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Catholic. And Charismatic.

On the Readings for Sunday, May 22, 2022, the Sixth Sunday of Easter

[Image: Wikipedia]

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psa. 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23
Jn. 14:23-29

What is the largest body of charismatic Christians in the world? And when did the charismatic, or Pentecostal, movement begin?

With all due respect to non-Catholic Christians, the correct answers are: The Catholic Church, and the Feast of Pentecost, circa A.D. 30.

Many Catholics (and non-Catholics) don’t commonly think of the Catholic Church as being “charismatic” or “Pentecostal” in nature. That is understandable, to some degree, because of how those terms have become associated with certain Protestant groups and movements.

But it is also unfortunate, because the Catholic Church is both filled with the charisms, or graces, of the Holy Spirit, and animated by the Person of the Holy Spirit, the “soul of the Church” (CCC 797). This truth is emphasized in today’s readings and the readings throughout the remainder of the Easter Season, culminating with the great Feast of Pentecost in two weeks.

The Acts of the Apostles could also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. There are several accounts of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians (cf., 2:1-4; 4:28-31; 8:15-17; 10:44; 19:6), and some forty direct references to the Third Person of the Trinity. Luke consistently portrays the Holy Spirit as the animating, personal guide who leads and directs the Church, the household of God. This guidance took place within a certain structure, or hierarchy, that even in its fledgling form bore the marks of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.

This is evident in today’s first reading, taken from the description of the Church’s first council, which was held at Jerusalem in A.D. 49. Peter, Paul and other leaders of the Church, in addressing those Judaizers who insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation, issued an apostolic statement with this significant note: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…”

This apostolic authority is a charism given to the Church by Jesus, who promised the apostles, as today’s Gospel describes, that the Father would send the Holy Spirit—the Advocate—to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” This promise, of course, was realized at Pentecost. It comes to the fore in other places, such as when Peter relates how the Holy Spirit led him to the household of the Gentile Cornelius, and how Peter, in seeing the household filled with the Holy Spirit, “remembered the word of the Lord” (Acts 12:1-17).

The relationship between structure and Spirit is important, I think, because there is often a temptation to have one without the other. For example, a growing number of people say that they aren’t interested in “organized religion” (by which they usually mean Catholicism), but are into “being spiritual.” From a Catholic perspective, this makes no sense, because the soul and the body aren’t at odds with one another, but help each other to flourish and grow.

“The Church,” wrote the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, “which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits” (Lumen Gentium, 4). Among the many charisms given by the Holy Spirit, it should be noted, is that of infallibility, “without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed” (CCC 2035).

The analogy of the human family is helpful in appreciating the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the hierarchical structure of the Church. Even a family with, say, three or four children, appreciates the need for order, authority, and limits. Without them, chaos quickly ensues. Yet that structure does not come at the expense of love and sacrifice, but helps them shine forth and be known.

The same holds true in the Church founded by Christ, which is both charismatic and hierarchical, guided by the Holy Spirit and the successor of Peter, along with all of the bishops, just as it has been from the days of the apostles.

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the May 13, 2007, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

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About Carl E. Olson 1220 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Excellent article!
    As to a response to people who aren’t interested in “organized religion” need to understand that God made a marriage contract with a community, a people, a group of believers, not just with an individual. Part of being a saint is caring about one another. Religion and spirituality is not a solitary experience, but a communal experience. What Catholics believe in is the “communion of saints.”
    And the belief in the Trinity is the belief of a God who is a community at prayer, who wanted to establish relationship when God created human kind, to pray WITH God for one another.
    Thank God for Charismatic movement within the Church.

    • Thanks for another highly relevant & apposite article, dear Carl.

      Great comment, Dr Cajetan Coelho!

      Ministering among a mixed bunch of Catholics (who appeal to affiliation) and Protestants (who appeal to affirmation), one sometimes feels called to mention Jesus’ radically distinct criterion: It’s by our fruit that we are shown (or shown not) to be a follower of Christ.”

      And they and we all know (or should know) the good fruit of the presence of The Holy Spirit of Christ in any person is expressed by: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience (Hope), Goodness, Generosity, Faith (Faithfulness), Humility (Obeying God’s commands; Deferring to others), and Self-Control. No mention of affiliation nor of affirmation!

      Would there ever have been a ‘Reformation’ or ‘Counter-Reformation’ or ‘Pentecostal Wave’ etc., if we and they had all firmly resolved to take God’s Word as our Gospel?

      God knows those who love God. There IS a body of faithful who can be called “The Israel of God”. I’m glad that so many of us Catholics are in that fruit-filled body of love; and, equally glad that many non-Catholics are manifestly there with us, too.

      What to do about perplexing (and historically inordinately cruel and violent) claims and counter-claims of sole authenticity?

      As Catholic Christians, let’s be authentic yeast within the Church; and, let non-Catholic Christians be authentic yeast within their churches. Then let the yeast in the one recognize and delight in the yeast in the other. That is the godly way and – Praise God – there are many who rejoice in it.

      Apostle Paul exhorts the church at Colossae that there is no room for distinctions; there is only Christ . . loved by God we should all be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness & humility, gentleness & patience. We must bear with each other, so that if a quarrel breaks out we will forgive each other straight away. Above all we must put on love, so that the peace of Christ reigns in our hearts, because that is why we have been called together as parts of the one body of peace, always full of thanks.

      It seems a high ask but would our God have asked it of us if it were impossible.

      Rejoicing in the gracious mercy of King Jesus Christ; blessings & love from marty

  2. Never thought of this as a way to answer why I need my “Organized Religion” Church, vs the “spiritual” folks I know who somehow convey that my way is the “less spiritual” way, that somehow going into the woods on Sunday to be quiet is at least as spiritual, if not more so since it isn’t organized, as going to Church and receiving Holy Communion, or going to Confession, etc. Thank you.

  3. A fine description of charismatic in “The relationship between structure and Spirit”. You identify as charismatic in all the charisma the Holy Spirit infuses into the Mystical Body to manifest truth and goodness.

  4. Hierarchy and being governed by commands, decrees, rules and dictates, some people see only a negative infringement of their rights of freedom in their egos. The Triune God displays hierarchy of three divine Persons entirely God but number themselves 1,2,3. The Will has to be first, the Word second and the action to complete the will, last. Yet, all love, life, truth, joy, come from the eternal wisdom and holy perfection; from the divine hierarchy flow divinely inspired charisms, gifts and graces. As the world aches and moans under our misguided disobedience You cannot grant us immortality until we submit to LOVE. The Son of God is searching the earth for the hearts of men that love Him. Christ the Morning Star that never sets, fulfillment of all desire; His Sacred Heart aglow like a glistening fiery furnace blazing and dazzling in the holy Fire of Divine Holy Love. He became for us the suffering Servant. He says” “I love them because I suffered so greatly for them!” If you imitate Christ the Holy Spirit will come. “Let us endeavor first of all to love God by keeping united to Our Lord: From this Divine love, as from a glowing furnace whence a thousand rays shine forth to give light and warmth, our charity will be extended to all around us…Our charity towards our neighbor ought to radiate from our love for God … We only go to the Father by Christ; but we must accept Christ entirely, in Himself and in His members; therein lies the secret of the true divine life within us.” Bl. Abbott Marmion.

  5. “As Catholic Christians, let’s be authentic yeast within the Church; and, let non-Catholic Christians be authentic yeast within their churches.”

    Churches? On the other hand, the “hierarchical and charismatic” Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium, n. 4, cited in the article) still distinguishes between itself and the “ecclesial communities” (not churches) that have separated themselves for the Apostolic Succession and much of the sacramental life.

    This, for example, from “Dominus Iesus” (Aug. 6, 2000):

    “…the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church[….]In fact, ‘the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities'” (n. 17).

    • Many thanks dear Peter, that’s a nice doctrinal elucidation. As with formalized dogmatics in general there can be a failure to engage with reality as effectively as The New Testament always does.

      Based on the same church dogmatics: under distressing local circumstances, some might have to decide between worshipping in a Holy Spirit-filled, good fruit-bearing, non-Catholic assembly of sincere followers of King Jesus Christ (that our Church recognizes as baptismally incorporated in Christ); versus, the formal fullness of a manifestly Holy Spirit-less, bad-fruit-bearing assembly of paganized Catholics.

      In many countries, I’ve noticed that this situation is far from rare. The perfect way would be for all Christians to belong to the local Catholic Church, and by persevering prayer and example bring it to where it should be in Christ. However, that can be an enormous burden few ordinary believers could bear. Think: when RE in Catholic schools and during Holy Mass is totally at odds with The Catechism of the Catholic Church, how can we allow our little children to be wrenched away from faith in Jesus Christ?

      An example: as a student, our chaplain was Fr George Fortune SJ. Many were the times I tried to get an appointment to talk about the faith and whether my call to ministry was authentic. He never answered his door bell, despite the sounds of people being at home. It turned out he was having an affair with his secretary, the wife of a well-known surgeon. He eventually had to leave the priesthood.

      In contrast, Rev. Chuck Blakeney, a missionary from the USA was always there to chat about matters of faith and ministry. The same was true later in my life, when Fr Henk van der Stein WF denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, yet Rev. Jim Wilkie, a Presbyterian missionary, always joyfully conveyed a lively faith in Christ.

      True to a long line of Irish Catholic ancestors, I’ve continued a Catholic but find it necessary to name myself: Catholic CHRISTIAN, to distance myself from the many in the Church who follow strange gods (including heterodox bishops, archbishops, and not a few of the Roman Curia!). Syncretism and worse is rife.

      The massive migration of Catholics to Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal churches can not be blamed on their lack of love for and obedience to Jesus Christ; quite the opposite!

      Can the Church pull back from the brink of general apostasy? I think it can. We still have a core of Christ-honoring clergy and lay people. The awesome Anglican Renewal in Britain and Europe (out of Holy Trinity Brompton) is showing us what a staid, authoritarian, Apostolic, church can become, under the anointing of The Lord Holy Spirit.

      Will our Catholic leaders pick up the spiritual renewal baton, too, or are they too proud to bend, even before the clear, prophetic evidence God is setting before us all?

      Centrally, let’s never forget: Christ does not need the Church; the Church needs Christ! God can raise up true believers from the dust and from dead bones. Our Church needs to return to humility before the unparalleled power and authority of God, to whom nothing is impossible.

      My apologies for such a lengthy response, but this is all very close to my heart.

      Stay well, dear Peter. Ever in Christ’s love; blessings from marty

  6. The Holy Catholic Church IS THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST, created by Christ and the Holy Spirit to save and sanctify through the chosen apostles. The New Jerusalem “had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb.” (Rev 21:22-23) Christ our Lord and God established the Church by Divine Providence and holy divine Will, by His command and testament. We live in Him as in the womb of God. To judge others is a temptation; praying and offering up for others is to love like Jesus. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14> 23,24). “I will give you a new commandment, says the Lord; LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” (Jn14:34). Jesus is telling us, you do not keep my words, commandments, than you do not love me. Why are people in other Christian “churches” and ignore that we are destined to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, whose precious Divine GIFTS, God Christ Himself, adored by angels, strengthens and cleanses our souls to serve and worship Him worthily. being united to Him who dwells in us. “Take this all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” “Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of MY BLOOD, the BLOOD of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” How can anyone, claiming to love Jesus, say: no thanks, I just read scripture or enjoy nature?
    That is why obedience is the key to advance in unity with CHRIST. “Christ was handed over to gather INTO ONE the scattered children of God.” Jn11:52. “Whoever rejects me…the WORD I spoke, it will condemn him.” (Jn 12). “I am the bread from heaven” “my Father gives you the true bread from heaven” Jn 6:32. “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for
    the life of the world,” (Jn 6:52)
    “Praise be to Jesus Christ for all eternity
    who prepared for us the sacrament to feed us with Himself
    Praise be to Jesus Christ for all eternity
    who as good Shepherd feeds time and again
    Praise be to Jesus Christ for all eternity
    who promised us life in goodness and in grace
    You are the Eternal Sacrifice for all our sins
    O let us find your grace O Savior Jesus Christ.”
    (Hymn: Gelobt sei Jesus Christus)

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