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IV. Experience in Christ Life 
   Appendix 1: PARTICIPANTS
   Appendix 2: PAPERS

IV. Experience in Christian Life

A. Introduction

 138.  Dialogue between Pentecostals and Catholics naturally evokes reflection upon religious experience. In our discussions together, it became apparent that Pentecostals and Catholics share many important aspects of spiritual experiences including the presence and power of the Spirit as well as contemplation, and mystical and active spiritualities. Where they differ is often a matter of emphasis.

139.  Within the context of the dialogue we are very aware of the importance of experience in contemporary thought, as evidenced by the increased attention given to the subject of experience in recent Catholic and Pentecostal theologies. This embraces at least two dimensions of the religious experience of encountering the Lord. One focuses on more explicitly religious affections (the manner in which one experiences the movement of the Spirit in one’s desires, feelings and heart). The other concerns the religious dimension of all experience, including various levels of human experience, joys and tragedies and even mundane affairs of daily life. Both of these dimensions may take the form either of event or process.

140.  We agree that when the grace of the Holy Spirit touches the heart and mind, feelings and will of the individual in such a way that a person consciously encounters the Lord an authentic experience of God comes about. The report of the second phase of our dialogue acknowledged that “experience is a process or event by which one comes to a personal awareness of God.” This includes both the experience of God’s ‘presence’ or ‘absence’ while “at a deeper level, there remains the constant abiding faith-conviction that God’s loving presence is revealed in the person of the Son, through the Holy Spirit” (Second Final Report 1977-1982 §12). Catholics and Pentecostals do not consider religious experience as an end in itself, but as a means through which we encounter God. As such God comes to us in our various experiences and we seek to discern the divine will and how we might grow in our union with God.

141.  Experience is a theme relevant to each section of our current report. Our reception of God’s saving grace gives rise to faith, conversion and discipleship. Faith is God’s gift and our human response. Both of our traditions acknowledge the experiential dimension to faith although we affirm that faith is not limited to experience. “Faith gives birth to experience; faith norms experience. But experience gives another dimension of actuality and firmness to faith. Experience is another way of knowing. What is given to experience is not taken away from faith, because experience exists only in faith.” 15 Something similar can be said about the relation of experience to conversion and to discipleship. If conversion is understood as a change by which a person turns away from sin and to God, it has a strong experiential quality which sometimes occurs more as an event and at other times more as a process. Discipleship is a relationship to Jesus in which a believer seeks to pattern his or her life according to the Gospel. Experience in discipleship includes the practice of Christian disciplines such as prayer, study of the Bible, meditation and the various ways and contexts in which, led by the Spirit, one follows Jesus. Discipleship includes the daily process of experiencing Christ in our service to God and neighbour, as well as more eventful moments of his presence and power. Finally, our current phase of dialogue has dedicated particular attention to the experience of Pentecost and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The paragraphs which follow will first look at the religious experience of our forebears by means of biblical and patristic examples. Then we will consider the role of experience both in becoming a Christian and in the ongoing life of the community. This section will end with some convergences and areas for further dialogue.

142.  In turning to the Bible and the church Fathers for examples of religious experience, we acknowledge the possibility that contemporary concern about, or even understanding of, experience may be different from that of our forebears in the faith. However, despite such possible differences, what believers over the centuries have in common is that, at its heart, this experience involves an awareness of encountering the living God. The examples we mention here may therefore shed light on our reflections on experience.

B. Biblical Perspectives on Experience in the Christian Life

143.  Throughout the Bible, religious experience figures prominently in both communal and individual settings. A few examples serve to illustrate this. The people of Israel experienced God when they contemplated nature and acknowledged him as its Creator (cf. Gen 1:1-2:4a; Ps 19 and 104) and when they remembered his saving activity in the events of history (cf. Ex 15: 1-18; Ps 78 and 105). Abraham, our father in faith (cf. Rom 4:16; Gal 3:7-29), is portrayed as entering into a covenant with God in a dramatic experience in which the Lord invited him to count the stars of the heavens and promised that his descendants would be as numerous. The experience concluded with the appearance of a smoking firepot and a blazing torch which passed between the pieces of the sacrificial animals which Abraham had slaughtered (cf. Gen 15). Moses was called to lead the people of Israel out of slavery during his encounter with God in the burning bush high atop Mount Horeb (cf. Ex 3); subsequently, the entire people experienced the Lord in their liberation from Egypt and they believed in him (Ex 14:30-31). The establishment of the covenant at Sinai (Ex 19:7-21) and the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-38) are described in dramatic experiential terms, while the consecration of the temple (2 Chr 7:1-4) and, in a later era, the rediscovery of the law (Neh 8:1-12) were profound communal experiences of faith. In the year of King Uzziah’s death, the prophet Isaiah received his calling during a vision of the throne of God, surrounded by angels whose voices shook the doorposts of the temple. This experience at first unsettled him as he felt his own unworthiness before God’s holiness, but was followed by the realization or recognition that he was being cleansed when an angel touched his lips with a burning coal. Thereafter Isaiah was commissioned to speak forth God’s word to the people (cf. Isa 6:1-8). Finally, one can see the regular celebration of feasts and sabbaths which made up the cycle of worship either in the temple at Jerusalem each year or in the local synagogue each week, as testimonies to the communal religious experience of the people of Israel. In light of this, it is hardly surprising that the whole of Hebrews 11 recounts the experience of many Old Testament men and women of faith.

144.  As we turn to the New Testament, Mary had a profound religious experience when encountering the archangel Gabriel who announced to her that she would become the mother of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. This set her on a journey of faith that included experiencing both joy and suffering (cf. Lk 1:26-38, 46-56; 2:34-35). Paul stands out as a particularly strong example of a believer with intense religious experiences. Apart from his own conversion which we discussed earlier in this Report, Paul both mentions his more mystical experience of being “caught up to Paradise” (2 Cor 12:2-5), and recounts at some length his sufferings in service of the risen Lord (cf. 2 Cor 11:16-33). Throughout his writings Paul depicts the radical transformation of life that came about when God revealed his Son to him (cf. Gal 1:15). He states the same thing in a more general way when he exclaims that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5: 17). In Philippians 3:4-11 Paul looks back upon his former way of life, rejecting it as refuse in comparison with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection. In the same passage, he also refers to sharing in Christ’s sufferings – an experience which would affect a person’s life in a deeply existential way.

145.  The Book of Acts recounts the beginning of the church with the personal and communal experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:1-21), followed by reports of other groups of people also being filled with the Spirit (cf. Acts 4:31; 8:17; 10:44-48; 13:2). Paul’s converts typically had a life changing experience. In his very first letter he writes: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit”. He then relates to them that others have told him how these converts from Thessalonica “turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess 1:6, 8-10). The Acts of the Apostles offers many more instances of Gentiles becoming Christians. For example, 11:19-24 tells the story of Barnabas who saw the evidence of the grace of God at work in the lives of the new believers at Antioch. Another example is found in Acts 16:27-34, where the jailer in Philippi, together with his whole household, is converted after an earthquake shook the prison in which Paul and Barnabas were praising the Lord while they were held in custody. In Acts 19:18-19 we read of converts who openly confess their evil deeds and even of some who had practiced magic burning the books of their trade. To these examples we may add some passages from Paul’s letters which speak about the faith experience of the communities to which he wrote. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 we read about a variety of manifestations of the Spirit which include the gifts of the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. The fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 is so closely tied to everyday life that it inevitably affects the believer’s experience on a day to day basis. The early Christian community regularly experienced God’s presence in worship (cf. Acts 2:42; 13:2; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:17-29) and left us, as a precious heritage, what many biblical scholars consider to be hymns used during these moments of communal prayer (cf. Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 1:3-10; cf. 5:18-20).

146.  Finally, the Johannine literature corroborates the evidence found thus far. The Fourth Gospel includes a whole series of personal encounters between Jesus and individuals in search of meaning, fulfillment, and life - Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, the man born blind and others (cf. Jn 3:1-15; 4:4-42; 5:1-15; 9:1-41). The First Letter of John typifies the ministry of the church in very experiential terms: “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). Toward the beginning of the Book of Revelation, John the Seer describes his experience of being in the Spirit on the day of the Lord on the Island of Patmos, where he encounters the risen Christ. This experience is so intense that he fell at Christ’s feet “as though dead” (cf. Rev 1:9-20).

C. Patristic Perspectives on Experience in the Christian Life

147.  In patristic times many church Fathers testify to the experiential dimension of the lives of believers. Justin Martyr (c.100-165) writes that those who became Christians received gifts of illumination and understanding, counsel and strength, healing and foreknowledge, teaching and fear of the Lord (cf. Dialogue with Trypho, 39,2; commenting on Is. 11:2-3). Irenaeus (c.130-200) compares the experience of becoming a Christian to that change which occurs when a wild olive tree is pruned and grafted in such a way as to become a fruit-bearing olive tree: “when man is grafted in by faith and receives the Spirit of God, he certainly does not lose the substance of flesh, but changes the quality of the fruit of his works, and receives another name, showing that he has become changed for the better, being now not [mere] flesh and blood, but a spiritual man, and is called such” (Against the Heresies, 5,10,1-2). Clement of Alexandria (d. circa 215) underscores the intellectual dimension of this experience: “…in illumination what we receive is knowledge, and the end of knowledge is rest…” (The Instructor, 1,6). Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition, 21, from the early Third Century, conveys something of the powerful experience which constituted entrance into the Christian community when he describes how the candidates for baptism entered the font undressed and were plunged three times under the water after their threefold profession of faith in the Trinity. A late Fourth Century diary of the Spanish noblewoman Egeria describes in great detail how the entire Christian community at Jerusalem participated actively in the various liturgical celebrations during the week following Palm Sunday and in the introduction of new members during the moving rites of the Easter vigil. Some quite personal accounts of experiences can also be found. The prominent biblical scholar Jerome (349?-420), for instance, relates that, although he was reared in a Christian home, it was only as a young man that a profound change of life brought him to full surrender to the will of God. This conversion took place in the wake of a very serious illness, during which he dreamed that he was before the judgment seat. Though he professed to be a Christian, he was repudiated as a follower of the rhetorician Cicero rather than of Christ. This led him to take an oath never to read a worldly book again. Thus, he forsook the world and devoted himself to expounding the scriptures.

148.  Jerome’s influential contemporary Augustine (354-430 AD) relates the long story of his conversion in The Confessions. Stories of the conversions of others spoke to his heart and awakened in him the desire to dedicate himself fully to God. His frustration at feeling unable to let go of his sins culminated in the well-known scene in which, while weeping in his garden over his inability to change, he suddenly heard the voice of a child who repeated the words: “take and read; take and read”. He immediately opened the book lying on the table and his eyes fell on the passage in Romans 13:13-14 about leaving behind the things of the flesh and putting on Christ. A great peace swept over him and he now felt that he was able to live as a Christian. This experience became the decisive turn in his life (cf. The Confessions, Book VIII,12). Augustine recounts another powerful religious experience when he tells the story of talking with his dying mother, who was preparing to return home from the Roman port of Ostia to spend her final days and to be buried in her native city in Northern Africa. As they talked together about the verse from 1 Cor 2:9, where Paul states that “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” the two were caught up in an experience of wonder at how great the joys of heaven must be, an experience which they had no words to describe. His mother Monica told him afterwards that she no longer felt any need to return home before she died, for her true home was with the Lord (cf. The Confessions, Book IX, 10).

149.  The Cappadocians noted the role of all three persons of the Trinity in Christian experience and the particular association of the Holy Spirit with sanctification. Concerning the Trinity, Basil of Caesarea (d. 379) writes: “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit alike hallow, quicken, enlighten, and comfort [...] by the Father, and by the Son and by the Holy Spirit, every grace and virtue, guidance, life, consolation, change into the immortal, the passage into freedom and all other good things which come down to man” (Letters, No. 189:7). In his book On the Holy Spirit, the same author writes that the Holy Spirit is “endowed with supreme power of sanctification” (Chapter 18,45). Of those Fathers who reflected explicitly upon the nature of religious experience, perhaps the one who focused greatest attention upon it was Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335- c. 395). Reflecting upon some of the passages in which St. Paul speaks of his own spiritual journey and extraordinary experiences (2 Cor 12: 2-5), Gregory conceives of Christian experience as a continual progression and advance. He writes: “Thus though the new grace we may obtain is greater than what we had before, it does not put a limit on our final goal; rather, for those who are rising in perfection, the limit of the good that is attained becomes the beginning of the discovery of higher goods. Thus they never stop rising, moving from one new beginning to the next, and the beginning of ever greater graces is never limited of itself. For the desire of those who thus rise never rests in what they can already understand; but by an ever greater and greater desire, the soul keeps rising constantly to another that lies ahead, and thus it makes its way through ever higher regions towards the Transcendent,” 16 who in his essence is beyond all experience.

150.  Some texts affirm that the Spirit’s work embraces both the interior life of the believer and the sacramental life of the church (cf. Tertullian, On Baptism, Chap. 4 [c. 198-200]). Pentecostals and Catholics may differ about whether certain rites should be understood as sacraments or ordinances, but they both appreciate the emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life that the Fathers recognized and tried to describe. One patristic example of this may suffice. Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386) in his Catechetical Lectures spoke of the Holy Spirit in strongly experiential terms: “[…] his coming is gentle; the awareness of him is fragrant; his burden is most light; beams of light and knowledge shine forth before his coming” (17,15). The same experiential quality informs his understanding of baptism: “The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes the soul within, and that completely […] why are you so amazed that the Holy Spirit enters into the very recesses of the soul?” (17,14).

151.  Both Catholics and Pentecostals appreciate the experiential dimension of faith found in the writings of the church Fathers. The way they do so is affected by their theological perspectives. For example, Cyril of Jerusalem offers a text which Pentecostals and Catholics could both find meaningful, in spite of the fact that they might glean different implications from it. “Yet [the Holy Spirit] tests the soul. He does not cast his pearls before swine. If you play the hypocrite, though a human minister may baptize you now, the Holy Spirit will not baptize you. If you approach with faith, however, though humans minister in what is seen, the Holy Spirit bestows what is unseen” (Catechetical Lectures, 36). Catholics appreciate in such a text the continuities of church order and sacramental life, and the bestowal of grace by the Holy Spirit through baptism. Pentecostals appreciate especially the charismatic dimensions evident in this passage, as well as the freedom and sovereignty of the Spirit evidenced in this and in many other texts from the ancient church.

D. Contemporary Reflections on Experience in the Christian Life

152. With this biblical and patristic account as background, we turn now to describing ways in which Pentecostals and Catholics today understand experience. In particular we reflect on the role of experience in becoming a Christian, then on experiencing Christian life in community, after which we outline some convergences and challenges to be faced. While we initially developed our contemporary reflections on experience separately, our subsequent conversations pointed us increasingly to the fact that we share much more in common than we originally imagined. For clarity, we chose to keep these reflections separate; however, it is our hope that what we have in common will quickly become apparent to our readers as well.

1. The Role of Experience in Becoming a Christian

a. A Pentecostal Perspective

153. When an adult becomes a Christian the process begins within the heart of the person who is drawn to God in any number of ways. The inquirer is welcomed with the assumption that the Holy Spirit has created a thirst for salvation that can only be satisfied by the waters of eternal life. While Pentecostals generally speak of conversion and repentance as taking place at the beginning of a process, inquiry into what is required to become a Christian is typically met by an invitation to respond to the Gospel, hospitality, and instruction. These factors are intended to start the candidate on the way through a deeper process of conversion, faith, and sanctification by nurturing an awareness of God’s love and the good news of redemption leading to newness of life. It involves turning from sin and deliverance from evil as the candidate is introduced to the demands of the Gospel.

154. Pentecostals would normally regard repentance and conversion as having strong experiential dimensions. For them, conversion entails a decisive break brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. There is, or should be, a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the biography of the convert. Many Pentecostal believers can pinpoint the moment when and where they were converted and typically have a vivid recollection of their baptism in water. Ideally, these elements of Christian Initiation are consciously experienced and remembered as highly significant events in the life of the believer. Pentecostals argue that a mere intellectual assent even when manifested in a memorized form on a regular basis such as the repetition of the Creed, may give inadequate expression to Christian faith in light of the New Testament where conversion is seen as a life changing experience. Such a confession must also be enabled or quickened by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3).

155. Affective experiences in conversion are highly valued and expected by Pentecostals, but they are not regarded as necessary for salvation. Pentecostal preachers often encourage the people in the pew to ‘stand on the Word’ or to ‘take it by faith’ that they are saved. Even if there are no feelings or manifestations, the individual is being encouraged to assume a posture of faith in the promise of God: “Whoever believes [in me] has eternal life” (Jn 6:47). Salvation is not dependent upon what the convert experiences at the moment of conversion. It is rooted in the will of God, who has the express will that people come to him by trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness and remission of sins, and are thereby saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-7). To this end Christ came into the world as 1 Timothy 1:15 teaches. In the verses preceding this text it becomes clear that Paul’s conversion is a matter of God showing him mercy and grace that “overflowed…with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:14). For Pentecostals the experiential dimension of conversion is very important. However, it is more important that there be a profound change in the way the new believer lives his or her life. (cf. Jn 15:5; Col 1:3-6, Gal 5:22-23).

156. In comparison to the early period of the Pentecostal movement, it is now much more common that people come to faith in Christ through a gradual process. Often this is the case with children or young people who have grown up in Pentecostal churches. Such a gradual development of faith in Christ is also generally recognized as a valid conversion even though its experiential dimension might be less dramatic. Yet, it is expected that a believer will at some point profess his or her faith openly and declare his or her readiness to follow Jesus. Often this is expressed within the context of discipleship in preparation for water baptism.

157. The example of the conversion of the household of Cornelius in Acts 10 is part of the Pentecostal global experience. Conversions of entire families or communities are not uncommon in many parts of the world. However, Pentecostals maintain a concern that such group conversions include at some point a personal profession of faith. Appreciation of contemporary parallels to household conversions as reported in Acts 10 may be hindered by individualistic tendencies in the wider culture. Nevertheless Pentecostals are attentive to the work of the Spirit in social networks beyond the individualized self, recognizing that personal decisions are often assisted by relations with friends, family, and other persons.

b. A Catholic Perspective

158. In Catholic understanding conversion to Christ and incorporation into his church entail a rich variety of experiences manifested both by the inner workings of God’s grace in a person and the ecclesial mediation of grace in the preparation for, and the administration and reception of the sacraments of initiation—baptism, confirmation and eucharist.

159. When an adult becomes a Christian the process begins within the heart of the person who is drawn to God in any number of ways. From the church’s perspective the inquirer is welcomed with the assumption that the Holy Spirit has created a thirst for salvation that can only be satisfied by the waters of eternal life. Inquiry is met by hospitality and instruction in the faith that becomes ritually formalized when one enters the catechumenate, which is intended to take the person deeper into the process of conversion and faith by nurturing an awareness of God’s love and the good news of redemption leading to newness of life. This also involves turning from sin and deliverance from evil as the candidate undergoes the scrutinies (questions directed to the motivations of the candidate) in order to prepare him or her to fully profess the faith by reception of the creed. This journey constitutes an existential introduction to the faith and life of the church in the companionship of the catechumens with their sponsors and catechists. Catholics understand this process as essential preparation for baptism. The Catholic Church takes its responsibility in the conversion process very seriously. This is reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which we cite because it is the fruit of a worldwide reflection of bishops, theologians and faithful, which officially describes the understanding of the faith as implemented in pastoral practices all around the world. It notes that “catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites” (CCC 1248).

160. For the majority of Catholics, Christian Initiation begins with infant baptism. As for adults, baptism is the beginning of new life since, being “[b]orn with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have a need of the new birth in baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God”. In this respect infant baptism manifests the “sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation” (CCC 1250). Therefore, Catholic parents are encouraged to have their children baptized shortly after birth. The new life in Christ received in baptism must be nourished and developed through the religious example, formation, and education provided by their parents, godparents, families and church community. This constitutes a post-baptismal catechumenate that is required for the “necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth” (CCC 1231). The normal pattern entails the eventual preparation necessary for the initial reception of the sacraments of reconciliation, eucharist and confirmation at the appropriate ages. Many Catholics will testify that their first holy communion during childhood was a very important and moving event as well as a personal religious experience. By late adolescence most Catholics will have completed their full Christian Initiation through the reception of the sacrament of confirmation. This is the norm for Catholics who observe the Latin or Roman Rite. Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine or other Eastern Rites receive the sacraments of confirmation or chrismation and eucharist together with baptism, their formation being subsequent to the reception of the sacraments of initiation as infants.

161. Since Catholics experience sacraments as mediating the presence and power of God, so too, in Christian Initiation the new converts experience the opening of their hearts and imagination through the rite of baptism that entails words, gestures, actions, and the use of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and social life. Thus water, oil, fire, light, white garments, and the laying on of hands all contribute to the beauty of entering into the joy of salvation. Furthermore the experience of new life in Christ and in the church is deepened by the gathered assembly’s prayerful participation in the liturgical rite and by their welcoming of the baptized into the fellowship and family of the faith community. Most adult catechumens receive the sacraments of initiation during the Easter vigil following the final stages of the conversion process that took place during the season of Lent. This is a graced period for Catholic parishes since Lenten penance and the preparation for Easter invites an intense spiritual engagement by Catholics culminating in the renewal of their baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. In other words, Catholics are called to relive and deepen their Christian conversion every year during these liturgical seasons.

162. In baptism one receives the grace of justification, that is, sanctifying grace that inwardly transforms the person. The church nurtures the inward transformation of the newly baptized in the instruction that follows baptism. This “mystagogy” entails a rich program of further doctrinal formation and introduction to the spiritual and liturgical life of the Christian community that is given during the period after one has received the sacraments of initiation. The renewed Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, drawn from the tradition of the ancient church, is intended to guide the person as “a new creature, an adopted [child] of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1265). Baptismal experience helps a person to grow in faith, hope and love towards God, to live under the prompting of the Holy Spirit and to mature in holiness. Adults also receive the sacrament of confirmation during their initiation, that is, “the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 1302). This increases the grace of baptism such that their sense of divine filiation or adoption is deepened, their union with Christ is more firm, the gifts of the Holy Spirit increase, the bond with the church is more perfect, and by the special strength of the Holy Spirit they are enabled to witness to Christ by word and action (cf. CCC 1303). Reception of the eucharist in ‘first communion’ is a sharing in the sacrament of intimate union with Christ that “preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at baptism.” As “the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death” (CCC 1392), the eucharist grants the necessary nourishment for continued growth in Christian life.

163. The spiritual, affective, and aesthetic dimensions of Christian Initiation therefore communicate the wonder and awe of communion with God, who is all holy and yet shares the divine glory with us. These serve as a gateway into Christian discipleship, the pursuit of holiness and “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558).

2. Experiencing Christian Life in Community

a. A Pentecostal Perspective

164. For Pentecostals the experiential aspect of faith is not limited to the beginning of the Christian life. New Christians are taught to seek the Lord daily in prayer and Scripture reading, and for guidance in their lives. They also are invited to pray fervently in times of need with their brothers and sisters in the assembled community. They are encouraged to participate as often as possible in the activities of the congregation and to be involved in some form of ministry to those who are in need. Since the initiation of the movement a century ago, Pentecostals have been socially active throughout the world with orphanages, distribution of food and clothing, sheltering the homeless and other forms of alleviating social need. Increasingly they are engaging in government by creating awareness as well as serving in office where this is possible, endeavoring to address ethical and social issues. There is an increasing recognition among Pentecostals as they grow in numbers that they have a political responsibility as Christians to use their influence for the good of society. Coming to Christ in faith should be demonstrated or practiced in all aspects of the daily life.

165.  Pentecostals understand grace as penetrating the whole of the Christian life in such a way that God actively transforms the individual believer. This infusion of grace enables the Christian to be open to the things of God, to manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25), and to give an enthusiastic response to all of the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This transformation comes about when an openness toward the things of God and a readiness to respond to God’s call becomes apparent. It comes when an individual approaches God as a result of the wooing or striving of the Holy Spirit described well in the gospel hymn, “Just as I Am without One Plea.” God takes people just as they are, in all their humanity and sinfulness, with all of their strengths and all of their weaknesses, and begins to develop them step by step into the people they have been called to become. Along the way, through the enablement and power of the Holy Spirit, of which the very fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25) are evidence, they are transformed into the image of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18).

166.  Pentecostals speak openly about the role that experience plays within their lives as Christians. They frequently speak of sensing the presence of the Lord, and of experiencing both personal and corporate encounters with God. They do not take these experiences lightly, but recognize the gracious character of all manifestations of the Divine – human encounter. At times these experiences may lead them to periods of profound reverence, of reflective silence, times when a “holy hush” might descend upon them as God comes into their midst. On other occasions, they may shout, or cry, or dance, or sing, or speak in a tongue, or be moved to exhibit some other manifestation. Always, however, they are mindful of the fact that their response depends first and foremost upon God’s presence among them, a manifestation of His grace extended toward them unilaterally.

167.  For Pentecostals, spiritual experience may give way to both individual and ecclesial expressions. Public confession of sin, prayer, and the anointing of the sick, as well as charismatic manifestations intended to edify the people of God are all examples of this within the corporate setting. So, too, do marriage and ordination, when celebrated within and by the community of faith, suggest manifestations of grace that point toward this life together. They also recognize the various gifts that are given to individuals who bring them to the body as it is gathered or take them to the world around them. For most Pentecostals, the willingness of God to use them for His glory is clear evidence that God is working in their lives. For some, it provides an assurance of their salvation. Pentecostals recognize the limits of such reasoning, but readily acknowledge that God is always gracious, often generous, and eagerly forgiving in the everyday realities of life.

168.  Pentecostal life is not confined to time spent together in common prayer, fellowship, and worship. Through the way each person lives the gospel, as representatives of the Christian community, they extend the impact of the Christian community into the secular world. Pentecostals typically offer this service without public fanfare, often, but not always, preferring to work for such benefits as human dignity, health and welfare, and the common good, behind the scenes. In recent years, the impact they are having, particularly in the developing world, has gained growing recognition. 17 As a result, it can be said that not only do they share with Catholics the call to evangelize individuals, but they are also interested in evangelizing culture and pursuing peace and justice.

169.  Given their Restorationist view of history, eschatology has played a significant role within Pentecostalism. Their belief that they are participating in the “Latter Rain” prophesied in Joel 2:23 and that they are living in “the last days” (Acts 2:17), has led them to place mission and evangelism at the center of their existence. Their view of the Kingdom of God as both present and yet coming has led them to view the Holy Spirit not only as the Comforter sent from above (Jn 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26; 16:7-14), the One who sanctifies them (Rom 15:16), or even the One who empowers them through the distribution of various charisms (1 Cor 12:11), but also as a “down payment” or “guarantee” (2 Cor 1:22) of its future blessings, while providing power necessary for them to fulfill their calling between the times (Acts 1:8). They look forward, with hope, to the consummation, when “every knee shall bow” and “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).

170.  Pentecostals are convinced that it is important for believers to seek the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. For some this event is preceded by an experience of sanctification, a breakthrough or definite work of God to enable them to live a holy life and prepare them for Baptism in the Holy Spirit. While most Pentecostal denominations do not teach that there is a separate experience of sanctification, all of them agree that growth in holiness is an important life-long process. The Holy Spirit gives the power by which the believer can mature in holiness and the strength for ministry. Most Pentecostals testify of the wonderful experience of speaking in tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. All believers are admonished to give witness both to the assembled believers as well as to those outside the fellowship concerning what the Lord has done in their lives. To the congregation these testimonies are edifying to their personal faith. The manifestations of the Spirit, as mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, are understood to be spontaneous workings of the Spirit of God in the community using individual believers as He wills for the edification of the whole community. In Pentecostal churches believers often have spiritual mentors who guide them in their spiritual life. They believe that the Gospel touches all of human existence, and therefore there is an increasing attention given to psychological problems, as well as psycho-social problems and medical needs. Thus while they continue to believe and practice divine healing without hesitation, Pentecostal churches are increasingly adding psychological and health care professionals to their staffs to help with such matters.

171.  Pentecostal gatherings take place in a variety of forms, including large worship and celebration services, evangelistic services, prayer and testimony meetings, Bible studies, and small groups. Within the growing diversity of a century old movement there are varieties of worship styles representing the whole spectrum from very demonstrative to more contemplative and quiet forms of worship. An interesting aspect of the movement is the inclusion of cultural elements that promote the spread of the Gospel. This is especially clear on the mission field. While they remain uncompromising as to the content of the Christian message and the moral convictions it engenders, they have often included cultural elements such as rhythmic dancing in worship and indigenous forms of music. Many Pentecostals throughout the world embrace new styles of music, new techniques of communication and generally employ new technical aides as soon as they become available to them. In addition there is a growing openness to the work of the Spirit among churches outside Pentecostal circles, for example literary works from other Christian traditions are read and cherished. Not only traditional hymns and gospel songs but other genres of music are incorporated into their worship services and spirituality. While recognizing this openness, there is however, a strong resistance to anything that is perceived as harmful for Christian life, identity and mission. This particularly concerns those developments in society and culture that are detrimental to spiritual and moral life. Pentecostals are cautious in regards to ecumenism. Although they recognize the work of the Spirit in other Christian traditions, and enter into fellowship with them, they are hesitant to embrace these movements wholeheartedly for fear of losing their own ecclesial identity or compromising their traditional positions.

172.  The communal participation, expectation, and openness for God’s manifest presence in Pentecostal worship allows for spontaneous expressions and actions not clearly part of a traditional practice. Past and present examples include ‘shaking’, ‘rolling’, ‘falling’, ‘dancing’, and ‘resting’ in the Spirit. Experiences such as these may be found in the Bible. They are openly embraced by some Pentecostals and rejected by others. Most Pentecostals accept such experiences, but stress the importance of a life of faith that is not overly dependent on them. In every case there is a need for careful discernment recognizing that what is exceptional should not be declared the rule. Such experiences are not to be sought after as if they were goals in themselves. Their purpose is to bring the believer closer to God. The Christian life should thrive on faith, trust in God and in the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ.

173.  To partake in practices which nurture the faith of both the individual and the believing community is a standard part of the life of Pentecostal believers. In their meetings there is an inherent hunger to experience together the presence and power of God. Pentecostal services provide an opportunity for the whole congregation to participate. They are often marked with lively worship; sometimes loud simultaneous prayer, personal testimony, giving, and passionate preaching of the Word of God. All of this is accompanied by frequent songs of heartfelt music, the style of which varies from culture to culture. It is common in Pentecostal meetings to give an “altar call,” a time for people to come forward for repentance, for healing, deliverance, prayer for special needs, or to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Participation in the charismata is open to all members of the congregation. This is one way Pentecostals exercise the priesthood of all believers (cf. 1 Pet 2:9-10). They believe that all members of the congregation have something to contribute and no one is excluded from doing the Lord’s work.

174.  Other aspects of communal worship include partaking of the Lord’s Supper, baptism and, in some denominations, the washing of feet. Special services are held to ordain ministers, to send out missionaries, to dedicate buildings, and to celebrate weddings and to conduct funerals. Church services often include special ceremonies where infants or children are dedicated to God with special prayers of blessing. The joyful celebration of the dedication of children is not viewed as effecting regeneration, but as an expression of the faith of the parents and the congregation it is a word of blessing spoken over the child’s life, an apprehension of the promised, special consecration of the child (1 Cor 7:14) as well as the commitment of the entire congregation to help rear children in such a way as to enable them also to embrace the faith. An important dimension to each meeting is the time of fellowship, often including refreshments or a meal. All of this testifies to the interpersonal and communal dimension of the Pentecostal faith.

b. A Catholic Perspective

175. Religious experience has been cherished in the church throughout her history. In the earliest centuries, the church Fathers not only witness to the presence of experience in worship, everyday discipleship, prayer and mysticism but also provide the earliest theological reflection about it. The various and venerated traditions of spirituality which appeared over the course of the ages often began with the charisms of the founders of religious orders and lay spiritual movements. In general, such movements were welcomed and encouraged as expressions of the vitality of life in the Spirit. At the same time, precisely because of their importance as potential responses to a genuine experience of God’s grace, the church always sought prudently to “test everything” (cf. 1 Thess 5:21) in order to discern the authenticity of new movements and popular devotions. Such testing led to the resistance or correction of some initiatives, especially those which themselves resisted integration into the life of the wider community, with its visible order of sacraments and ministry in apostolic succession. At times, such caution proved overly zealous and developments that were eventually recognized as genuine responses to the initiatives of the Spirit were at first resisted, gaining acceptance only when their authenticity was proven after a period of patient endurance. As the Catholic Church was entering the period of modernity, vigilance about the potential danger of subjective experience sometimes took a rather exaggerated form in the neo-scholastic theology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which ventured the position that grace was not a matter of psychological awareness at all. Nevertheless, popular devotions, by which the faithful either individually or communally gave more focused attention to one or another aspect of Christian faith or practice, continued to flourish, as was the case early on in Christian history.

176. Recent decades have seen a renewed emphasis upon the importance of experience in Catholic theology that helped initiate and has flowed from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Additionally, many new ecclesial movements including recent movements of spiritual and charismatic renewal have emphasized the role of experience in Christian life. A Catholic understanding of experience will be informed by this long history as well as by the distinctive Catholic theology of grace.

177. The Catholic understanding of grace in fact lends itself to a holistic accounting of God’s work in the believer throughout the Christian life. This means that God is present and active in a person’s life resulting in his or her actual transformation. This transformation includes a disposition, an ongoing process in one’s life, as well as the readiness to respond to God’s call in particular moments. The fruit of grace is evident through growth in virtue, i.e., “the habitual and firm disposition to do good” (CCC 1803). The theological virtues of faith, hope and love enable ongoing communion with God and can be exercised in prayer and service to the Lord and love for one’s neighbor. The moral life is also enabled by the development and practice of what are known as the four cardinal virtues—prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. The principle of grace perfecting nature is very important in Catholic understanding. God takes us where we are with our own temperaments and talents and perfects them at a supernatural level by both healing the effects of sin in one’s life and elevating one to participate in the divine life such that Christian virtue exceeds what is possible at the natural level alone—for example, not only to love one’s friends but one’s enemies as well. The gifts of the Holy Spirit—both those that sanctify the person and those that edify the community (charismata)—remind us that the call to Christian perfection, understood as the fullness of charity, requires the power of the Holy Spirit to be present in the Christian life for both holiness and mission.

178. The rich experiential tone of the Christian life has always been evident in the spiritual traditions of the church. Experiences of spiritual consolation such as an awareness of God’s presence that increases faith, hope and love are interpreted not as the assurance of salvation but as evidence that God is at work in one’s life. Such experiences can be quite powerful, even moving the recipient to tears and ecstasy. Catholics also believe that “grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith” (CCC 2005). This means that God’s grace exceeds our experience of it and is present even when we may not be aware of it, in both the consolations and desolations of the spiritual life, in the raptures of exaltation and in the wilderness of what is called the dark night of the soul, and most of all in the everyday realities of life.

179. The communal dimension of experience informs all aspects of Catholic spiritual life. Spiritual experience has a distinct ecclesial shape to it. The sacramental and liturgical life of the church is the primary way in which all Catholics are formed in the Christian life. Sacraments mediate grace within the context of the church’s liturgy, that is, the community at prayer. The social dimension of human life is intrinsic to the sacraments in that they always entail celebrations with others. We have already discussed the sacraments of initiation of which the eucharist continues as the ongoing nourishment of the Christian community. The sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick minister to the believer in need. Reconciliation or penance is especially important as the ongoing sacrament of Christian conversion whereby the believer discovers the wonders of God’s healing grace as one comes to more deeply recognize the poverty of one’s sinfulness and experiences the joy of being a holy penitent. The sacraments of matrimony and holy orders grace one for a state in life.

180. The sacraments are the foundation of communal life and experience within Catholicism. However, a rich variety of popular devotions has developed, diverse in content and style, both reflecting the wealth of the socio-cultural sensibilities of believers and requiring guidance by leaders at local, regional and universal levels so as to ensure their conformity to the one Gospel and the one faith which unites the whole community. Common life and spiritual friendship, including the profound relationships some Catholics have with their confessors and spiritual directors, highlight the fact that the Christian journey is undertaken with others. Religious congregations comprised of those who vow to live according to the Gospel counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience after the example of Jesus (poverty: Mt 8:20; 19:21; 2 Cor 8:9; chastity: Mt 19:12; cf. 1 Cor 7:32-35; obedience: Jn 4,34; 5:30; Heb 10:7, Phil 2:8) constitute yet another common way of life undertaken together as disciples of the Lord. Discipleship, however, is not limited to such forms of consecrated life.

181. The life of the laity in Catholic families and parishes as well as their vocation to live the gospel in the secular world underscores the presence of Christian community in the domestic sphere, in the parish congregation, and in the engagement of the people of God in society. Indeed “the world thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 15). Hence, for the laity, who comprise the vast majority of Catholics, discipleship in community is intended to permeate all the dimensions of their spiritual lives. It is experienced in marriage, which the church proclaims as “an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence” (CCC 1613), and in the family as the “domestic church” and “the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society” (Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 40). It is lived in the parish where the laity’s ecclesial participation manifests itself in common prayer, fellowship, service and mission. Due to the varieties of charisms that the Spirit bestows this may also take the form of lay ecclesial movements beyond parish structures based upon a particular spirituality and/or mission. It also extends into society where “charity gives life and sustains the works of solidarity that looks to the total needs of the human being” (Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 41), where the dignity of the person is upheld, and where public life based upon the common good is intended to be for everyone and by everyone (cf. Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 42). Therefore, Catholics are called to evangelize culture and pursue justice and peace as signs of the kingdom to come.

182. Because Catholics see the church as a communion called into being by word and sacrament, all personal spiritual experience is a sharing in this communion, and is therefore profoundly ecclesial in nature. Moreover, this communion proceeds from the life and self-giving of the triune God and is also experienced by Catholics in the communion of saints that embraces both the living and the dead—that “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). The presence of Mary and the saints in the church’s life, together with the church’s prayer for the faithful departed, call to one’s awareness their presence with us and for us, as Catholics seek to be with each other in service to the Lord. By exemplifying the Christian life and assisting us with intercession, the saints enrich and shape our communal experience. Most of all “Church communion is a gift, a great gift of the Holy Spirit to be gratefully accepted by the lay faithful, and at the same time to be lived with a deep sense of responsibility” (Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 20).

183. Eschatology or the “Last Things” also shapes Catholic experience in a fundamental way. All the sacraments and our earthly liturgies are celebrated until the coming of the Lord. Christians exist between the times with the gift of the Holy Spirit as a “down payment” of what is to come (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13-14). We hope for what we do not see and wait for it with patience (Rom 8:24-25). This extends to our personal mortality which for Catholics becomes the subject of spiritual desire as traditionally expressed in the prayer of the “Hail Mary” —“pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” Also, one’s suffering in sickness is united with the passion and death of Christ through prayer and the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (CCC 1521-1522) including one’s final sufferings in death when reception of the body and blood of Christ in that final holy communion known as the “viaticum” has “particular significance and importance” as one “passes over” to the Father (CCC 1524). All of these are important dimensions of the spiritual life. It also makes us realize that we still await a “new heaven and new earth where God’s righteousness will dwell” (2 Pet 3:13), where sin and death will be overcome, and “every tear will be wiped away” (Rev 21:4). Living in the time between Pentecost and the Parousia we experience the graced realities of Christian life imperfectly even as Catholics acknowledge that “[A]ll Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Lumen gentium 40, CCC 2013) until the consummation of salvation is brought to completion.

3. Convergences and Challenges Regarding Experience in the Christian Life

184. Through our dialogue on the role of experience in Christian faith and community we Pentecostals and Catholics are grateful to God for the mutually illuminating insights that our conversations have provided. We have seen, as in the section just completed (paras 164-183), that there are significant convergences between Pentecostals and Catholics on important matters; there is much that we can say together. And we quickly discovered that some standard stereotypes of each of our traditions are too simplistic for any members of our communities to hold. For example, the superficial observation that Pentecostals largely live in their hearts and emotions while Catholic life is solely determined by theological abstractions and outward rituals belies the profound way in which religious experience is important for us, both in regard to the common Christian faith that we share and the differences that do distinguish us. We hope that our reflections will benefit our respective communities.

185. Pentecostals and Catholics identify the source of their experience in God’s action in our lives as known in the present but witnessed in the sources of divine revelation. Primarily this refers to the biblical witness which has formed each of our communions in a foundational way. We also see that witness being lived by subsequent generations of Christians. In this dialogue we have given particular attention to the church Fathers because of their proximity to the biblical witness and the richness of their spiritual experience. While Catholics and Pentecostals differ on the authority of the church Fathers for their ecclesial life we have found common ground in our desire to imitate their manner of integrating doctrine and life. Their example of the connection between understanding the faith, spirituality, and holiness of life is an encouragement to us. For Catholics the “sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of …Tradition,” which along with Sacred Scripture is a distinct mode of transmission for the Word of God (CCC 78). The church Fathers occupy a privileged place within Tradition. As a servant of the Word of God the Magisterium, or teaching office in the church, (i.e., the bishops in communion with the Pope), is entrusted with the authority to interpret the Word of God especially in the matter of defining dogmas of the faith and teaching doctrine. Pentecostals do not hold to this same view of Tradition nor do they possess a teaching office although doctrinal standards are maintained. Different Pentecostal denominations have developed various procedures to adjudicate doctrinal disputes. But they do not exclude the witness of the church Fathers and to the extent that this witness is authentically governed by the biblical norm, it can serve as an example for Christian life today. Therefore while our respective understandings of the manner in which divine revelation is communicated still differ we have discovered that a focus on Christian experience in the Fathers has enriched both of us. Catholics can rejoice in the biblical ethos that so much informs the Fathers and Pentecostals appreciate how the life of the ancient church was a journey on the part of the Christian community to live in the Holy Spirit.

186. By reading Scripture and the writings of the church Fathers together we have also discovered a common depth to the contemporary faith experience of Catholics and Pentecostals. It has been important to realize that the affective dimension of experience is intrinsic to both of our traditions even if the shape and manner of that affectivity may differ amid many common experiences as well. This embraces several levels of experience and our evaluation of it. We agree that affective experience is not an end in itself but a means through which we encounter God. We resist outward formal expression alone. Pentecostals clearly distinguish between “going through the motions” and authentic faith, while Catholics speak of the proper inner dispositions for liturgical prayer and the reception of the sacraments. The main purpose of spiritual experience is transformative which means that feelings alone are not the measure of experience but the faith that it engenders and the moral life that it nourishes. In the absence of the felt presence of God one needs to persevere in faith. God intends that the gift of experiencing his presence and power is to transform us into the image of Christ and enable us carry out his mission.

187. The discernment of experiences is a necessary and present dimension of our contemporary church life even as we are mindful of the need to grow in the mature exercise of this gift. Certain experiences are meaningful for faith because they stir holy desires and passions and through the grace of God present in and through them we grow in the Christian life. We also agree that religious experiences enhance our sense of God’s presence in daily life—what we earlier described as the religious dimension of all experience—so that life is intended to be sanctified in all its aspects. Nothing less is to be expected as the fruit of the incarnation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Discernment also concerns the ecclesial or corporate recognition of the presence and operation of spiritual gifts and of new spiritual movements in the church at large. There are many examples of this such as discerning the charism of a new movement or religious order, the ministry of a healing evangelist, a new site of pilgrimage, the start of new devotion, a new revival that attracts multitudes, a new prophetic claim or biblical interpretation, and many other pastoral situations.

188. We have also come to the insight that our religious experiences overcome an unwarranted dichotomy between the personal and social or individual and communal dimensions of experience. The experiences to which we have borne witness in our reading and sharing with each other often embrace both dimensions. A Christian, either Catholic or Pentecostal, is deeply touched by God eliciting a profound existential response to his presence and will. At the same time the experience is influenced by the ecclesial community whether it takes place in the worship assembly, in one’s private prayer, or even in daily life. The nature of the community including its particular culture gives shape and texture to experience. Therefore, it is no surprise that Catholic experience is informed by sacramental symbolism, devotional imagery and expressions, and contemplation and silence. Pentecostals are shaped by the vibrant praise of their gatherings, biblical preaching and study, expectation of signs, wonders and charismatic manifestations, and their commitment to evangelism and missionary work.

189. It is true that in worship Catholics are more oriented toward liturgical rites while Pentecostals emphasize the charismatic dimensions of the worshipping assembly. Also, our respective doctrines and theologies of grace inform our interpretation of our religious experiences. For example, we differ on our understanding of the assurance of salvation and its relation to experience. Pentecostals testify to the certainty of the salvation that God freely offers in Christ and Catholics envision that assurance as a matter of hope and prayer. One recurrent theme throughout this phase of dialogue has been the relationship between event and process in conversion, faith, discipleship/formation and, now, in experience. Our dialogue has alerted us to the fact that both dimensions are present in each of our traditions although with different levels of expectation and evaluation. Pentecostals can usually point to the event (perhaps even crisis) experience of conversion, sanctification (if they are also Wesleyan-Holiness), and Baptism in the Holy Spirit. But they also testify to many other experiences, some with a punctiliar sense of event and crisis, and others more processive in nature because they are extended over a period of time. These will entail assurances not necessarily of the distinct works of grace mentioned above but simply of some new thing God is doing in their lives. Catholics likewise can point to both types of experience. The ‘event’ type of experience may include distinct moments of God’s working as a conversion experience—a ‘first conversion’ of coming to faith or a ‘second conversion’ to live a holy life. Or, it may simply be a consolation in prayer—a lively and peaceful sense of God’s presence that increases one’s awareness of divine grace at work. But ‘event’ types of experiences will also include sacramental and liturgical elements. An example of this is the experience of many a daily communicant who will witness to the steady, habitual, and serene sense of being nourished spiritually by the event of receiving the Lord Jesus in the eucharist in the same sacramental rite day after day. Both Catholics and Pentecostals also recognize that pastoral ministry plays an essential role in conversion and the formation in discipleship of the believing community. Pastoral wisdom and planning are not detrimental to experience, but should foster it.

190. In the course of our dialogue we have come to realize that we have much more in common in our experience of the spiritual life than we expected. Mutual sharing and prayer have brought us to a deep appreciation of our common Christian experience. This includes both the affective and aesthetic dimensions of becoming a Christian as vital, personal, and transformative. Catholics and Pentecostals recognize that the thirst for salvation is at the same time a work of the Spirit and a human response. This level of experience continues after conversion in areas as diverse as family life, work, civic life, and the promotion of justice and peace in society. Our traditions encourage lay witness and participation in the mission of the church. We agree that all of this is grounded in the pursuit of holiness and in active congregational and parish life. Moreover, we emphasize the need for discernment embracing deep personal consciousness of what God is doing as well as the necessity to test new manifestations of spirituality. In all this we are aware that God leads us in a wide range of spiritual experiences, extraordinary and ordinary, joyous and sad, and those which make us aware of our spiritual riches or poverty, where we share in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, we confess together with Paul: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3: 10-11). We are united in hope that despite our sin, weaknesses, and divisions God will bring to perfection what he has begun in us until the day of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 1:6).

 191. Still there are differences between us. Charismatic manifestations like glossolalia and sacramentally-oriented devotions such as the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament may seem worlds apart to some. Our experiences will vary. As we have noted charismatic experiences have been present in the Catholic Church and Pentecostals are not averse to order and ritual in their services. Yet, we have discovered that in hearing each other, and in witnessing each other’s faith, hope, and love we are drawn more deeply to Christ. We hope through the power of the Spirit that our mutual recognitions will enhance our communion with each other and strengthen our common witness to the world.



  1. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, “Spirit and Experience in Bernard of Clairvaux,” Theological Studies 58 (1997),16.

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  2. Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, edited and translated by Herbert Mursillo, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1979, poem no. 2800.

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  3. The recent study, “Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals,” conducted by the Pew Forum, may be accessed online at http://pewforum.org/publications/surveys/pentecostals-06.pdf; Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

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