CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL RENEWAL – ST. JOHN PAUL II PRAYER MOVEMENT
(Spiritual renewing of heart and mind to bring about personal and community transformation)
MISSION STATEMENT -‘To foster deeper personal relationships with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, move forward prophetically, engage ecumenically and grow in stronger conviction of our Catholic faith through growing in knowledge of our faith and greater understanding of Scripture and its application to our daily lives’. In so doing we learn to move in greater response to the will of God, to the mandate of Christ and His Church and in the dynamism of the Holy Spirit thus allowing a Spiritual renewing of our hearts and minds to bring about personal and community transformation.
“REBUILD MY CHURCH!”
These are the words St Francis of Assisi heard 800 years ago whilst deep in prayer. As he dutifully set about restoring the actual ruins of church buildings, it wasn’t until later that he had a fuller understanding of what the word was really saying. It was about the people, about re-animating them, calling them out of their safe places to where everyone’s gifts and talents have a place, being open to new ideas – it was about transformation. This is the call to us today – to ‘Rebuild my church!’ Such is the demise of Christianity in this Nation of Scotland that we have become a faithless Nation.
There exists a great need for the restoration of faith, for a re-animated people to turn back to God and seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, both in terms of the Catholic Church and the wider church. To date the Catholic percentage of population in Scotland represents some 13% (around 667,000),1though when you measure the percentage of active practising Catholics it is a sobering 3.5% (around 185,000)2 and falling. During the Scottish Bishop’s Ad Limina visit in March 2003, Pope John Paul II remarked, ‘We may observe that in Scotland, as in many lands evangelised centuries ago and steeped in Christianity, there no longer exists the reality of a Christian society’.3 This was in fact an echo from his earlier historical visit to Scotland in 1982 when he added, ‘… that is a society which despite human weaknesses and failings takes the Gospel as the explicit measures of its life and values’.4
True revival can only be realised through this turning back to God – Repentance. The Greek word for this, and one used often in the New Testament, is ‘metanoia’ – a changing of the heart and mind bringing about a spiritual conversion or awakening. It is in this spiritual renewing of the heart and mind that the church needs to see transformation and thus be rebuilt.
Deepening Our Relationship With Christ
To ‘know’ God is to develop an intimate relationship with Him. This sort of relationship that God longs to have with us, to draw us into the community of Himself, cannot be reached simply from responding out of an obligatory sense of duty and rituals within the Church.
It is a state that requires us to nurture within a deep thirst and longing to grow and mature in intimate relationship with God our Father, through the person of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We seek to be a people of prayer plunging into the depths of God’s love for us and coming to that place of meeting Jesus face to face to draw from His living water, when we will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:10-24) and seek His will for us.
Openness to the Holy Spirit
As it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into the depths of Christ, we recognise the need to foster the development of this deeper relationship by being constantly renewed in the anointing Grace of our Baptism in order to remain fully open to the inspirations and leading of the Holy Spirit.
During a gathering of all Ecclesial Movements on the eve of Pentecost, May 30th 1998, Pope John Paul II declared, ‘…to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Accept gratefully and obediently the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to bestow on us’.5
We acknowledge the 7 personal sanctification gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught for the Sacrament of Confirmation (Isaiah 11:2), which are designed to help us in our own spiritual growth towards holiness. More importantly, we recognise that this sanctifying grace helps perfect in us the virtues of the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). However, we seek to develop a greater awareness and fresh openness to the extra graces the church requires in these times, being the nine service gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:7-11).
These service gifts, which have been made freely available to us, are designed for the benefit of one another and become all the more effective the more we grow in virtue, especially love (1 Cor 13:1-3). They require us to move in the anointing power of the Holy Spirit making full use of the gifts in order to support, help, encourage and build one another up in the relationships we have, thus edifying the church (Romans 12:4-8, Eph 4:11-13).
Indeed, Pope John Paul II goes further than this through the Vatican document ‘Christifideles Laici’, an Apostolic exhortation on the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the church and in the world, when he states that these graces of the Holy Spirit are not only for the building up of the church but for the needs of the world, ‘Whether they be exceptional and great or simple and ordinary, the charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit that have, directly or indirectly, a usefulness for the ecclesial community, ordered as they are to the building up of the Church, to the well-being of humanity and to the needs of the world’6
What is meant by this? To move forward prophetically requires us to know God’s will for us and to respond in obedience to it – to hear His voice and move in it. In order to know His will for us we need to be transformed inwardly.
St Paul puts it like this – ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12:2.
The Holy Spirit is dynamic, always looking to move us forward in Christ, so we will learn how to be more co-operative in our response. To pray, listen, hear His voice, discern what He is saying to us, also in terms of the wider church – ‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches’ (Rev 2 & 3), and then respond in obedience to Him.
This is the mandate of Christ and the mandate of the Church. Jesus expressed His great desire for this in His priestly prayer of John 17:21 ‘Father, that they may all be one…’
The Church has expressed her great desire for this many times with comments such as “Ecumenism is a mandate from our Lord. It is not an option; it is an obligation for the Church” 7 and “The commitment of the Catholic Church to the ecumenical movement solemnly proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council is irreversible”.8 Pope John Paul II clearly saw Ecumenism at the heart of the church stating that, “It is a pastoral priority that the Church cannot give up”.9
To engage ecumenically requires a change of heart in order to overcome the years of wrong attitudes, fears, misunderstandings and failings.
Pope John Paul II, makes this point in the document ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’,10 the Church’s Decree on Ecumenism, and later restates in his Encyclical letter, ‘Ut Unum Sint’ that “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart”.11
We will study Catholic teaching and direction on this subject matter as well as providing encouragement and support, both in terms of prayer and practical measures, to those individuals within the groups who wish to engage in the various ecumenical works and prayer initiatives that the Holy Spirit calls into being.
Deepening Our Roots
We recognise the importance of not only being deeply rooted in the Catholic Faith but in growing in stronger conviction of the Catholic Faith. That is to say, building confidence and inner belief about what it means to be Catholic, its significance in relation to other Christian denominations’ subsistence in the Catholic Church, the fullness of the Faith that we carry and the greater responsibilities we therefore own in the field of ecumenism and witness. Our main source of reference will be Scriptural study and Catholic teaching drawn from the vast array of Catholic resources available to us as well as drawing on Clerical input.
In order to mitigate the fears that exist in many of engaging ecumenically, whilst also instilling a greater awareness and confidence to proclaim and move in our Catholicism, our pursuit is to strengthen in conviction and deepen the roots and understanding of the tenets of our Catholic Faith. In so doing we seek to gain a greater sense of our Catholic identity and carry our Catholicism with confidence and inner security to the table of unity.
Our vision therefore is to:
- See a spiritual re-awakening, a re-animated church, a restoration of faith, a depth of relationship with God, a new openness to the Holy Spirit embracing new ways of moving forward, a Metanoia, leading to a Spiritual transformation in people’s lives and communities through which a Nation turns back to God to glorify Him.
- Be an active and co-operative channel for the Holy Spirit to foster a Spirit of unity through which the body of Christ can learn to move with common purpose in the areas of repentance, reconciliation and re-consecration of themselves and their communities to Christ, in accordance with the will of God, in order to form an integral part in the Spiritual preparation of the Bride for her Groom.
- Be part of the work in redeeming our communities by recognising the stain of past sins that has defiled our land (Leviticus 18:25), caused by past generations, bringing pollution upon our communities. We see the need to participate in acts of identificational repentance/confession in conjunction with the body of Christ, to stand in the gap, in order to spiritually prepare our communities to be re-consecrated to Christ and thus see a Nation turn back to God (Dan 9:4-17, Nehemiah 9:1-3). Identificational confession is something which Pope John Paul II clearly saw as ‘a task for the whole Church to undertake’,12 to effect what he identified as being the ‘Purification of memory’.
- See the whole church engaged in a re-awakening of its purpose and mission, to see a radical return to Christ, a spiritual renewal to reform the church and by so doing, to move in obedience and response to the call ‘Rebuild my church!’
CHURCH AUTHORITY AND GUIDANCE
In recognising the need always to move in obedience to the Church, in line with Catholic Church teaching and in alignment with the will of God, we will operate under full submission to the authority and accountability of the Magesterium and Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II clearly exhorted the faithful towards such obedience when he made the following emphatic point:
“How is it possible to safeguard and guarantee a charism’s authenticity? It is essential in this regard that every movement submit to the discernment of the competent ecclesiastical authority. For this reason no charism can dispense with reference and submission to the Pastors of the Church…”. He went on to say, “…In the confusion that reigns in the world today, it is so easy to err, to give in to illusions. May this element of trusting obedience to the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, in communion with the Successor of Peter never be lacking in the Christian formation provided by your movements!”.14
Indeed he went on to say that it is the responsibility of those who have charge over the Church not to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and in this way we can gain ‘the necessary guarantee’ that we are ‘taking the right road’15 as he quoted these words from Lumen gentium, ‘Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuineness and proper use of these gifts, through their office not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good16 (1 Thes 5:19-21).
Although the prayer groups will be Spirit filled, open to moving in the anointing of the Holy Spirit and operating in the full use of the gifts of the Spirit, we shall remain distinct and separate from the existing organisation known as the Scottish Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement (CCR – Scotland).
We aim to establish a clear and separate line of authority and accountability thus providing the opportunity to engage the full support of the whole church. It will also enable us to see how the Holy Spirit may lead us in a new and different way.
1The Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, based on returns published in the Catholic Directory for Scotland 2010, estimated population of Scotland (2008) 5,168,500, estimated Catholic population 667,017.
2Ibid., average weekly Mass attendance 185,608.
3Address of John Paul II to the Bishop’s of Scotland, Ad Limina visit, March 4th 2003, n. 2.
4Cardinal O’Brien, Opus Dei Website, Transcript of homily at Mass, Jun 27th 2009, para 15.
5Pope John Paul II, Transcript of meeting with Ecclesial Movements, Pentecost May 30th 1998, n. 5.
6Christifideles Laici, n.24.
7Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity, Scottish Catholic Observer, Nov 26th 2007, front page.
8Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Ecumenism in the Pontificate of John Paul II, Cardinals’ Symposium, 15 -18 Oct 2003: Talk 5, n. 6. Drawing also from Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ut Unum Sint, n. 3.
9Ibid., n. 6. Drawing also from Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ut Unum Sint, n. 99.
10Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 7.
11Ut Unum Sint, n. 15.
12Mgr Peter Hocken, Healing the Wounds of History, p. 7.
13Ibid., p. 7.
14Pope John Paul II, Transcript of meeting with Ecclesial Movements, Pentecost May 30th 1998, n. 8.
15Ibid., n. 8.
16Ibid., n.8. Lumen gentium, n.12.