February /March 2017 - Vol. 90
50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Dave Mangan at Ark and Dove
                              Retreat House
Dave Mangan (center) at the Ark and Dove Retreat Center 2016

Looking Back and Looking Forward in the Spirit
50 years Ago a Duquesne Weekend Retreat Ignited the Beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

by Dave Mangan

Most baseball fans know that if a batted ball hits a base runner he is automatically out. The fielder who happens to be closest to the runner at that time gets the credit for tagging him out even though he may have done absolutely nothing. That is how I feel about the Duquesne weekend. It certainly wasn't the first time the Holy Spirit moved on Catholics, yet that weekend is significant because that's where God began a unique work that has since been called the Catholic charismatic renewal.

When God moved in this way, by his grace, I happened to be standing nearby. Like the baseball player who gets a putout for just standing there, I sometimes get credit for something I didn't do. This, in itself, is a good lesson. Standing with God really pays off.

What actually happened at Duquesne University? How did God begin this work among a small, insignificant group of Catholics - a work that has had such a profound impact on the lives of thousands of people from many denominations?

A weekend retreat on the theme of the Holy Spirit
A group of Duquesne undergraduates planned to have a weekend retreat on the theme of the Holy Spirit. I had already graduated the previous year, but I was invited back to participate. At the time I was a 22-year-old graduate student, active in teaching CCD in my parish. I remember putting off preparing my CCD lesson on the Holy Spirit until after the weekend, because I hoped to learn something that might help me teach it a little better.

In truth, I knew very little about the Holy Spirit, I figured I could say it all in about three sentences that I remembered from the Baltimore Catechism we were all asked to do some reading in preparation for the weekend the first four chapters of Acts and The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. I must admit that nothing about the Holy Spirit or charismatic gifts made any impression on meat the time.

Some of the people attending the retreat had a hunger for God and expressed a heartfelt need for more of him. Others were in a crisis of faith. Some were thinking about leaving the church. I didn't realize any of this until after the retreat was over. When I did discover these things it helped me to realize how generous God was to me with his grace.

I approached the weekend with the simple faith I had learned as I was growing up. I just figured that if anything was missing in my life, it wasn't because God had failed to act-it was that I had failed to respond. So when I encountered any lack in me that weekend, I asked God to give me what I had failed to respond to before. It wasn't until much later that I began to realize what a great gift faith is.

We began each session on the weekend by singing the hymn "Come Holy Ghost” in Gregorian chant. The first talk really struck me. (I had been asked to give this talk before the weekend and had wisely bowed out of it.) The speaker quoted Acts 1:8: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." He said that the original Greek word for power meant something like "dynamite.” I knew that I had been trying to love and serve God for a long time, but I could hardly characterize my life as “dynamite.” I concluded that I had another thing to ask God for.

The second talk, I thought, was rather disappointing. The speaker talked for only about 15 minutes, reading the Acts 2 account of the day of Pentecost and saying, "This still happens today.” As students, we were used to deeper explanations, and this was just a simple idea. I thought, "There's more to this than what she is saying.” So in my notebook I wrote, "I want to hear someone speaking in tongues – ME.”

Where is the power of the Holy Spirit?
As I considered all of this I reasoned that since I had already received the sacrament of confirmation, I had received the Holy Spirit in power. So where was the power? It seemed to me that I needed to renew my confirmation.

When I was confirmed I am sure God did his part and the bishop did his part, but I am not too sure that I did my part. In fact, as I look back on it, the high point of confirmation for me was getting a gift from my sponsor. Since we renew our baptism at the Easter vigil, I thought it was a good idea to renew our confirmation when were more able to respond in faith.

I proposed this to the whole group, but it was not well received. So I decided to do it by myself. I was going to ask God to give me what I didn't respond to when I was confirmed.

It wasn't very long before God took me up on my offer.

Praying with expectant faith
Shortly afterward, as I entered the retreat house after a walk, I was told that the pump that supplied water to the house was broken, and no workman could come to fix it until Monday. This could mean that our retreat was going to end early. One of the leaders of the retreat suggested to those of us who were standing around that we go to the chapel and pray for water so we could complete the retreat.

Even though I prayed regularly, I had never prayed for anything that needed a specific answer on the spot. As we prayed, I had an unusual experience, I started to thank God for the answer to the prayer, because I had a very strong sense that it was answered. After we finished praying I headed straight for the kitchen and turned on the water faucet. Sure enough, water come out with (what seemed to me) more force than before.

I was so excited that I went right back up to the chapel to give thanks for the answered prayer. I was not prepared for what was about to happen. As I entered the chapel I sensed the presence of the Lord so powerfully that I ended up prostrate on the floor. To this day I am not sure whether I put myself on the floor or the Lord put me there. In any event, it seemed the only sensible place to be. I then entered into a depth of worship that I had never known before.

After a while, I got up and left-overwhelmed and a bit wobbly-legged from the impact of this encounter with God. I went to join the others and just barely made it down the stairs without falling. Then I started to doubt it all, so I decided to go back up to the chapel to see if it was real.

I'm not sure what I expected. I re-entered the room, and wham! I hit the floor again. I knew I was in the presence of God.

Receiving the "dynamite" power of the Spirit
Afterward I sat up (I was a little afraid to stand) and continued to pray, realizing that this was the answer to my prayer about renewing my confirmation, and receiving the "dynamite" I had heard about. As I left the chapel I doubted again. Again I returned to the chapel where I received another dose of the same thing.

I didn't know how to understand what was going on, but I sure knew it was real.

One thing worried me a little, though. Was I alone in this experience? Many of the retreatants seemed to act as though nothing had happened. But as I was walking around a little later I saw Patti Gallagher (now Patti Mansfield) coming down the stairs, and I was going to tell her about it. As I looked at her I saw this strange smile and glow on her face. “You too?" I asked. "Yeah, me too,” she said. That's all we said, but I knew I wasn't alone.

I told one of the leaders of the retreat what had happened to me, and he asked if I had spoken in tongues. “What's that?" I asked. He explained it a little, and I remembered that I had started to say something that wasn't English. I had stopped because it didn't seem to make any sense.

My friend assured me that this gift was something scriptural, and I should yield to it if I had the impulse again. I experienced it again fairly soon. This time I let her rip!

God acted sovereignly
I was just standing there on February 18, 1967. The Spirit of God showed up in power, and I have never been the same. Looking back, I'm amazed at how sovereignly and generously God acted. At the time, confusion seemed to reign. About 30 people went on a retreat. About half of them were baptized in the Holy Spirit at that time. Some of the others thought we were crazy. (I can't say I blame them. We were acting pretty strange.) Some left the charismatic renewal early on. I think that even though a great thing happened on that weekend, it's important not to romanticize it. In many ways, the experience and its immediate aftermath were very difficult. Only later did we understand what had happened to us.

I was on a high for nine months to a year. I didn't think I'd ever come down, but I did, just like everyone else. When I did, I was still convinced that I had had a genuine encounter with God. This conviction was set deep within me. I knew I was to dedicate myself to a life of prayer and service under the lordship of Jesus Christ; I needed to embrace the joy and the pain of discipleship and move on.

I had a few basic fears to deal with immediately after the weekend. I knew I wasn't alone, but was I just one of a small strange group? What would people think of me? Could I remain in the Catholic Church? I soon found out that I had lots of company. Other Catholics like me were beginning to experience God's presence and power, and the numbers have grown phenomenally since then.

With grace, I was able to let go of what others might think of me-the lordship of Jesus Christ became all that mattered. I'm still working on this lesson, though. I'm still learning not to be intimidated by what people think of me, learning to stand strong in the Lord, launching out where he says, finding out what God is doing in my life and following it. That's the way I want to live my life.

I also found out that God was not asking me to leave the Catholic Church. It was here that I was formed and led to the response I was able to make on that weekend. This was the answer to my prayer about renewing my confirmation. It was dealing with these challenges that helped me greatly to embrace the church as an adult, not only as a Catholic by birth, but also by choice.

In the early years, numerous prayer meetings sprang up. Most died off. We later realized that we had sapped our strength in the proliferation of prayer meetings; we should have encouraged slower, more solid growth and unity. We learned through trial and error; through successes and excesses. We learned about obedience and faithfulness to God, about practical leadership and evangelism, and much more.

Focus on the Giver - not the gifts
There were several learning phases. One phase was learning how to relate properly to the spiritual gifts. While praying in tongues, we had frequent experiences of the language being recognized and identified. Once as I was praying in tongues over someone, the person recognized that I was praying in an archaic form of French that was no longer spoken. We would receive messages in tongues that were interpreted prophetically through the Spirit, and someone else present would confirm the accuracy of the interpretation through his knowledge of that particular obscure language.

Our response was like a child saying, "That's fun. Let's do it again. "The trouble was that we forgot the message, because we got caught up in the fascination with the gift. We forgot that it was given to us to glorify the Lord Jesus and to build up his people. We had to learn not to be so fascinated with the gifts but rather to be fascinated with the giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nowadays we have to be careful about the opposite danger. Sometimes we take spiritual gifts for granted, treating them with less value than they deserve.

God tells us that HE LOVES US
For example, one of the most common prophecies I hear has to do with how much God loves us. This is often greeted with, "That's nice,” or "There goes that "I love you' prophecy again.” But this is a precious truth that we need to embrace. I think God says it so often because we don't really believe it.

Some groups hardly experience spiritual gifts at all any more. Have we quenched the Spirit by failing to respond and to value the gifts of God? Have we wanted God to act according to our agenda, and thus blocked his action?

God has renewed these gifts among us because they are needed in the church. They are not just extras, nor for decoration only. If the apostles and the early church needed them, so do we, not her learning phase had to do with deliverance. We've gone through the one extreme of seeing demons behind every sin and difficulty in our lives and the other extreme of denying their reality or the possibility of their influence over us. Balance is important in this area. We have a despicable enemy in Satan who would destroy us if he could. We would be foolish to ignore this, but there is also our flesh and the world to deal with.

The area of healing is one that many are still learning about. As believers we are people who believe in answers to prayer. This and the myriad of examples of healing in Scripture amply confirm the call for us to pray for healing. When we do, healing does occur-but not always. This sometimes discourages people from continuing to pray for healing, but I don't think it should. There are many possible reasons why a person may not get healed, and we may not be able to figure it out. I don't think we should get too bogged down in trying to figure out why. Some things are just beyond us. We should act with the faith God has given us and then leave the results to him.

Another area of growth over the years has been in exercising leadership and committed relationships. At first, we considered almost any direction or leadership as hindering the Spirit. We soon learned that failure to lead when necessary could quench the Spirit faster than anything else. We came to honor the proper exercise of leadership and to value committed relationships. When you knew you could depend on the people around you, it became a lot easier to make yourself more available for God's service.

A mighty work of God
The charismatic renewal is a mighty work of God. This doesn't mean that everything associated with it has been God's will. But God doesn't abandon us when we fail. He is constantly showing us his mercy and leading us on. We should not look back and disdain what God has done or how he has done it. God used what he had to use-us. We should treasure that.

We learned many things through experience, and even though experience may be the best teacher, it has a high tuition pain and sorrow. Now I try to learn as much as I can from others. If God is asking me to do something and someone else is already doing it, I try to learn from them. That way I save a lot of time and need for healing, and God is usually better served. In humility, learn from the people who have gone before you. Learn too by modelling. That was Jesus' principle. He took the disciples and had them live with him, and they became like him. Find people that you want to be like, and learn from them.

I treasure what God did in the early days of the renewal, but I have no desire to go back. The "good old days” are right now, the present is always the time when God is acting. The reason we look back is to find out where to go, to learn. But I have no desire to remain here either. Tomorrow God will have moved on. I want to be in touch with him and to go where he is going. We've got to keep moving. God is dynamic!

In the final analysis, our criterion for evaluating the charismatic renewal is love of God and love of neighbor. Has the charismatic renewal helped us to grow in love for God? In loving our neighbor? If not, it might have a lot of flash and dash, but it is not doing what God wants it to do. God is building a people who love him and who love each other. That's the way well win the world.

[This article was first published in New Covenant Magazine, February 1992]

Sources on early history and development of Catholic Charismatic Renewal:
  1. As By A New Pentecost, by Patti Gallagher Mansfield, Amor Deus Publishing, 1992, 2016.
  2. Before Duquesne: Sources of the Renewal, by Jim Manney: This is a fuller description of the antecedents of the charismatic renewal, written soon after the movement began (1973) and written by someone who knew the chief events and leaders. From New Covenant Magazine, February 1973.
  3. It Was the Time and Place, by Steve Clark: This is a “testimony” requested by Patti Gallagher Mansfield for the second edition of her book As By a New Pentecost. It is perhaps the best place to begin, because it gives an overview in somewhat short form, both of the antecedents and the continuation afterwards.
  4. The Beginnings of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, by Steve Clark: From the fiftieth anniversary issue of Pentecost Today, a short description of the beginnings of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, one of the more important instruments for developing the charismatic renewal from the beginnings.
  5. A Collection of Important Source Documents for the Beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, including: Early Structure of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Comments on the Early History of CCR, by Steve Clark
  6. Trends: Catholic Charismatic Renewal Nears 20-Year Mark, by Fr. Pat Egan, Pastoral Renewal, September 1986, Ann Arbor.

[top photo above, (c) by John Franko]
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