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Exploring the Roots of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

The 700 Club takes a look back at the 20th century beginnings of what would become the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Read Transcript


NARRATOR: Kneeling in solitude, Sister Elena,

a devout Catholic nun and founderess

of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit,

prayed to God again and again.

Father, in the name of Jesus, send forth your spirit

and renew the world.

Father, in the name of Jesus--

woo, Elena Guerra prayed the way we pray.

She was like a prophetess of this new coming of the spirit.

NARRATOR: As the world stood poised

to enter the 20th century, Sister Elena's passion

for the Holy Spirit would spread far beyond the walls

of her small order.


Elena Guerra was devoted to her faith from a young age

and established her own congregation in 1866, in order

to educate young women.

Her deepest passion was to see the Holy Spirit renew

the world.

Elena said things about the Holy Spirit

like if only, if only we would want Him, if only,

we would seek Him, if only we would pray to Him,

He would surely come.

NARRATOR: Between 1895 and 1903 Sister Elena

penned 12 confidential letters to Pope Leo the 13th.

She urged the Pope to lead the Church back to the Upper Room,

to a posture of expectant prayer displayed

by the Apostles, Mary, the mother of Christ,

and other believers before Pentecost.

Elena wanted the Church to experience

a perpetual Pentecost.

And the amazing thing is the Pope took it very seriously

and, in fact, responded to that.

NARRATOR: Prompted by Elena's letters,

Pope Leo called for a special time of prayer

each year between Ascension Day and Pentecost.

The Bishops and Cardinals soon lost passion

for the special prayers.

But Elena did not.

She encouraged the Pope to teach more fully

on the Holy Spirit, which inspired him to write

a letter to the Bishops.

The letter, titled Divinum Illud Munus,

emphasized the endwelling and miraculous power

of the Holy Spirit.

A landmark document on the Holy Spirit,

it's still looked back to today as just a milestone

of riding on the Holy Spirit.

NARRATOR: Still not satisfied, Elena

urged Pope Leo to invoke the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus,

Come Holy Spirit, over the first day of the new century.

AL MANSFIELD: Pope Leo the 13th went into St. Peter's Basilica

and, surrounded by the Bishops and Cardinals of the Church,

sang in a solemn way, Veni Creator Spiritus, Come Creator


And he solemnly dedicated and consecrated the 20th century

to the Holy Spirit.

And of course, at the very same time, January 1, 1901,

in Topeka, Kansas, there was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit

upon the little group there, gathered at the Bethel Bible


NARRATOR: Agnes Ozmond, a student at the Bible School,

received the baptism in the Holy Spirit

and spoke in tongues late New Year's Day,

after prayer and the laying on of hands.

Her experience, echoed by several other students,

sparked the Modern Pentecostal Movement.

You see this amazing convergence of prayer

to the Lord for a new coming of the Holy Spirit.

So it's interesting that something was happening in Rome

on January 1, 1901, with the pope calling down

the Holy Spirit.

And then, in Topeka, Kansas, we have the beginning

of the Pentecostal Movement.

So it's very interesting how the Lord began the 20th century

by pouring out His Holy Spirit that way.

NARRATOR: By 1906, members of the Bethel Bible School Group--

most notably William J. Seymour--

were leading the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles.

Healing, salvations, and the renewed power to witness

all flowed from Azusa Street, just as signs and wonders

flowed from the Upper Room of the Disciples Day.

We owe a great debt to our Protestant brothers

and sisters, who have been witnesses

the reality of the Holy Spirit for so many years.

NARRATOR: Sister Elaina's prayers again bore fruit

in 1958, when white smoke billowed from the chimney

over the Sistine Chapel, signaling the election of Pope

John the 23rd, who, like sister Elena,

longed for the Holy Spirit to renew the Church.

He said the Holy Spirit had inspired

him to reset the Church's relationship with the world.

It was time.

As we see the hostility to Christ

and the Church that's growing in our culture, people

are realizing, you know what?

If we keep on doing business as usual,

that's not going to work.

NARRATOR: In 1962, Pope John convened a Church Council,

later called Vatican II, hoping to pave

the way for Christianity.

He asked Christians everywhere to join him and joyfully

echo his prayer to the Holy Spirit,

renew your wonders in our time, as though for a new Pentecost.

He was looking for energy.

He was looking for power from on high.

He was looking for God to do something.

He was looking for a new Pentecost.

And so he anticipated that Vatican II was

going to open the windows of the Church to the Holy Spirit

and apparently to signs and wonders.

NARRATOR: Pope John passed away in 1963,

before Vatican II concluded.

He was succeeded by Pope Paul the Sixth, who found

the world devolving into chaos.

A new generation was thumbing its nose at convention.

Students took to the streets in protest.

Turbulence ruled the decade.

At that point, a lot of people were questioning everything

and questioning God.

NARRATOR: David Mangan was a graduate student

in physics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

He belonged to the Kiros Society,

a group of Catholic students who met before classes to pray

and study scripture.

Hungry for more of God and seeking this new Pentecost,

they went away together on retreat

at the Ark and the Dove, in February 1967.

And then, we were given a little paperback

book called The Cross and the Switchblade

by David Wilkerson, who was a Pentecostal pastor who

worked with drug addicts and, in miraculous ways,

brought them to healing and salvation,

merely through prayer.

I kept saying, this is happening today?

Well, why aren't these things happening in my life?

I thought, here I am.

I'm baptized.

I'm confirmed.

I've received the Holy Spirit.

Why isn't the Holy Spirit doing this in my life?

NARRATOR: Patti Mansfield was a 20-year-old French major

at Duquesne, when she attended the retreat.

And we were told to do three things.

First, pray with expectant faith,

expect that this retreat was going to something for us.

The next thing was to take the Bible

and read the first four chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.

To tell you how ignorant I was of the scripture,

I had no idea where to find the Acts of the Apostles.

I figured it was the New Testament.

Because I knew the Apostles were in the time of Jesus.

NARRATOR: The students opened each session

of the retreat with the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus,

Come Holy Spirit, the same hymn Pope Leo invoked

over the 20th century.

One of the speakers sought from Jesus' words in Acts 1:8,

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes

upon you."

The word for power is the same Greek word where we in English

would get the word dynamite.

And he likened the coming of the Holy Spirit to dynamite.

And that struck me extremely deeply.

Because although I've been raised a good Catholic boy,

and I was with the Lord, he hadn't abandoned me at all,

and I knew that that's where I was where I belong

and where I was, but I don't think

I could have used the word dynamite as an adjective

to describe my spiritual life at that point.

NARRATOR: David joined his small group session

and asked a question.

Where is the dynamite?

He later recorded in his notes his desire

to hear someone speak in tongues.

And then I put a dash, and I put me,

with an exclamation point.

NARRATOR: David went off by himself

to reflect on the teaching.

When I opened the door and walked into the chapel,

the presence of God was so powerful I could hardly move.

The only way I could say it is I was lost in Christ

and happy to be so.

And I completely forgot about all my pushing to say,

where's the dynamite, where's the dynamite.

And that's exactly what it felt like.

It felt like little explosions in my body

were going off as part of this whole experience.

I don't even know how to describe it beyond that.

I started opening my mouth to thank God for what he had done.

And I started praying in another language.

NARRATOR: Later, Patti joined David in the chapel.

I began to tremble.

I remember thinking, but God is here.

And he's holy.

And I'm not holy.

And so just kneeling there, in the quiet of my heart, I said,

Father, I give my life to you.

Whatever you ask, I accept it.

I was lying there prostrate.

And I felt immersed in the love of God.

I felt like I was swimming in the mercy of God.

I remember thinking, just saying to Him, stay, stay, stay.

NARRATOR: Other students were also drawn into the chapel.

PATTI MANSFIELD: Some people were laughing for joy.

Others were weeping for joy.

Some said they felt like they wanted to praise God.

But they didn't know if it was going to come out in English.

And anyway, we were there and just in awe, just

in awe of the sovereign God.

Everything changed at that point.

Now, I didn't spot it all right away.

But I mean, everything was different, as it turned out,

after this happened to me.

NARRATOR: The small gathering of Duquesne students

who walked away from that retreat center say

they were never the same.

But what they didn't know at the time

was that their life-changing experience

was meant to be shared.

And it was just the beginning.


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