Spirit. I expect you to evangelize with the word of God, which proclaims that Jesus is alive and loves all men; to bear witness to our ecumenical commitment: to remain united in the love that the Lord Jesus asks us to have for all men, and in the Holy Spirit in prayer, to arrive at this unity. Remember that the Renewal is by its very nature ecumenical: the Catholic Renewal rejoices at what the Spirit realizes in other churches. Be close to the poor, the needy; touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus.  Be close to them, please.

Seek unity in the Renewal, because it is born of the Spirit and the unity of the Trinity. Who does division come from? The devil. Flee from infighting, please! Make sure that there is none between you. I want to thank the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, the two bodies of pontifical statues in service to the worldwide Renewal, busy preparing the meeting of priests and bishops from around the world for next year. I know they have decided to share the same office and work together as a sign of unity and better manage resources. I rejoice and thank them, because they are already organizing the Great Jubilee of the Year 2017.

Brothers and sisters, remember: worship God, the Lord! This is the foundation. Seek holiness worshiping God in the new life of the Spirit. Be stewards of the grace of God, avoid the danger of excessive organization, go out into the streets to evangelize. Remember that the Church was born with an outward bound spirit that morning of Pentecost. Move closer to the poor and touch in their flesh the wounds of Jesus.  Please do not imprison the Holy Spirit! Live with freedom! Look for the unity of the Renewal, which comes from the Trinity. I invite you all, charismatics of the world, together with the Pope to celebrate your big jubilee, Pentecost 2017, in St. Peter’s Square. Thank you!

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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