Pope John XXIII implored the whole Church to pray in preparation for the Council, asking God to send us a “new Pentecost,” and Benedict XVI called for the whole Church to pray for a renewal of Baptism and confirmation and be “baptized in the Spirit.” For more than 40 years there has been a strong and continuing emphasis coming from the Popes on the need of the Church, and each of us as individuals, to experience today the work of the Spirit as we see it described in the accounts of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. As one surveys the persistent calls for a rediscovery or reappropriation of the work of the Holy Spirit as first experienced at Pentecost one is struck by the fervor and depth of conviction in these repeated pleas. Sometimes even a note of desperation.(1)
…The continuing papal calls for a New Pentecost seem to be based on two main perceptions. One perception is of the weakness of the Church and the “collapse of Christendom” or as John Paul II put it, the end of Christian society as we once knew it. This is related to the growth of an international, secular culture characterized by a “dictatorship of relativism” which is increasingly hostile to claims of truth, and most especially the claims of Christ and the Church. A situation has now developed that is more similar to the situation the early Church faced than anything we’ve known in many centuries.
The second perception is that what is most needed is a renewal of a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship that “comes alive” in the reality of Pentecost, in both its contemplative and charismatic dimensions. Quite bluntly, it appears that the Popes are crying out:
We need God! We need a new Pentecost!
This is in turn opening us to the perception that indeed, God is hearing our prayers and that we are beginning to see the unfolding of a new Pentecost, most notably in various renewal movements, but hopefully extending in an ever-widening circle to the entire Church. Pentecost and the gifts of the Spirit are not the property of any one movement or all the movements together, but the heritage of the entire Church. The movements perhaps can be seen as a “vanguard” of the renewal the Lord has in mind for the whole Church. The values and realities we see embodied in the movements and new communities are intended to stimulate the renewal of such values and realities throughout the Church, beyond the bounds of the particular movements or communities.
This seems to be clearly the view of the recent Popes. The first signs of “springtime” or “renewal” or “new Pentecost” or a “Pentecostal season”—characterized by “passion,” “ardor,” “fervor,” “enthusiasm”—while most intense in the “new movements” are seen to be the harbingers of a wider springtime that encompasses the entire Church. The Popes clearly see the universal need for a “new Pentecost” and the universal possibility of it, since the Pentecostal graces, both contemplative and charismatic, are constitutive of the Church. The charismatic dimension of the Church’s constitution is seen to be “co-essential” with the institutional dimension, and the whole Church is invited to cry out for the gifts of the Spirit, receive them gratefully, and use them for the good of the Church.
(Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, & Fear of the Lord)*
1. Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1971) cites several instances in which John XXIII links the meaning of Vatican II to a “new Pentecost.” 287–289.
This article is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s booklet A New Pentecost. In this booklet Ralph describes the insistent calls of the recent Popes for a “new Pentecost.” Using quotes from these Popes and the scriptures, he explores this “new Pentecost” and how we can personally appropriate it.
*The list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was an addition to this article and not contained in the original booklet text.