A vibrant group of worshipers gathered to sing praises to the Lord.
If you didn’t know any better, you might guess by the music and worship style that it was a group of evangelical Protestants.
Yet, their joyful singing was happening in the pews of the local Catholic church.
A new practice called Catholic Charismatic Renewal is sweeping the Catholic Church.
So what exactly is this renewal, where did it begin, and is it truly a sign of the Holy Spirit moving the Catholic Church?
The apostles were all in one room when a strong wind swept through the house. They became filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues.
Following the Pentecost, many started to believe in the Spirit, and signs and wonders began to accompany all who believed. Since that moment, believers were empowered by the Spirit through ministries of healing, preaching, and the gift of prophecy.
While many evangelical Protestant denominations believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts and often worship God with a charismatic approach, this type of practice has been less common within the Catholic Church.
However, Ralph Keifer, Patrick Bourgeois, and other Catholic professors from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh desired more of the Spirit in their lives and lifted that desire up to God at a weekend retreat back in 1966.
At the retreat, they were introduced to two books, The Cross and the Switch Blade and They Speak with Other Tongues, which emphasized the Holy Spirit and His spiritual gifts.
They found what they desired.
Shortly thereafter, both Keifer and Bourgeois recall being filled with the Holy Spirit at a prayer meeting that would change their lives.
The following week, Keifer laid hands on other Duquesne professors who also became filled with the Spirit.
A student named Patti Gallagher recalls the events during this time, “although they did not tell us outright about their charismatic experience, those who knew them well noticed that they radiated a new joy.”
Patti explained what happened next, “We were planning for our retreat in February and the professors suggested a new theme: ‘The Holy Spirit.’ In preparation for the retreat, they told us to pray expectantly, to read The Cross and the Switchblade, and to read the first four chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.”
Prior to the session, professors sang an Ancient Gregorian hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, meaning Come Creator Spirit.
Calling others to the event, Patti entered the chapel.
Immediately, she felt a presence of the Spirit through the power of the Eucharist and ran to the chapel to speak of what occurred.
Others saw the glow, which led them to the chapel. The chapel became filled with manifestations of the Spirit – laughing, the gift of tongues, and some were crying as well.
This retreat became known as the Duquesne Weekend.
From this retreat, the Spirit began to spread to Catholic professors at Notre Dame and Michigan.
Communities began to form called Covenant communities that would pray together and seek after the Holy Spirit.
Prayer meetings began to reach across the United States as well as Born of the Spirit or Life in the Spirit seminars.
The movement of the Spirit was expanding and people were noticing.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI greeted ten thousand Catholics and acknowledged the need for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: “The Church and the world need more than ever that ‘the miracle of Pentecost should continue in history’ … How could this ‘spiritual renewal’ not be ‘good fortune’ for the Church and the world?”
In 1979, Pope John Paul II, shortly after becoming Pope affirmed his support, “I am convinced that this movement is a sign of the Spirit’s action . . . a very important component in the total renewal of the Church.”
Yet, while many have seen the positive impact of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, it has not escaped criticism.
Some say the practice is too emotionally focused. During some events, music is played, lights are bright, and jumping may occur. Some see this and believe that Christ is not at the focus.
Those who oppose know the importance of emotions, but say that emotions are not intrinsic to the celebration of prayer methods such as adoration or the celebration of the mass.
Some say there are those who believe that when someone speaks in tongues it means they are closer to God – and that those who do not have the gift are not as close. Therefore, they claim the renewal leads the focus to become on the gifts and not the giver.
On the other side, some Protestants may be skeptical that the Holy Spirit is truly moving in such a powerful way inside the Catholic Church, with which they have many theological disagreements.
But while there are those who oppose or are skeptical of the renewal, many have seen the fruits of the Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church.
Only God can know for sure whether the Charismatic Renewal is truly the Holy Spirit moving, but we can all pray that it is and that God will use this to reach many believers – whether Catholic or not – for His Glory.