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Monday, 8 October 2012

CHARISMATIC RENEWAL IN BRAZIL

source: www.chiesa.expressonline
ROME, January 25, 2012 – Brazil, which will be the theater of the next World Youth Day, is the country with the largest number of Catholics in the world, ahead of Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, and Italy.

But while until 1980 nine out of ten Brazilians were Catholic, today the members of the Church of Rome have dropped to two thirds of the population.

Most of the others have gone over to Protestantism. To a Protestantism almost entirely of a Charismatic, Pentecostal type.

Festive celebrations, music, singing, healings, inspirational language: the characteristics of Pentecostalism are close to the populist devotion that liberation theology – in vogue in the Brazilian Catholic Church in the 1970's and '80's – judged negatively, accusing it of ignoring social issues.

Meanwhile, however, within the Catholic Church as well Pentecostalism was spreading with astonishing speed. In an orthodox form, under the name of Renewal in the Spirit. And the hierarchy decided to give it room. Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, one of the most prominent leaders of the Brazilian Catholic Church, from his youthful sympathies toward liberation theology converted to become a fervent supporter of Renewal in the Spirit.

Today, according to the estimates of a reliable scholar, David Barret, Pentecostal Protestants and Charismatic Catholics together add up to eighty million faithful in Brazil, 40 percent of the entire population. Around 35 million of these are estimated to be Catholics.

"The phenomenon of Father Marcelo Rossi," comments Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist of religion – "is the most stunning example of this Catholic version of Pentecostalism, itself ultimately a form of 'new evangelization.'"

Father Marcelo Rossi is the Brazilian Catholic priest referred to in the following article, published on Sunday, January 22, 2012, in the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, "Avvenire."

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MARCELO ROSSI: THE SINGING PRIEST WHO'S SETTING BRAZIL ON FIRE

by Andrea Galli


SÃO PAULO – It still needs a few finishing touches, but the 42-meter cross has already arrived, the stage with the altar and the image of Mary above it has been set up. And the people are arriving in dribs and drabs, kneeling in the 6,000 square meters of this oasis of peace on the southern edge of the Brazilian metropolis. This is the shrine of the Theotokos or Mãe de Deus, inaugurated last December after almost five years of work. An arena capable of holding up to one hundred thousand people, an immense space with no pillars and covered by a roof designed by the architect Ruy Ohtake.

It is the largest Catholic church in Brazil and on the entire continent of South America. It is the tangible sign of the success that accompanies the priest who conceived and constructed it, collecting donations and investing the proceeds of his recordings and writings: Father Marcelo Rossi, 44, six feet four inches tall, with an athlete's body and a gentle face.

Father Marcelo is the leading figure of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Brazil, the one who was able to bring three million people to the racetrack in São Paulo in 2008, in a gathering characterized by music and prayer that saw the participation of Ivete Sangalo, Claudia Leite, and other pop music stars of the country. From 1998 until now, twelve of his albums have gone platinum, an award for recordings that sell over a million copies. His latest book, "Ágape," was far and away the best seller of 2011, reaching sales figures attained in the past only by Paolo Coelho.

This charismatic son, in the literal sense, of a middle class São Paulo couple, distanced himself from the Church in his adolescence, dedicating himself to sports and obtaining a degree in physical education. At the age of 21, shaken by a series of family tragedies and meditating on the vanity of life, he returned to the sacraments, heard the call to the priesthood, entered the seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1994. He immediately stood out for his homilies, for his ability to involve the faithful and hold the stage in his parish in the diocese of Santo Amaro. He came to the forefront on the occasion of a meeting he organized entitled "I am happy to be Catholic," in which 70,000 people participated. From that point it was a crescendo. In 1998, he debuted as a singer and recorded "Music to praise the Lord," which sold four million copies, immediately followed by the album "A gift for Jesus."

In 1999, the faithful who flocked to the gathering "Saudade yes, sadness no" were 600,000 in number. In 2000, he released '"Songs for a new millennium," and in 2001, "Peace," with songs by Roberto Carlos. In 2002, Bishop Antonio Figueiredo, the one who had encouraged and protected him in his unconventional apostolate, appointed him rector of the Terço Bizantino shrine. In 2003, in addition to releasing yet another CD, Father Marcelo shot his first film, "Mary, mother of God," which took Brazil's movie theaters by storm and came in seventh at the box office. The next year he made another film, "Brothers in faith," while his new internet portal was flooded with visitors. Then the stunning performance at the Interlagos racetrack in 2008, from which two DVDs were made that were also commercial triumphs.

Understanding the reasons for such success is not a futile exercise, because it also means understanding what was stirring in the depths of Brazilian Catholicism starting in the 1990's.

"When I rediscovered the faith," Father Marcelo said in an interview, "it was a period in which the Church was immersed in political questions, because of the influence of liberation theology. A form of theology that certainly had a positive role during the dictatorship, but that has left a void. I had lost one of my cousins, and I was looking for the word of God, but when I went to church they were talking about politics. From that moment, I understood what I had to do." Which meant returning to the essential, proclaiming the Gospel using the means of communication, in particular music, the greatest and most widely shared conduit of emotions and words in the daily life of the people. Using it to meet the thirst for God and reawaken love for the Church, for Mary, for the Eucharist, worn away by the proselytism of Pentecostal groups and factions.

The result of that intuition is now before the eyes of all, and has made Father Marcelo a figure as problematic for the hierarchy as he is loved by the Catholic people. Problematic for the hierarchy, but not only for them. It is no coincidence that in 2007, during the visit of Benedict XVI, in the great clearing of Campo de Marte in  São Paulo, he was brought to the stage very early in the morning, to avoid creating embarrassment or bad blood. To see a priest who galvanizes the crowd by singing and dancing, although with decorum, is a spectacle still unpalatable to many.

And the liturgical liberties that Father Marcelo takes, not only in the selection of music for the celebration, go well beyond the "Roman canon." On the other hand, those who were dreaming of an ecclesial renewal founded on base communities and the "preferential option for the poor" can't get over how a multitude of all the social classes – including indigents and representatives of the urban subproletariate – flock to the call of a priest who speaks "only" of spiritual things, of the love of God, of the forgiveness of sins, of the joy that Christianity gives amid the hardships and injustices of life.

Not only that. Father Marcelo is also a priest who recalls the importance of faithfully following the magisterium, of knowing and defending Catholic doctrine. And who, as he has stated recently, feels more at ease with the spiritual children of Escrivà de Balaguer than with those still attached to the utopias of the Boff brothers. In 2005, at the synod of bishops on the Eucharist at the Vatican, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the archbishop of  São Paulo at the time, addressed the assembly in these words: "In Brazil, the Catholics decrease by an average of 1 percent a year. In 1991, Brazilian Catholics were about 83 percent, and now, according to new studies, they are only 67 percent. We ask ourselves in distress: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country? Today for every Catholic priest there are two Protestant pastors, most of them of the Pentecostal Churches." The Brazilian episcopal conferences knows about the risks inherent in a pastoral approach that can easily drift into sentimentalism, that risks imitating the approach of the evangelicals, but it is aware that the experience of Father Marcelo Rossi is of crucial importance, because it is the first large-scale reaction to an erosion of Catholicism of historic proportions.

And the athletic priest who has set up a structure in service of the new evangelization that is made up of thousands of collaborators, who has single-handedly created a large platform for himself on "Globo," the country's main television network, is no longer alone, on the contrary. In his footsteps have arisen other priest-singer-writers with large followings, like Sacred Heart Father Fábio de Melo, or Hewaldo Trevisan, also a priest in São Paulo, or Reginaldo Manzotti. All of them in their forties, of appealing presence and inspired speech. All of them, or nearly all, curiously, of Italian origin. And who may be the protagonists of the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

MY OWN EXPERIENCE OF THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL IN PERU by Fr David

 I am not naturally a person with a charismatic temperament, nor is the "charismatic" way of prayer my cup of tea, but I am in no way opposed to it, having witnessed many signs of God's grace and true spiritual maturing in people who wholeheartedly follow the charismatic way.   I belonged to prayer groups from 1970 till 1977 in England; and then, ten years after going to Peru, in May, 1991, I became parish priest of the parish of Negritos which had been charismatically renewed in the seventies.   Later, in 2006, I was spiritual director of a charismatic" seminary.

 The Charismatic Renewal is the motor that drives Negritos where I was parish priest, and its members were in practically all the parish activities.. There was a prayer group in every street; and the leaders of the groups met on Wednesday evening, and there was a general assembly every Thursday evening.   There were also ministries to pray for the sick in their homes, for evangelization by knocking on doors and by holding "prayer and preaching" meetings in the street.   There was a youth ministry run by young people who, together with the altar servers, had their own room for socializing and holding meetings.  There was a pharmacy that sold medicines as cheaply as possible, and a number of other activities. A number of these people impressed me greatly with their genuinely holy lives.  I left the parish in November, 1997; but in 2006, thanks to a member of the parish who had moved to Lima, I was asked to become spiritual director of the "Jesus Vive" community of seminarians for a year, and my abbot lent me out.

In 1996, while I was parish priest of Negritos, we came to the time when we celebrated annually the coming of the Charismatic Renewal to the town, a week of celebration which culminated in a healing Mass in the sports arena to which came people from all over northern Peru.   Three days before the great event, the person in charge of organizing it came to me is great distress to tell me that the Archbishop had forbidden the priest coming from Lima, famous throughout Peru for his healing services, to celebrate Mass in his diocese.   "It is too late to tell anyone, and people will be coming from all over the place expecting a Mass celebrated by him.   You will have to celebrate!"   I looked at him in dismay.   "I have never celebrated a healing Mass in my life.   I have no gift of healing.  I am not sure that I even believe in healing Masses!"   I exclaimed.   Nevertheless, he was right: there was no alternative.   "Alright," I said, "I will celebrate the Mass; but I won't lay hands on the sick - I don't believe it would work - I shall bless them as they do in Lourdes with the Blessed Sacrament.   If Our Lord wants to heal them, that is his business."   And he did!   They were treated to a Mass as I normally celebrate it; and, after the celebration, I went from sick person to sick person, blessing each with the Blessed Sacrament.   You could have heard a pin drop.   Even the babies were silent; and you could actually see them following the Blessed Sacrament with their eyes.   When I was half way round, I heard a roar behind me, as though someone had scored a goal: they had seen someone drop his crutches and begin to walk.   Everybody agreed afterwards that all had gone well; and those in Negritos who had not attended because they knew the priest from Lima was not coming wanted a repeat the next day.  I told them that there was no time, but that I would celebrate Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  They were treated to a traditional Benediction, and there were two more healings.   The organiser, summing up, said, "Well, this proves we don't have to get a famous priest from Lima.   Any priest will do because it is Jesus that heals."   I have never done any thing like that since, except, perhaps, once, but not in such a dramatic fashion.

In both places, I celebrated the Mass as I was accustomed to do as a Benedictine monk and fed them with stories of the Fathers of the Desert and from monastic tradition more Eastern than Western; and I also taught them some liturgical theology.  Actually, this fitted in very well with their emphasis on the Holy Spirit, complementing rather than correcting their Charismatic spirituality.   My successor told me that the parishioners asked him to continue with the sung Masses, but he was unable to do so because the seminary hadn't prepared him in that way.   One of the seminarians, after I had left the seminary, chose a card depicting St Seraphim of Sarov as his ordination card.

Please don't knock the Charismatic Renewal.   We see things from without, but the Holy Spirit sees things from within, and I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is using the Renewal as an instrument to restore to the Church many things that had been lost or, at least, been covered over or partly forgotten, not least, consciousness of the Holy Spirit's place in our lives, this in spite of the abuses and eccentricities that are also present.   I have met examples of real holiness.  What we may dislike is the mere froth on the beer: the real drink is beneath it, but if beer does not have froth, it has no life.   I have seen several examples of people whose "charismatic" spirituality has moved them in the direction in an "Eastern" direction, and it has even produced hermits.   The monks and sisters of Jerusalem(click) in Paris are charismatics, as are the nuns of "Iesu Communio"(click) en Madrid; and there are many other communities and groups inspired by the Charismatic Renewal.  Things are not always what they seem to be.   If the Spirit is invoked inauthentically, the results are, at worst, diabolical and, at best merely stupid or unbalanced; while, if the Spirit is invoked in Christian sincerity, people are healed, sins are forgiven, community is formed and empowered, and bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  Anyway, watch at least the first video.
see the blog "EASTERN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL RENEWAL"(click)

GOOD NEWS ONLINE(click)

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