Don’t be surprised if you hear in the coming days that a few hundred thousand people are making their way to Rome. They’ve all headed there to mark the 50th anniversary of the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church, a phenomenon that is estimated to have impacted the lives of more than 120 million Catholics in over 200 countries.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal traces its origins to a weekend retreat for college students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in February 1967. At the retreat, the participants had a powerful encounter with God, one that came about after they had spent a considerable time in prayer, asking God to allow them to experience the grace of both Baptism and Confirmation. Word of this unique and transformative event spread quickly throughout the United States and abroad. Many people all over the world who began to pray for a similar experience of the Holy Spirit had the same encounter further fueling the growth of this movement.
“To me at least, it’s hard to see it as a coincidence that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began just a few years after Pope John XXIII famously prayed for “a new Pentecost” in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.”
And since its inception, the Church has been very affirming of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Pope John Paul II called it “one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council”, because of the way it was touching the lives of countless people and helping them to rediscover their faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, and subsequently moving them to serve the Church in different ways. Pope Paul VI, who was the Pontiff at the time the movement began, said “nothing is more necessary to such an increasingly secularized world as the testimony of this ‘spiritual renewal,’ which we see the Holy Spirit bringing forth today in the most diverse regions and environments.”