Yes! Yes! And even more Yes! There is definitely room for a charismatic laity in the Catholic Church. As John Paul II said, “the hierarchical and the charismatic dimensions of the Church are co-essential.”
However, there are some important distinctions to be made. By the grace of baptism, we are not only adopted by God as sons daughters, united to the Body of Christ, but we also share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal office. This means that every baptized man and woman (laypeople) bears a personal responsibility for the mission of the Church.
Unlike the ordained, whose office is configured for service to the People of God (to teach, sanctify, and govern), the office of the laity is configured for service to the world. It has, as the Church teaches, a uniquely secular character and we are called to live that office particularly through our lives in the world. Every baptized layperson, therefore, is sent out by Christ in to the world. This is why the Church speaks of the lay apostolate. Lay men and women are apostles of Christ for the world. We are called, as JPII wrote in Christifidelis Laici, “to transform the structures of the world . . .and restore to creation all of its original dignity.”
One of the things to remember is that the edification (building up) of the Body doesn’t just mean the care and nurturing of the Christian community–but it also means the growth of the Body (evangelizing people and social structures with the reality of Christ’s love for them). That’s why the Church proclaimed in Apostolicam Actuositatem (The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity) at the Second Vatican Council that "a member who doesn’t work toward the growth of the Body to the degree which he is able, must be considered useless both to himself and the Church!
That’s how important living out our mission to the world is.
We do this by growing more rooted to Christ (who is our Head) through our life in the world, and also by living out our faith (in word and deed), applying the gospel to every human encounter and siuation. The charisms are amazing ways in which God has equipped lay men and women to be His hands and feet in the world. They are a powerful, supernatural means by which His love and provision will reach others. In that way, they are integral to the laity as we live out our vocation in the world.
All that being said, the charisms are also important for the care, nurturing, and spiritual growth of the Christian community. While it is true that the Eucharist (Christ’s sacramental Presence) is the source and summit of our faith, and that the Celebration of the Mass is not an appropriate time to utilize charisms like prophecy, the reality is that all of the Church’s spiritual life and power flows from the Eucharist (that is, Christ). Therefore, the charisms are very powerful (and very appropriate) when used in other non-Liturgical settings (such as retreats, small faith community gatherings, prayer groups, and one-on-one prayer and counseling, for example).
So, charisms are very important to the lay vocation. In a very real sense, all Catholics are charismatic. Some people are uncomfortable with charisms, however, because they have an experience or an opinion of the Charismatic Renewal (a particular movement within the modern Church that began in the late 60’s). What I have discussed here is not connected to any particular movement within the Church but is part of established Church teaching.
If you are interested in exploring this more, I would suggest:
*]The Catechism (particularly the areas about the nature of the Church)
*]The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Vat II)
*]Christifidelis Laici (JPII Apostolic Exhortation)
*]The Catherine of Siena Institute (www.siena.org)[/LIST]God bless!