The Church: Institutional and Charismatic

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St. Peter and St. Paul
In the Via Appia stands the Quo Vadis Chapel. Legend recounts that when persecution broke out while Peter was in Rome, he joined the rest of the Christians who were fleeing from the city. At the site where the chapel now stands, Peter saw Christ carrying his cross going in the opposite direction. Peter asked him, “Quo vadis, Domine?” (Where are you going, Lord?) Christ answered, “I go to Rome to be crucified.” Struck with remorse at his cowardice and mindful of how he betrayed Christ before, Peter went back to Rome and was at once arrested. When he was about to be crucified, he requested that he be raised on the cross upside down since he was not worthy of being crucified like his Lord and Savior.
St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican was constructed at the site where Peter was crucified.

In Piazza Ostiense in Rome, at the Porta San Paolo, is where Paul was beheaded. Legend has it that his head jumped seven times after it was cut off. Paul suffered for the faith which he persecuted at first. As he wrote in 2 Cor 11:24-25,27: “Five times I have been given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked, and once I have been in the open sea for a day and a night; I have worked with unsparing energy, for many nights without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty, and often altogether without food or drink; I have been cold and lacked clothing.”

Both Peter and Paul suffered the same kind of death, martyrdom, in the same city, Rome, at about the same time, 64-67 AD. This Sunday’s celebration of the great apostles St. Peter and St. Paul is a celebration of the two dimensions of the Church. The first Christians recognized Peter and Paul as the two pillars of the church of Christ. Peter symbolizes the hierarchical dimension and Paul the charismatic dimension. The Church of Christ needs the rock of Peter’s institutional leadership as well as the vitality of Paul’s charismatic vision.

Unity in diversity
The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential and constitutive elements of the Church. Both are essential for the well-being of the whole Body of Christ. There should be a balance and a tension between the hierarchical and charismatic dimensions. Problems soon arise if either part becomes too dominant —too much structure can easily strangle the life it is supposed to sustain, while too much charismatic activity and too many personal revelations can cause confusion and distortion.


The Second Vatican Council speaks of the ministries and charisms as the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are given for the building up of the Body of Christ and for its mission of salvation in the world. The Church is directed and guided by the Holy Spirit, who lavishes diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts on all the baptized, calling them to be, each in an individual way, active and co-responsible.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI welcomed and publicly affirmed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal when he received and addressed ten thousand charismatics who had gathered at St. Peter’s for an international conference. He memorably described the Renewal as “a chance for the Church and for the world.”

St. John Paul II in Christifideles Laici S. 21 said: “The institutional and charismatic aspects are almost co-essential to the configuration of the Church, and they co-operate, although in different ways, towards its life, its renewal, and the sanctification of the People of God.

It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that before and after the Council there has been a remarkable development of ecclesial movements and new communities.”

Pope Benedict XVI in his Address to the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships Hall of Blessings,  on October 31, 2008 said: “As I have been able to affirm in other circumstances, the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities which blossomed after the Second Vatican Council, constitute a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church.  They should be accepted with trust and valued for the various contributions they place at the service of the common benefit in an ordered and fruitful way.”

Charismatic movements
The collaboration between the two dimensions, the Petrine and charismatic, completes the symphony of the Church’s life. When he was still a Cardinal, Benedict XVI concluded that there must always be missions in the Catholic Church that are not tied to the local Church alone, but serve the universal proclamation of the Gospel.

Renewal movements generally come from a charismatic leader and they take shape in concrete communities that live the whole Gospel anew from this origin and recognize the Church without hesitation as the ground of their life, without which they could not exist.

The Pope at any given time in history must rely on these ministries and they on him, as happened during the time of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic and the flowering of religious and missionary congregations.

The Catholic Church is both institutional and charismatic. A charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of the Church. It is irreplaceable. And the Spirit is renewing this dimension in the Church and in each one of us each day. Led by the Spirit, the Charismatic Renewal is helping its members appreciate their God-given heritage within the Church.

Especially during the Year of the Laity, let us pray for all charismatic movements in the Church. Since 1983, I have participated in the prayer-breakfasts of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP). Seeing the zeal of the members did wonders for my soul. They also helped in our education, health and livelihood projects.

During my stay in Smokey Mountain, various charismatic groups and marriage encounter communities contributed invaluable spiritual and material help, among them the Bukas-Loob ng Diyos, Couples for Christ, Ligaya ng Panginoon, The Lord’s Flock and the Focolare Movement.

In St. John Paul II’s address to the representatives of the charismatic movements assembled in St. Peter’s Square on the eve of Pentecost in 1998, he prayed: “Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here.

Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses to the risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of man. Strengthen their love and fidelity to the Church … Today from this square, Christ says to each of you ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16:15). He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church.”

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