Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Call to Holiness Review

 I read this book for my Sociology class
"Call To Holiness"

The Pentecostal Movement is considered to be the fastest growing missionary movement in the world.[1] A growth from zero to 400 million in 100 years has never before been experienced in the entire history of the Christian faith. This movement is a pastoral and theological challenge for the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes is the current president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (office of Human and Christian Development). Cordes is the author of  “Call to Holiness: Reflections on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal”. The book is an overall reflection of the Catholic Charismatic movement. Cordes describes the movement in terms of how it relates to tradition. Which at first caught me off guard because everything I have heard about the Charismatic movement leads faithful Catholics away from ancient tradition and aspects of authority to the magisterium. But Cordes approaches things very differently where he reinforces the idea that everything about the Charismatic movement in the Church must be subject to the official teaching of the Catholic Church. On the surface in appears to be just a new way of expressing your feelings and love towards God. Cordes argues that this is a deeper way of an encounter with God.

The book is presented in a simple way without being to wordy, and only has three main chapters. The first chapter focuses on the renewal of the faithful in regards to the Second Vatican Council. The main purpose of the council was to involve the laity more in the everyday life of the Church. Unlike past councils which had been called as a response to heresies or crisis, this council’s intent was to promote peace and unity for all men regardless if they were Catholic or not. It was also the world’s first truly ecumenical council because it had representatives from the entire world. In regards to the missionary activity within the Church, Blessed Pope John XXIII said the following during the convocation of the council:

“ Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in this our age as in a new Pentecost, and grant that your Church, praying perseveringly and insistently with one heart and mind together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by blessed Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen”[2]

One of the documents that came from Vatican II is “Ad Gentes” (On the Missionary Activity of the Church) which states:
“The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”[3]

This is the call that members of the Charismatic renewal find themselves answering. Catholics must act when Christ calls them. Christ will not place demands on us that we cannot handle spiritually. As members of the Church, we are called to evangelize, but we as members of the Church are the first to be evangelized to. The Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen Gentium” speaks extensively about the universal call for holiness for all of the Church’s members. When Catholics participate in reception of the sacraments they are filled with grace and it is strengthened through prayer and fellowship. Our faith is strengthened when it is given to others; we are being filled with grace as the same time we are pouring out. This is why the call to holiness and mission work are so intimately united, for they complete each other. Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke about having a “radical conversion”.[4] Catholics need to understand the Gospel message and let it soak in our hearts so that it can transform the way we think and perceive, the message is powerful and it should change our lives.

Cordes writes about the importance of “baptism of the spirit” for those who are within the Charismatic Renewal. Baptism is the original call, the original vocation. God intends every one of us to live a holy life. At our birth we are born into the world, a family, and born into a tradition. If you are born into the Catholic faith, you are usually baptized as an infant because your parents want to share their faith with you. If you are baptized as an adult, it is usually because God is calling you to become part of the Church. The call from God is the Call to Holiness. I was one moth old when my parents had me baptized. They were making sure that I had the way to eternal life. Lumen Gentium states that baptism isn’t only the entrance into the Church, nor is it only the call to salvation, but baptism is the call to holiness. According to scripture all of us are called to be Disciples of Christ. For Catholics this opportunity is reinforced during the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are able to make this commitment, to answer the call to be holy. There are 4 ways of life in which we answer this call to holiness. The sole purpose is to understand that we are a people committed to our Father in Christ into a holy life. We can do it in prayer, individual where we can make a personal commitment to God or in public prayer when we are gathered in a visible community where we can speak to each other and the world. We, become a sign of holiness, this is what we are meant to be.

On the website for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of Canada[5] the objectives are stated as:

“To promote the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to foster a personal experience of Pentecost, To be of service to the renewal in the Church, To support and encourage the Church’s call for the New Evangelization.”

When one accepts the baptism of the Holy Spirit this does not mean that one is joining a movement, it means that one is embracing fully our Christian tradition.

Christ’s command was to baptize all disciples. If we look at Jesus’ own baptism, John the Baptist says that I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[6] It is interesting to note that Jesus’ public ministry didn’t begin until He was baptized and filled with the Spirit. This tells us two things: First it is the Holy Spirit who prompts us and moves us into action. Secondly, to be baptized means that we are equipped to share the Gospel message. Baptism is necessary for the succession of mission. Once the Apostles made disciples, they entrusted Christ’s mission to make disciples of all nations to the new converts through baptism.

  “ The very aim of the mission of Christ and of the Church is the proclamation of the Gospel so that all human beings may become a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.”[7]

The Church is currently in a period sometimes referred to as the New Pentecost[8] where we must take action like those in the upper room. Many Christians live by the mantra that our actions speak louder than words but Peter warns us to
  “ Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”[9]

There comes a time when our actions are not sufficient and we need to witness to those who have never heard of the Gospel message. It is our responsibility to not only witness to the Gospel, but to pass it on to others. Paul’s second letter to Timothy clearly articulates how we are to pass on the faith:

            “The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”[10]

To pass on the faith to others the Catholic Church has embraced the term “New Evangelization”[11] Pope Benedict XVI established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization in 2010. In his Apostolic Letter “Ubicumque et Semper” (Everywhere and Always) that established this new office, the Holy Father states that the particular challenge of mission work today is that there has been a loss of the sense of the sacred.[12] In a world where morality is relative and the very foundations of society, the family, is crumbling, is to accept the task of God to work with Him in building a new civilization of love. God came to earth as a man to witness to His children and the mission of spreading the good news has been passed on to us. We can never be divine, but we are given the ability to partake in the divine nature by the gift of the Holy Spirit residing in us. Cordes also summarizes the gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit[13]. The charisms of the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.[14]He points out the gift of Wisdom gives us a greater desire for the things of God, and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory. It helps us to see joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain from God’s perspective and to accept them. A new depth of prayer and a call to conversion. The gift of understanding enables us to know more clearly the mysteries of our faith. We are guided to know the hidden meanings in scripture, and the significance of symbols. Cordes makes it clear that the faithful must be open to be instructed by the magisterium when it comes to scripture and that it cannot be left to private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20) The importance of scripture is re enforced in Dei Verbum:

“ Scripture is a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life.”[15]

The Holy Spirit gives counsel, to warn us of the snares of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation. We are free to be obedient to the inspirations of God in view of what is necessary to be holy.  The gift of Fortitude strengthens us to do the will of God in all things. With the gift of Fortitude we are able to overcome difficulties or to endure pain and suffering with the strength and power infused by God. The gift of knowledge helps us to discover the will of God in all things. There is also the Charisms of healing and prophecy. Cordes is quick to acknowledge that the charism of healing is not subject to a special, secret message, but a free gift from a merciful God.

At the end of the day it is difficult to analyze the religious experience from person to person. The adherents profess it is because of their fruits, the results, that it will become evident to what degree the Holy Ghost is working within the Catholic Charismatic movement. Several parishes offer “Life in the Spirit” seminars, which are intended for anyone who desires a new awareness and deeper relationship with God, especially through the working of the Holy Spirit, and to be more spiritually equipped in building the Church. This renewal within the Church has helped a great deal of Catholics to have a better understanding of their faith and has even aided in the rediscovery of many aspects of their faith witch have been discarded. The Church sees this renewal as authentic. But like any other phenomena, if it leads souls away from the teachings of the Catholic faith it is considered to be not authentic.
Overall I enjoyed this book, it introduced me to some valid points about the faith and answered many stereotypes. I applaud the author for staying true to the faith and reinforcing the fact that Catholic Dogma is not eliminated because someone has an emotional experience. As Christians we cannot pray for these experiences, or try to make them happen. If it does happen to us it is because of the free gift of God, not because of our own works.

 Clayton Richard Long


“Call to Holiness: Reflections on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal”, Paul Josef Cordes, Liturgical Press, 1997

“Healing”, Francis MacNutt, Ave Marie Press, 1974

“As By A New Pentecost: The Dramatic Beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal”, Patti Gallagher Mansfield, Franciscan University Press, 1992

[1] Patti Gallagher Mansfield, “As by a New Pentecost”, Franciscan University, 1992, p.9
[2] Humane Salutis, 1961, www.vatican.va
[3] Ad Gentes, opening phrase, www.vatican.va
[4] Redemptoris Missio 5, www.vatican.va
[5] www.catholiccharismatic.ca
[6] Saint Matthew 3:11
[7] Page 39
[8] Ibid
[9] 1 Peter 3:15
[10] 2 Tim 2:2
[11] Page 44
[12] Apostolic Letter Ubicumque et Semper, www.vatican.va
[13] Page 44-48
[14] Page 48
[15] Dei Verbum, 21

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