the turn of the 20th century
A Catholic perspective
(Kim Catherine-Marie Kollins)
Blessed Elena Guerra, founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Lucca, Italy at the end of the nineteenth century, urged Pope Leo XIII to lead the Church back to the Cenacle/Upper Room. From 1895 to 1903, Sr. Elena was led of the Holy Spirit to write twelve confidential letters to the Pope, requesting a renewed preaching on the Holy Spirit.
In her many writings to the Pontiff, she exhorted him to invite the faithful to rediscover life lived according to the Holy Spirit. She called and prayed for a renewal of the Church, the reunion of Christianity, a renewal of society, and thereby “a renewal of the face of the earth”. In her heart throbbed the idea of a permanent Pentecost: she said,
“Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men and all who want him can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive him well, and He will come to us as he did to them.”
To invoke this renewal, Sr. Elena also conceived of a worldwide prayer movement in terms of the Cenacle (Upper Room) of Jerusalem, where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. Where in the very same place on the day of Pentecost, Jesus also fulfilled His Promise to send the Holy Spirit, as 120 people, including the Apostles and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, joined in constant prayer. Sr. Elena proclaimed,
“Oh, if only…unanimous and fervent prayers could be raised to Heaven in every part of Christendom, as they were one in the Cenacle [upper room] of Jerusalem for a rekindling of the Divine Spirit”
On the promptings
of Sr. Elena, Pope Leo XIII issued several important documents concerning the
Holy Spirit. First in 1895, he wrote an apostolic letter, Provida Matris Caritate,
which he ended by asking all the faithful to celebrate a solemn novena (nine
days of prayer) to the Holy Spirit between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost
for the intention of the reunion of Christianity. A second document was an encyclical
letter on the Holy Spirit in 1897, Divinum Illud Munus, again he ended by drawing
the attention of the faithful to the solemn novena he had requested in 1895.
He stated that the novena was not to be limited to a only one year but was to
be a perpetual novena, done every year between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost,
again for the same intention of the reunion of Christianity.
Another important event, again at the request of Sr. Elena, took place on January 1, 1901. Pope Leo XIII invoked the Holy Spirit by singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, in the name of the entire Church. Also on that very day, halfway around the world in Topeka, Kansas, at the Bethel College and Bible School, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred which is generally accepted as the beginning of Pentecostalism. Then the Azusa Street revival of 1906 led by the Afro-American William J. Seymour propelled Pentecostalism across all continents with in two years.
When we look to the beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1967, which began 2 years after the end of Vatican II and 70 years after the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII on the Holy Spirit; we often look back to the words of Pope John XXIII, who in preparation for the II Vatican Council asked all the faithful to pray for a new pentecostal “Outpouring of the Holy Spirit” Furthermore the first person to be beatified by Pope John XXIII was Sr. Elena Guerra, calling her a modern day “Apostle of the Holy Spirit”.
“Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen”
Pentecost 1998 was another very special moment in the unfolding drama of the Holy Spirit’s action of this last century in the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II called the various ecclesial movements and new communities, born as fruits of the working of the Holy Spirit during this century to join him in St. Peter’s Square for the Pentecost vigil. It was the first gathering of this kind ever to take place and over fifty different ecclesial movements and new communities were represented, including Focolari, (Italy) 1943; Cursillo, (Spain) 1949; Neo-Catechumenate 1964 (Spain); Light-Life, (Poland) 1957; Foyers de Charité, (France) 1936; Communion and Liberation, (Italy) 1954; Community of Sant’ Egidio; (Italy) 1968; and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, (USA) 1967.
Pope John Paul II stated on that historic Pentecost Vigil, “We could say that what took place in Jerusalem two thousand years ago is being renewed this evening in this Square,… As the Apostles then, we too find ourselves gathered in a large cenacle of Pentecost, longing for the outpouring of the Spirit…
…Today’s event is truly unprecedented. For the first time the movements and the new ecclesial communities have all gathered together with the Pope: It is the great “common witness” I wished for the year which, in the Church’s journey to the great Jubilee, is dedicated to the Holy Spirit…
The institutional and Charismatic aspects are co-essential, as it were, to the Church’s constitution. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God’s people. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that, before and after the council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for the Church and ecclesial movements and new communities.”
The invocation of Pope John Paul II that day where over 350,000 to 400,000 were gathered,
…Today, from this upper room in St. Peter’s Square, a great prayer rises: Come Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and Love! The Church and the world need you. Come Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give new strength and missionary zeal to the sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here. Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses to the Risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of men. Strengthen their love and their fidelity to the Church.
Let us turn our gaze to Mary, the first disciple of Christ, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, who accompanied the Apostles in the First Pentecost, and ask her to help us so that we may learn from her fiat to be docile to the voice of the Spirit.
Today, from this Square, Christ says to each of you: Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole of Creation (Mk 16:15). He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church. “So,” the Lord promises, “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). I am with you. Amen”
Blessed Elena challenged the Church a the turn of the last century to rediscovered life lived according to the Holy Spirit. She called forth a return to the Upper Room, as she proclaimed “The first well-spring of renewing action is prayer, which connect us with the Spirit of Christ, He who renews the face of the earth.”
In his post-Jubilee Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineute, Pope John Paul II, again challenges the people of God with these words, “Our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of Prayer, where the meet with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the hear truly “falls in love”…..It was Peter who spoke the work of faith: “At your word I will let down the nets”. As this millennium begins, allow the Successor of Peter to invite the whole Church to make this act of faith, which expresses itself in a renewed commitment to prayer. “Duc in Altum” (Lk 5.4)
In a statement of the Holy Father to the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships in June 2001 He stated, “I pray most fervently that your communities and the entire Charismatic Renewal will “put out into the deep” of prayer in order to “put out into the deep of mission”. Then you will help the whole Church still more to live that life of action and contemplation, which is the womb of evangelization.”
The surprise of Pentecost - Saturday, May 29, 2004, in St. Peter’s Square for the Celebration of First Vespers of Pentecost, Pope John Paul II stated “I greet in a special way the members of Renewal in the Spirit, one of the various branches of the great family of the Catholic Charismatic Movement. Thanks to the Charismatic Movement, a multitude of Christians, men and women, young people and adults have rediscovered Pentecost as a living reality in their daily lives. I hope that the spirituality of Pentecost will spread in the Church as a renewed incentive to prayer, holiness, communion and proclamation. In this regard, I encourage the initiative known as "Burning Bush", promoted by Renewal in the Spirit. It is about incessant adoration, day and night, before the Blessed Sacrament; it is an invitation to the faithful to "return to the Upper Room", so that, united in contemplation of the Eucharistic Mystery, they may intercede for full Christian unity and for the conversion of sinners. I warmly hope that this initiative will lead many to rediscover the gifts of the Spirit, whose original source is Pentecost. …Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love, though the peoples spoke different tongues you united them in proclaiming the same faith, alleluia”
Pope John Paul II wrote a further encyclical letter, Dominum et Vivificantem, the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, 1986
Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, (At the beginning of a New Millenium) apostolic letter, Jan. 6th, 2001; No. 33, 38
ICCRS, Then Peter stood up…,collection of the Popes’ addresses to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal from its origin to the year 2000 [includes worldwide survey on CCR],
Patti Gallagher Mansfield, As By A New Pentecost, the Dramatic Beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Franciscan University Press, 1992
Domenico M. Abbrescia, o.p., Elena Guerra, Prophecy and Renewal, Society of Saint Paul Inc, Makati, Philippines, 1982
Msgr Peter Hocken, The Strategy of the Spirit?, worldwide renewal and revival in the established Church and modern movements, Eagle/Inter Publishing Service LTD. 1996
Kim Catherine-Marie Kollins, Burning Bush, Return to the Upper Room in Adoration and Intercession, 1999, revised 2001, 2004, Bon-Fire Press; 1999 Italian, 2001 German and Spanish, 2002 French, 2003 Polish
Salvatore Martinez, Per un Roveto Ardente di Preghiera, Suggerimenti per un’animazione spirituale Edizioni Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo, 2002
( ©2001, revised 2004)
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