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Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
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Charismatic Catholics celebrate communal renewal, empowerment
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register
(From the Nov. 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)
“If you only knew...” was the theme of the Inland Empire Catholic Charismatic Renewal conference held Nov. 2-4 in Spokane. About 300 persons attended to hear Sister Nancy Kellar from Scarsdale, N.Y., and Bishop Sam Jacobs from Alexandria, La., develop the theme in a series of talks during the weekend.
Sister Nancy is a member of the Sisters of Charity of New York and vice-chairperson of the North American Ecumenical Charismatic Committee.
She is a former teacher and her well-crafted talks left no doubt about her message. “The Lord wants to show us the vision of the more he has for us,” she said. “There is always more ... if we only knew.”
Jesus called the woman at the well to a greater expectancy of the “life-giving water” that is God’s gift. “If the Lord doesn’t do more, it’s because we don’t expect it,” she said. “We need to desire more the basic promise.”
But some questions need to be asked. “Are we willing to be healed?” Sister Nancy asked. “Are we willing to be emptied of our sin, anxiety and fear? God can only fill the empty. There needs to be repentance and an acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord.” Following that comes healing and purification, she said.
In that transforming process, God’s gift is given in abundance, not for personal renewal, Sister Nancy said, but for communal renewal and empowerment.
Sister Nancy was clear about that, too. “The reason why we in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal have lost the fire of the Holy Spirit is that we have lost sight of the vision the Lord has for us.”
Part of that comes from a lack of understanding of what charismatic renewal is. Sister
Nancy defined it by telling what it is not:
It is not a movement like other movements. The renewal is a “move of the Spirit meant for the entire church. Charismatic renewal is about a personal experience of Pentecost that is meant for everyone.”
It is not a prayer movement. “It’s more than a way of praying; it’s an overflow of the interior move of the Spirit.”
Nor is it another spirituality. “The bishops have said the charismatic experience is the normative experience, which is meant to renew the spirit of everyone in the church.”
It is also not a healing movement. “That’s the biggest thing we need to challenge today,” Sister Nancy said. The renewal is “first and foremost an empowerment for service ... using the gifts to pray.” In a look back at the renewal’s early days, Sister Nancy said big-name speakers were not used then. “The Lord used us to pray in his name. We need to become active in that way.”
When the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they “were of one mind, one body,” she said. “Their spirit of unity was for community. The promise is for mission and ministry. We need to go out and let the Lord use us.”
Bishop Jacobs is chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Renewal.
“God has called us to go to the well,” the bishop said. “We are to go deeper into drawing up the water from the well. If we don’t act on God’s call, we’ll miss it.”
He reiterated the theme: “If we only knew, our hearts would be tingling with excitement for God. When we’re excited, there is no limit on what God can do through us.”
The call to holiness goes out to everyone baptised, the bishop said. “It’s not an option. We are to become more and more what God desires for us. It’s part of being in relationship with him.”
The bishop said that living in the presence of God means “we have to expand our prayer life.” Quoting Psalm 46, the bishop said, “It’s not just asking, but being in his presence: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”
God’s call takes many forms: Eucharist, which is a call to unity and praise; the sacrament of reconciliation, which is a call for repentance and change; and also through the word of God.
“We have to listen more intently and immerse ourselves in the word,” the bishop said. “We need to appropriate that word and then we must proclaim it. If we don’t, we will lose it. The word is power.
“Everything we do is based on God’s grace. We can’t grow in holiness unless we are in communion with God and with one another.”
The bishop asked an important question: “If we only knew, would we waste time? If we knew tonight was our last night on earth, what would we do? Then do that every day.”
The world can be changed, he said, “if we are willing to do the more God has for us.”
About 60 young people registered for the youth track, led by Brian Kraut, pastoral associate in youth ministry from St. Pius X Catholic Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
During their second morning session, the teens were asked to define what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. They were arranged in small groups and after they had prepared a definition, the groups were to demonstrate their definition in a skit or some other physical way.
The teens showed great creativity in working out their definitions and their representations of it. The Body of Christ is family, the church, being made in God’s image, everyone in a community of love, there are many parts but only one body and everyone in it is equal, everyone is connected.
The physical actions ranged from a group hug to a human arrangement of the letters in the word “love,” to a demonstration of trust when one young man fell backwards off a desk into the waiting arms of his group members.
A music group, Lystra Silence, from the University of Idaho, provided music for the teens. Wings of Praise did the honors for the adults.
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