Many Catholics who were baptized as infants and maybe confirmed as teenagers, have not had the chance to truly meet Christ in a personal and powerful way.
Even those who are fortunate enough to have had this personal encounter have probably lost touch with its initial intensity, and its brightness has faded away in the past. It is very important to renew this relationship with Christ, to bring back its living flame, in order to progress in the knowledge and love of Christ, and to enable us to live out our lives for the Lord and for our neighbors.
The world in which we live is a challenging place that challenges the Faith—this is why God measures out his assistance according to our needs, and more importantly, gives us his Holy Spirit in our times!
Baptism in the Spirit is a vital grace, associated with the Charismatic Renewal movement present in all the Christian Churches since the beginning of the 20th century.
On the very same day and at the exact same time, a group of Protestants who had gathered in a Cenacle of Prayer received a very powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, for the very first time. This was the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal movement, which would take by surprise and awaken all the churches.
Cardinal Suenens, one of the great defenders of this great current in which the whole Church must now plunge, said of this Renewal:
"With the passage of time, the word of Paul VI on the Renewal as being ‘an opportunity for the Church’ remains a very partially realized wish, because this offered grace was not captured at the very level of the Church as an institution, or in her very heart. To interpret the Renewal as a ‘movement’ among other movements is to misunderstand its nature: it is a motion of the Spirit offered to the whole Church, intended to rejuvenate all aspects of the life of the Church. The soul of the Renewal—‘baptism of the Spirit’—is a pentecostal grace of renewal meant for all Christians. We are not talking about a ‘Gulf Stream’ that warms up the coast only in certain places, but about a powerful tide meant to penetrate into the heart of the land. Our theologians, who have themselves experienced the ‘outpouring of the Spirit,’ should analyze it and find where it rightly belongs. Our pastors should reflect on what this ‘baptism’ of children who have already been baptized and confirmed sacramentally, represents, and the potential it has for a deep evangelization.” (Excerpt from Cardinal Suenens, Itinéraire Spirituel - Édition Fiat, 1990)
It is indeed a "powerful" and invigorating “current” but it does not really reach the basic cell of the Church: the parish—or barely reaches its heart. It is obviously not an eighth sacrament, but a grace given from above to renew all the sacraments. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Charismatic Renewal that is currently lived out by millions of Christians (500 million, including 120 million Catholics) in different churches, as Fr. Cantalamessa, theologian of the Pontifical House, explains:
"Baptism in the Spirit is not a sacrament, but it is related to the sacrament, to many sacraments in fact, to the sacraments of Christian initiation. Baptism in the Spirit authenticates and, in a sense, renews Christian initiation. The first relationship is with the sacrament of Baptism. In fact, Anglophones call this experience ‘Baptism in the Spirit.’ We believe that Baptism in the Spirit authenticates and revitalizes our Baptism. To understand how a sacrament that was received long before, usually immediately after our birth, can suddenly come back to life and produce so much energy, as happens through the Outpouring of the Spirit, it is important to look at how we understand sacramental theology. Catholic theology uses the concept of a ''valid but hindered'' sacrament. A sacrament is hindered when the fruits that should accompany it do not germinate because of certain obstacles. For example, the sacrament of marriage or holy order received in a state of mortal sin. In such circumstances, these sacraments can bring no grace to those who receive them until the obstacle of sin is removed by penance. Once this has been achieved, the sacrament is said to be "revived" thanks to its indelible character, even if we are unfaithful, because it cannot deny itself (see 2 Timothy 2:13)."
Not only must we recognize with Benedict XVI that the Holy Spirit was the "Unknown God" in the Catholic Church before the Council (Preface to Father Cantalamessa’s book Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator), but it can be said that there is a serious question regarding the sacraments of Christian initiation, which are no longer lived in a sufficiently buoyant environment today.
It is first a matter of Faith—when we pray for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, or as others would say, for the "Outpouring of the Spirit," we believe that God hears our prayers. We believe and we see what is written in the Gospels, in Luke 11:13: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” To put it succinctly, we believe in the effectiveness of this prayer. It is really about Faith!
As Father Raniero Cantalamessa eloquently puts it, there is in the pastoral approach of the Charismatic Renewal the desire to let God guide our life. We are not asking for a particular grace, like a new impetus in the mission of the new evangelization or other similar requests, this process is simply about proposing to all Christians to live fully the radical promises of their Baptism, as Saint Paul explains in the Letter to the Romans, chapter 6. In general, people who are about to receive the Baptism in the Spirit are asked: "Do you want to give your whole life to Jesus?"
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a fundamental experience for the renewal of Christians and their churches in our time, in the spirit of the "New Pentecost" which was predicted by Marthe Robin (a 20th-century French mystic and stigmatist) and many others, and has now begun, in all the churches and on all continents.