I was reading an email the other day written by a very orthodox, religious order priest who recounted how, at one time, he used to be very, very strongly opposed to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He has since come to understand and embrace the Renewal. Yet, it is interesting to dwell on the two factors that he self-identified as creating the initial barriers that he faced in welcoming the Renewal: 1.) his awareness of abuses by charismatics; and 2.) an over intellectual emphasis in his own spiritual life. He went on to note that he eventually realized that abuses do not destroy the value of something good, just as the religious life is not worthless simply because of real abuses in certain religious orders.
But, of most interest to me, was the admission that one barrier was an over intellectual emphasis in his own spiritual life. I think he put his finger on a real problem for many conservative, orthodox Catholics. Because of so much confusion and abuse in the past decades spawned by theological liberals, we naturally tended to focus excessively on a legalistic, abstract, doctrinal view of the faith so we could determine if we or others fit into the "obedient" or "faithful" category. Yes, such boundary issues are necessary and at times unavoidable in a very theologically illiterate world. Yet, the core of our faith is not a series of abstract doctrinal, intellectual propositions to which we give a mere intellectual assent. Rather, the core of our faith, as constantly reiterated in innumerable statements by Pope Benedict XVI, is the personal encounter with the love of Jesus. That personal encounter leads to personal (and even personality!) transformation. That personal encounter makes sense of all the doctrinal propositions in a way that mere intellectual brooding and analysis cannot. That personal encounter is the core of the Christian faith and is the key to understanding what the Renewal is all about: deepening and empowering through the Holy Spirit that continuing encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the measure of all things.