“We need to be sure that we serve the Church without going into our own ideas,” he said.
Auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon, Peter Smith has been in the charismatic renewal since a young adult in the late 1970s. As CHARIS launches under the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, he is serving on the leadership team as one of two representatives for North America.
Smith explained to CNA that the charismatic renewal is not an organized movement in the sense of having a founder or one overarching vision, but that it is very loosely organized.
“The heart of the charismatic movement is a profound encounter with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “There’s sort of a deeper infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives that transforms us, and so, people go forth from there.”
“It deepens people’s lives of faith significantly,” he said, explaining that the way most Catholics would encounter the movement is likely through a prayer group at their parish, at conferences and retreats, or communities and ministries.
He said there are an estimated 100 to 112 million active members of the charismatic renewal worldwide, many of whom are in Africa and Asia.
Pope Francis met with around 3,000 or more Catholics of the charismatic renewal on June 8 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall. He told them that with the start of CHARIS “a new stage begins on this journey.”
“A stage marked by communion among all the members of the charismatic family, in which the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested for the good of the whole Church,” he continued.
The pope said he expects the movement to share Baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church: “it is the grace that you have received. Share it! Do not keep if for yourself!”
He also asked them to serve the unity of the body of Christ and to serve the poor.
“These three things: Baptism in the Holy Spirit, unity of the Body of Christ and service to the poor, are the necessary testimony for the evangelization of the world, to which we are all called for our Baptism,” he said.
Smith described the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of Confirmation, which he said, “is a gift of a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit.” And just like any gift one receives, “it is worthless unless you do something.”
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“You have to take it, you have to open it, you have to see what it is, you have to make it part of your life,” he noted. “And when you do, that gift comes alive for you. The same thing happens with the gift of faith.” The charismatic renewal helps people to have a “vivified, living faith.”
“God is not just a philosophical reality... God becomes like a close friend in the sense that you experience him,” he said. “This is all fundamentally part of our faith life.”
“I’ve bumped into certain groups of Catholics who say, well [the renewal] is Protestant. My reaction to that is no, that’s been Catholic from the beginning,” Smith argued. While the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been around for just 52 years, the bishop said what the renewal promotes can be seen even in the writings of the early Church Fathers and in the lives of saints.
For Catholics who would like to have a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost, Smith said there is not a set formula except for simply placing one’s self in God’s presence. If there is some obstacle to communion with God, something one needs to repent of, do that, he said, and then “just ask God to reveal himself more closely to you, to make the Holy Spirit come alive within you.”
“Countless people, myself included, we were good Catholics, always lived the Church’s teaching,” he noted, “but there comes a point where you can say, Lord, I want more.”
Most people, he said, will never have one of “these St. Paul moments” where you are going about your life and “wham, you have this incredible experience.”