Covenant of Understanding
A New Document Fostering Unity
For several years the National Leadership Groups of Catholic Charismatic Renewal have been working on a document entitled “Fostering Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Covenant of Understanding” as a means to increase “unity among those who are called to promote ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit,’ the exercise of charisms, and the full role of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church.” Charismatic Renewal groups are encouraged in this Year of Unity to use this document as a tool to reflect on the purpose of Charismatic Renewal in the Church; to foster greater unity among groups that have been influenced by this movement of the Holy Spirit; and to recommit ourselves to God’s purpose for Charismatic Renewal.
The document calls us to realize that we have a common calling in Charismatic Renewal that goes beyond our individual experiences. Persons who have experienced a renewal in their lives that was birthed through baptism in the Holy Spirit have a variety of understandings of the purpose of Charismatic Renewal. Some of these include:
- A Personal Spiritual Renewal Focus: Faith, Jesus, prayer life, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit becoming more alive for them personally;
- A Prayer Group Focus: Developing groups that meet weekly for praise and worship, openness to charisms, and supporting each other in the ways of the Spirit;
- A Covenant Community Focus: Some groups felt a call to a deeper commitment to one another beyond a weekly prayer group, modeling their life on the early Jerusalem community in the Acts of the Apostles;
- A Healing Prayer Focus: Praying with people for healing of body and soul.
While all of these focuses are legitimate aspects of Charismatic Renewal, I have experienced people being focused so much on their own spiritual renewal, or their prayer group or community, or their healing prayer ministry, that they have lost track of the united purpose that God has given us in Charismatic Renewal for the good of the whole Church. The document expresses our need for unity in the midst of our diversity: “The grace of ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ has led to a diversity of charisms, expressed in various groups, ministries, and communities that have enriched the life of the Church. It is important in the midst of this diversity that we maintain an awareness of our commonality rooted in personal surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the foundational grace of ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’.” We believe that the basic focus of God’s plan is to renew the full role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, including the foundational grace of ‘baptism in the Spirit’ and the exercise of the charisms.
The document calls us to a greater awareness of our common purpose; a greater spiritual connectedness; and a commitment to seek the Lord in the ways that he is calling us to stay connected with one another. We believe that this is important for achieving God’s goal of the whole Church being renewed in the life of the Spirit. God’s goal for us is bigger than personal renewal or any particular group, community or ministry. The document invites us to choose to work together through:
- Acknowledging the role of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the birth of our association or group.
- Praying for the international, national and diocesan leadership groups of all such associations and groups that support this grace.
- Being open to working in communion with associations and groups influenced by this Holy Spirit renewal internationally, nationally, and in our diocese; seeking to build unity and connections of mutual support.
- Seeking God’s direction in the way our association or group is called to support the movements and new communities dedicated to Holy Spirit renewal internationally, nationally, and in our diocese, through time, talent and treasure.
- Signing a certificate that affirms our “Covenant of Understanding” and our openness to work in communion with one another.
Two major international groups coming from Charismatic Renewal have been given “pontifical status” (directly under the pope) as ecclesial movements in the Church: International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, both in Rome, recently sharing the same office in the Vatican. Charismatic Renewal has been a “current of grace” and an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” that was not planned in the Church. The Spirit blows where he wills. At the same time, when the Church acknowledges a grace as an ecclesial movement with specific status in the Church, those who choose to associate themselves with these movements are given special graces for the fulfillment of the movement’s purpose.
Practically, this means that when people who have been influenced by “baptism in the Spirit” and Charismatic Renewal affirm their commitment to being associated with these leadership groups, they receive specific graces for themselves, and they help to enable these movements to achieve their purpose. We can see ourselves as part of both a surprising outpouring of the Spirit in our time, and an ecclesial movement that is interconnected through the international Office for Charismatic Renewal, ICCRS. Do we understand ourselves as part of ICCRS and all the National and Diocesan leadership groups that consider themselves to be united with the mission which the Church has affirmed for ICCRS?
A stronger sense of communion is important for fulfilling our common purpose. We can be satisfied that we have experienced personal renewal, and new groups and ministries through Charismatic Renewal, or we can believe that God’s purpose for us is more than this. It is to renew the whole Church in the full role of the Holy Spirit. Our unity is important and imperative. The National Leadership Groups for Charismatic Renewal met with a variety of leaders in Charismatic Renewal in January to sign this “Covenant of Understanding.” The document will be sent to as many groups as possible in the coming months. A link to the full document, Fostering Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Covenant of Understanding is below. We invite you to read it, reflect on it with your groups, and sign it, so that God may continue to fulfill his purpose for Charismatic Renewal in an even greater way.
Fr. Bob Hogan, BBD is a former member and chairman for the National Service Committee for Charismatic Renewal, and a member of the NSC Council. He and Fr. George Montague founded the Charismatic and Marian Religious Community, the Brothers of the Beloved Disciple. He is the Director of the Catholic Center for Charismatic Renewal in San Antonio.