Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries. By Kilian McDonnell, OSB and George T. Montague, SA. Second revised edition. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991, 1994. A Michael Glazier Book


Fr. George T. Montague, SM.

  George T. Montague, SM.

The International Pentecostal-Roman Catholic Conversation which has been in dialogue since 1972 with co-chairs Kilian McDonnell, OSB and the Reverend Cecil (Mel) Robeck, expressed their gratitude for this work which McDonnell published with Montague. As the title indicates the work carefully studies the New Testament witness to baptism in the Holy Spirit which was researched by Montague, and the evidence of eight centuries of careful development and precision about baptism in the Holy Spirit and the charisms given in the sacraments of initiation, which was researched by McDonnell in the writings of Fathers of the Church.


The scriptural account of charisms, including the prophetic, establish that the sacraments of initiation, especially baptism and confirmation, give grace, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and charisms. The gift of charisms is considered to be normative as well as baptism in the Holy Spirit which sometimes includes the phenomenon of speaking in tongues.


The analysis of the patristic evidence covers eight centuries and various sources and places/rites showing that baptism in the Holy Spirit continued though the interpretation of the gifts and charisms given had some minor and major differences according to the various traditions. The Syriac tradition is particularly interesting because it did not suffer the kinds of cautions/conservatism of the Greek and Latin rites. The errors of Montanism are avoided, though this does not alter the persuasion that baptism in the Holy Spirit was part of the grace given with the sacrament of baptism and confirmation.


Receptive Ecumenism


Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB

 Kilian McDonnell, OSB

Paul D. Murray has developed an important variation on the “ecumenism of life”promoted by Cardinal Walter Kasper. In his introduction to Murray’s Receptive Ecumenism, (Oxford Univ.  Press, 2008), Kasper links Murray’s insights and his own “ecumenism of life” to the Second Vatican Council’s stress on “spiritual ecumenism” as the heart of the ecumenical movement. Rather than stress what we can teach others about our faith, Murray suggests that our primary task is to emphasize what we can learn from each other. In this context there is much we can learn from Pentecostals. They have lived the Christian life with a profound concentration on baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of charisms as central in sacramental life and Christian living. We would do well to learn what we might do to revitalize our own Christian life with a similar emphasis on the Holy Spirit and his gifts.