About Baptism in the Spirit?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the foundational element in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. It is a significant, personal, and religious experience for individual Catholics. This new understanding about the Holy Spirit is a major element in the renewal of the Catholic Church.

Baptism in the Spirit in the New Testament

John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

I (John the Baptist) baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
— New American Bible: Revised Edition (NABRE), 2011, Matthew 3:11

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
— NABRE, 2011, Mark 1:8-11

Le Baptême du Christ -- Le Tintoret, 1594 -- Baptism in the Spirit

Le Baptême du Christ -- Le Tintoret, 1594

“‘I (John the Baptist) did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.’  John testified further, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.’”
— NABRE, 2011, John 1:31-34

Jesus spoke with His apostles and ask the to wait for the Holy Spirit.

“While meeting with them (apostles), he (Jesus) enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for ‘the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.””
— NABRE, 2011, Acts 1:4-5

Jesus addressed His apostles just before his Assension.

He (Jesus) said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
— NABRE, 2011, Mark 16:15-18

Peter recounts his visit to Gentiles home.

“As I (Peter) began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.’  If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”  When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, ‘God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.’”
— NABRE, 2011, Acts 11:15-1

Paul encountered a group of disciples while visiting Ephesus.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” He said, “How were you baptized?” They replied, “With the baptism of John.” Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid [his] hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether there were about twelve men.
— NABRE, 2011, Acts 19:1-7

Baptism in the Spirit In the Early Church

In the early centuries the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacraments of Confirmation were established.  The baptism of the spirit is an integral part of these sacraments.  These were the sacraments of initiation into the Christian life—but an experience of the Holy Spirit was expected to accompany reception of those sacraments.

In the earliest surviving document from around 215 A.D. “On Baptism”, Tertullian described the Sacrament of Baptism in these words:

Therefore, you blessed one, for whom the grace of God is waiting, when you come up from the most sacred bath of the new birth, when you spread out your hands for the first time in your mother’s house with your brethren, ask your Father, ask your Lord, for the special gift of his inheritance, the distributed charisms, which form an additional, underlying feature  [of baptism].  Ask, he says, and you shall receive.  In fact, you have sought and you have found: you have knocked, and it has been opened to you.”
— McDonnell and Montague, “Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, p. 108.

In 335 A.D. St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote a series of “Catechetical Lectures” and “Mystagogical Catecheses.”  Because of his works, he received the title: “Doctor of the Church.” He stated:

Those who are about to be baptized even now in the Holy Spirit, should bring with them an expanded expectation.  They need only make large their awareness and he will grant you charisms of every kind. … My final words, beloved brethren, in this instruction, will be word of exhortation, urging all of you to prepare your sons for the reception of the heavenly charisms (plural).”
— McDonnell and Montague,  p. 217.

Baptism in the Spirit Today

When Christians receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, they may not be guided to become reliant on the Person of the Holy Spirit.  They may not know about the Spirit’s guidance, Power, Spiritual Gifts. Thus, while they fully received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, in many cases the effects of that anointing were not actualized.

With the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1967, there was the development of the “Baptism in the Spirit”.  This in no way changed or replaced the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  Rather it served as the means to release the full potential of the anointing of the Holy Spirit  received in those sacraments.  McDonnell and Montague stated it this way:

The baptism in the Spirit in this instance is a bringing to awareness and a new actuality the graces of initiation already received. In no way does this imply that the ‘original act of baptism was deficient or inadequate.’ Nor is it just a psychological moment. Rather it is the sovereign act of Christ: Jesus is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.
— McDonnell and Montague, p. 217

Such an actualization of a previously bestowed grace can be found in the New Testament.  The author of 2 Timothy writes:

‘For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”
— NABRE, 2011, Timothy 1: 6-7

What is the Baptism in the Spirit?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the ‘primary’ grace of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  Experiencing this Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a key part of what makes somebody a renewed person or a Charismatic.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an action of God, invited by an individual through prayer, which brings about a deeper conversion to Christ, and which gives the Holy Spirit permission to work in that individual’s life in a more powerful way.

This powerful action of the Holy Spirit is often accompanied by the ‘charisms’ or ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St Paul.

It might help to think of this experience like inviting a good friend to move in with you. You begin to discover more about your friend, and open up some of your own more private thoughts and feelings to them. Being alongside somebody like this brings joy, and having your friend encouraging you, you may grow in the courage to experience new interests and skills you never knew you had! In short, the experience transforms the way you view life.

The Baptism in the Spirit is not a Sacrament, but it does revitalise and stir up the graces received in the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism and Confirmation).

Some people consider that in the Early Christian Community, Baptism was such a powerful event in the individual’s life that there was no need for a new stirring up of the Spirit as we need today. In fact, Baptism was only conferred on adults after a lengthy period of catechesis, and only then if there were clear signs of a transformation and conversion in an individual’s life.

The Baptism in the Spirit doesn’t only re-ignite the graces already given to Christians through the Sacraments – it’s also a new, fresh experience of the Holy Spirit which equips and inspires the individual for service, for mission, for discipleship and for life.
Catholic Charismatic Renewal, UK

This process of leading a participant to the baptism in the Spirit is usually done through a seminar titled: “Life in the Spirit.”  It is a series of exercises that prepare the participant to surrender more fully to the Lord. In short, it elevates the participants understanding of the role and mission of the third Person of God — the Holy Spirit. It establishes a strong expectation that the fire of the Spirit will be stirred up in the participants.  Further, that the Charisms of the Holy Spirit will become active in the participants.

Through the “baptism in the Spirit” we are led through an enlightenment and conversion process that enables us to receive a fuller experience of the Spirit, His power, and charisms in their lives.  As we become more reliant on the Spirit, we are led into a charismatic spirituality that is focused on building up others and the Church.


Stiring the fire of the Holy Spirit through a Life in the Spirit seminar is a life changing process.  If it is embraced, it will change a persons life and relationship to the Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  One participant at a Life in the Spirit seminar, Fr. Paul Sciberras, documented his experience.  Here is a link to his testimony.

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

Finding your Spiritual Gifts -- Beginning with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The same Holy Spirit, who dwells in Jesus, is in you. The same Holy Spirit who enabled and empowered Mary to be the Mother of God dwells in you.   Realize the power of the Holy Spirit is in you. Welcome all gifts and charisms. Bear fruit with your gifts, and celebrate the gifts of others. Expect great things to happen when you are using your spiritual gifts.
— Archdiocese of St.Louis

“Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of all, and to the needs of the world. They are a wonderful rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ,”
— CCC, 2000, para. 799-800

The Spiritual Gifts come from Jesus and the Holy Spirit at the time of your Baptism and Confirmation.  However, it takes a personal encounter with our Lord or a spark, such as the Baptism in the Spirit, to wake us up to all the gifts that are available to us. Even then, it takes a willing person to actively respond to the invitation and seek a closer relationship with our God. Then each of us is ready to ask the Lord which of the Gifts He has in mind for you.

The full list of Spiritual Gifts (Fruits, Gifts and Charisms) is shown on the Spiritual Gifts page on this website.

I encourage you to follow these steps and actively seek the Lord and the Gifts He has given you. As you become aware of these Spiritual Gifts in your life: seek them: accept them; learn about them; and ask the Lord to help you to put them into use in your daily life. Then give thanks and praise to our Lord for all He has done for you.