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Uniting faith and love in a New Pentecost

Pope Francis has reminded the world of our universal call to holiness in “Gaudete et Exultate.” There is great wisdom in meditating on this call since it is the foundation for the New Pentecost, which involves the unity and order of the intellectual and charismatic movements, as well as within the life of the parish.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines the gift of wisdom as “the gift that allows us to judge things according to eternal law” (Summa II-II, q. 45, art. 2) or as Pope Francis says “seeing/judging things with God’s eyes” and acting accordingly. Wisdom is the gift that gives us a vision to let God’s spirit dwell within us. So the question we must ask ourselves is how does God see things? He sees them from the view of uniting love, truth and goodness as one. With this in mind, we can start to examine the proposed elements of New Pentecost.

We will start with the intellectual movement. Knowledge of truth and the faith is a good thing. In our modern age, this movement is needed. According to a Georgetown Pew Poll, 17 percent of Catholics are termed “unknowing believers.” These are people whose beliefs in the church are things the church does not actually teach. For example, they “believe” in the Real Presence but “think that the bread and wine are not transformed into the body and blood of Christ at the consecration, but are still just a symbol.” We must want to cultivate and learn our beloved faith because our faith is the revelation and gift of God himself that allows us to know more about who we are and made to be. Our faith is full of mystery, which is why we need divine help to understand it. This divine assistance is the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding, which is docility in grasping the things of God such as the truths of our faith. Thus, the intellectual movement focuses on the importance of knowledge, emphasizes the gift of understanding to be aware of the mysteries of God/the faith at a deeper level, and rightly focuses on staying true to the foundation of our faith.

However, we must be careful not to think that having knowledge of the faith is enough. Pope Francis notes this as he writes:

A person’s perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity” (“Gaudete et Exultate,” No. 37).

If we think that simply by learning the truth, we will become a saint and everything will be right in the church, we fall short of our calling to holiness and thus wisdom.

The charismatic movement must also be noted. This is a movement that focuses on love and dynamism while having a foundation based on relationship to other people and building up the church. This movement is needed desperately in our world today. A 2015 Pew Research Poll notes that 41pecent of Catholics no longer identify with Catholicism. Why? It is because they don’t feel like they belong there; they don’t feel like they are loved are appreciated. Since “God is love” (1Jn 4:8), and love involves relationships; the charismatic aspect of the church is also important. It emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety in seeing God as Father, others as family, walking together, and showing we are fellow Christians by our love (Jn 13:35). Jesus tells us, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:11). The manifestations of the Christ through the Holy Spirit, which the charismatic movement is known for are manifestations of being loved by the Father. In this, we find our identity as children of God and the key to happiness. Thus, the charismatic movement focuses on the importance of love, while simultaneously emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety to value our identity as children of the Father at a deeper level.

Here too, we have to be careful against trying to force or will experiences and relationship while excluding truth. Pope Francis notes this as he writes:

Even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others … deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added (“Gaudete et Exultate” No. 49). 

 This can open up the trap of thinking it is good enough to feel God’s love without going deeper to know who he is. It allows us to fall in love with the gifts (charisms) but never get to know the Giver (God through the faith). This can subtly lead to a “feeling of superiority.” So this mentality allows us to fall short in God’s wisdom and hinder our call to holiness as well.

Wisdom calls us not to choose either/or, but to unite all things with a both/and approach. Intellectuals should not be afraid of discovering and using their charisms. We all have gifts that God has given us to build up the church and live out the love He has put in our hearts. We all should see God as our Father and others as our brothers and sisters. While at the same time, Charismatics should not be afraid to grow more in knowledge of their faith. Wisdom unites the gifts of understanding, which the intellectual movement emphasizes, and piety, which the Charismatic movement highlights. Thus, wisdom comes through aiming to be charismatic intellectuals (charismatics who know/defend God and his beloved faith) and intellectual charismatics (those who know the faith but are open to how God wishes to use them to love others while building up the church).

This wisdom also can be carried out at the parish level. As wise priest, Father Thomas Nicholas, points out, “On one hand, we have parishes that emphasize concern and care for people; creating welcoming, non-judgmental environments for new people. These parishes are often extremely focused on service. But sometimes this emphasis on being welcoming, and focusing on service of neighbor, is more or less absent of a call to complete fidelity to Gospel truth. For example, in parishes such as these rarely do homilies address the more controversial moral issues of the day. On the other hand, there are parishes that are very liturgically and doctrinally exact. Here you find that the faith is always passed on faithfully, often by quoting the Catechism and other faithful writers to the church. Rubrics and fidelity to the church's teachings are always evident, but what is often lacking is the welcoming environment and an emphasis on service to those on the margins. People who visit these parishes often leave saying they felt 'judged' and 'unwelcomed.' ”

Wisdom calls us to bridge these two extremes as well. This inspired priest continues, “We must be absolutely faithful to the church and at the same time have the heart of Christ in welcoming people. This involves not doubling down on the areas that we already do well, but learning how to integrate the positive aspects of the counter approach to presenting the faith. Both have positive aspects but only look better and more complete in union with the other.”

So let us be docile to this wisdom and seek out holiness by getting rid of division. The church is not called to live in division as a house divided will not stand (Mk 3:25); it is called to be untied so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 16:18), and be guided in all truth (Jn 16:13). We must remember we have an advocate in the Holy Spirit who is bearing the gift of a New Pentecost. Let us be open to this gift and together walk "humbly with our God” (Mi 6:8).

Deacon Anthony serves at St. Timothy Church in Chantilly.








© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018