Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both called repeatedly for an examination of the role of charisms and the Holy Spirit in evangelisation today.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has made re-evangelisation one of the major initiatives for the Dublin Archdiocese and has established a special office for the purpose.
This timely book responds to these movements by examining the role of the charisms in the new evangelisation. Fr Pat Collins presents an in-depth study of the charisms, mentioned by St Paul in First Corinithians. He considers the relevant passages in the Bible, as well as the writings of the Fathers of the Church. He studies St Thomas Aquinas and the speeches and writings of Pope Benedict XVI.
He concludes that these charisms can play an important role in the effective evangelisation in our secularised society, where many people seem to have lost sight of the transcendental dimension of life.
Pat Collins CM belongs to the Congregation of the Mission, known as the Vincentians. He has preached in twenty-six countries, conducted parish missions, and helped to establish the Alpha Course in Ireland. Having completed an STL degree in the new evangelisation he is currently exploring how to rekindle the faith in ways that are new in ardour, method and forms of expression. He is the author of several books including the highly praised "Unveiling the Heart: How to Overcome Evil in the Christian Life" (Veritas, 1995).
Though a brief notice of this book has already appeared, I feel there is much more that might be said about it for the benefit of the ordinary reader.
Fr Pat Collins CM has preached in 26 countries and written seventeen books. He is known for his work as an exorcist and he lectures on the psychology of religion in St Patricks College. In 2008 Fr Collins received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology which focused on the New Evangelisation. While studying in Detroit, Michigan, he decided to write this book about the subject.
He took to heart and implemented the words of Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi: We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelising all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelise.
Fr Collins also quotes Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio: No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
There is a tendency in some quarters of the Church to downplay, if not openly deny, the possibility of miracles and the supernatural, Fr Collins draws our attention to one of the most influential students of the Bible in the 20th century, Rudolf Bultmann.
Bultmann maintained that New Testament stories of signs and wonders should be demythologised. He claimed that the New Testament worldview was mythical. Don Cupitt expressed a somewhat similar view in his book The Sea of Faith derived from his TV series.
Fr Collins, however, claims: There is a growing minority of Christian men and women who have rejected the reductionist, anti-supernatural bias of a good deal of liberal theology in order to adhere to the magisterium of the Church which believes in God, but also the divinity of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the existence of good and evil spirits and the possibility of such things as healings, miracles and exorcisms.
There is a deep yearning in the human heart for God and for spiritual values. Even though many people may not be part of institutional religion they have a longing for the transcendent.
Fr Collins continues: No wonder a new evangelisation is needed to name and build upon that subliminal awareness. It is not all that surprising that God has once again granted the charisms to a growing number of believers. It seems that the main reason for this Pentecostal blessing is the ability of the supernatural gifts to bear witness to the power and presence of God in a secular world.
He goes on to remind us of the words of Mother Teresa about what she called the new Poor, those in the developed nations: Here you have a different kind of poverty - a poverty of the spirit, a loneliness, and being unwanted. And that is the worst disease in the world today, not tuberculosis or leprosy. People today are hungry for love, for understanding love, which is much greater and which is the only answer to loneliness and great poverty.
Fr Collins quotes the psychologist Viktor Frankl in support of Mother Teresa. Frankl spoke about an existential vacuum which can result in all kinds of neurotic illnesses and a profound sense of emptiness and even despair.
What comes across in this book are Fr Collins deep belief in the healing power of prayer and his sincere desire to make God known and loved by as many people as possible.
- Anthony Redmond, The Irish Catholic, 19 February 2008