While in Rome attending the ecumenical vigil celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Northshore resident Patti Mansfield knew she would be given a seat on the main stage – as someone who had been present at the dawn of the movement in 1967.
But what Mansfield didn’t know was that she would be given a chair right next to Pope Francis.
As the pope walked onto the stage, to the tune of the hymn “Long Life to Jesus the King,” the audience of 50,000 pilgrims from more than 125 countries began chanting, “Francisco! Francisco!”
“He seemed to be a little embarrassed by it. He turned to me and he said, ‘But (the prayer service is) for everyone.’ I think he didn’t want just his name being chanted,” said Mansfield, 70. “I said to him, ‘But they love you, Holy Father!’”
The praise and worship service, held June 3 at Rome’s Circus Maximus, was part of a five-day celebration of the 50-year-old Catholic Charismatic Renewal culminating on Pentecost Sunday.
The movement, which counts an estimated 120 million Catholics worldwide, centers on “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” in which God’s Spirit renews the graces already conferred at baptism and confirmation.
Unity in Christ our Lord
Mansfield, an internationally known speaker who also is an archdiocesan liaison for the renewal, said it was significant that the backdrop for the June 3 service was a large banner that announced, in multiple languages, “Jesus is Lord.”
“That was a very big theme of the Holy Father that night: All of us Christians, no matter what our denomination, can be united in the proclamation of the basic Gospel message, Jesus is Lord,” Mansfield said, noting that one of her takeaways from the vigil was the palpable elation of the Pentecostal and Protestant pastors on stage with the pope, and the tens of thousands of pilgrims in the audience.
“They were out in the hot sun for hours,” Mansfield recalled. “You saw young nuns in full habit next to girls in tank tops with their arms around each other praising God, singing, dancing with tremendous joy.”
A ‘current of grace’
During the service, Pope Francis said the charismatic dimension of the universal church is a “current of grace” that pours out over time and brings growing unity to Christians of all stripes.
“The Charismatic Renewal is not a movement like other movements in that it has no human founder,” Mansfield said, detailing how this “grace of Pentecost” has broken out into various denominations. So it is ecumenical and not just Catholic, she said.
The renewal was first experienced by Protestants of various denominations in 1901, when a Bible study student in Topeka, Kansas, asked to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, beginning the stream of Christianity known as Pentacostalism.
The movement broke into mainstream Protestant denominations in the 1950s and into the Catholic Church in 1967 – the year 20-year-old Mansfield and a group of college students on retreat in Pennsylvania had the common experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
“There is a grace that is common to over 120 million Catholics all over the world, and it is the grace of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, but being baptized in the Holy Spirit is not an invention of the Charismatic Renewal,” Mansfield said. “It’s referred to in all four Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles. John the Baptist said I baptize you with water, but one is coming after me and he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. The grace of being baptized in the Holy Spirit goes back to Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Mary and 120 in the Upper Room.”
Church welcomes movement
Mansfield said that while some denominations looked askance at this stream of Christianity when it first broke into their respective churches, the Catholic Church has welcomed it from the very beginning – and at the highest levels. In 1975, Pope Paul VI told 10,000 charismatic Catholics assembled in Vatican City that the movement was “a chance for the church”; Pope John Paul II asserted that the hierarchical and charismatic dimensions of the Catholic church were “co-essential”; and Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to “rediscover the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
“So it’s not like we’ve had to wait for the election of Pope Francis to be fully welcomed,” Mansfield said.
Unifying power of the Spirit
Because God has poured out the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit upon all denominations, it has served as a significant ecumenical bridge, said Mansfield, observing that Christians are rediscovering their common ground in tenets of faith such as:
• The Lordship of Jesus. “We (all) are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,” Mansfield said. “During the fall of our first parents (Adam and Eve), we lost our intimacy with God, but God so loved the world that he sent his son so we might have eternal life.”
• Hunger for the word of God. Mansfield notes that when she was growing up in New Jersey, she and her fellow Catholics were not really encouraged to read the Bible. But “Catholics are becoming more familiar with the Word of God, and that’s something that we share in common with our Pentecostal and Protestant brothers and sisters,” she said.
• Our calling to evangelize in an era marked by the loss of hope and peace. “We who know Jesus, who know the Risen Jesus, can be salt and light,” Mansfield said.
• Christians’ responsibility to help the poor. Mansfield said charismatic Catholics have excelled in this area, pointing to the ministry of Jesuit Father Rick Thomas, whose work feeding the hungry in El Paso, Texas, has been blessed by miraculous occurrences of the multiplication of food. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, charismatic Catholics, affiliated with the Center of Jesus the Lord, continue their legacy of caring for the poor and needy through work at soup kitchens, outreach to the homeless and the annual “Soles for Christ” march on Good Friday, Mansfield said.
Has met three popes
Mansfield, whose ministry with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal also has afforded her the privilege of meeting Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, has met with Pope Francis six times.
During her most recent trip to Rome, she met with the pontiff on three occasions, albeit briefly. During one of those interactions, Pope Francis asked Mansfield to “pray for me. I need it.” After the ecumenical vigil, he embraced Mansfield and kissed her on both cheeks.
“He has an incredible ability to greet each person as if they’re the only person in the world,” she said. “He’s very focused on your eyes. He takes your hands in both hands. He smiles. There’s a very incredible, personal contact that he makes over and over again.”
Local events during the Renewal’s Golden Jubilee Year include “Fresh Fire 2017: Golden Jubilee Restoration,” Aug. 26 at St. Benilde in Metairie; “Rise and Be Healed,” a healing retreat for men and women, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Schriever, Louisiana; a healing service led by Poor Clare Sister Briege McKenna, Dec. 9 at St. Benilde; and the “I Am the Lord Your Healer” conference, March 16-18, 2018. Ongoing opportunities include a weekly Wednesday prayer meeting and Mass at 7:30 p.m. at St. Benilde, and a youth prayer meeting on the last Sunday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Archbishop Rummel High.