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Br. Richard Maher, O.P.'s picture

Charismatic Congress

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This past weekend I attended the “Evangelization and Healing” congress held at the parish of St. Raphael. The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Briefly stated, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) refers to the movement within the Church that has sought a renewal of the gifts bestowed on the Apostles by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (namely healing and speaking in tongues) that were practiced widely in the early Church. CCR prayer groups are characterized by a focus on the Holy Spirit through the channeling of these gifts as well as by ecstatic prayer, faith sharing, and singing.

My first encounter with the CCR occurred about six years ago during my grandmother’s long battle with cancer. I would often accompany her to Sunday Mass and, after Mass one week, we were invited to a “Mass of Healing.” Although unfamiliar with the manifestations of these charismatic gifts, I was most moved and humbled by the piety of those seeking physical and spiritual healing in their lives. The excitement of the prayer and the dedication of those participating in the service were rousing, even for one who was not prepared to submit entirely to the experience. In the following years, I regularly attended a charismatic prayer group as I incorporated myself into the faith sharing, the vibrant worship, and the rousing testimonies offered by the lay men and women who spoke at the weekly meetings. I attribute my vocation in part to the spiritual awakening that I experienced as a result of participating in these prayer groups.

Saturday’s experience was certainly one of energy, excitement, and deep prayer. Speakers included lay men and women who testified to the healing effect God has had on their lives. Among the featured speakers was Fr. Jose Corral, coordinator for the CCR in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Different music groups were present to aid in the worship, and the day was closed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour. During this time, the faithful in attendance were specifically asked to pray for the sick and infirm people in their community.