In our own days we have observable evidence of crime rates plummeting in cities that have hosted World Youth Days, during those days of grace and lingering for a while afterwards.
Surely the situation is worse now that what it was in the 1850s and 1900s, with global threats to peace, terrorism, breakdown in family life, large decreases in the numbers of those identifying themselves as Christian, and the multiplication of crimes that attract God's vengeance. It feels like we have forgotten how to call out to God for His answers and solutions.
Revival isn't a word that Catholics use. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, just that our experience of it often gets called movements or currents of grace - and that most of them are ongoing.
Perhaps the first great movement after the Apostolic era was the Desert Fathers where, in imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert in prayer, fasting and battle with the evil one, many men and women responded to this calling and pathway to holiness when getting martyred was no longer an option. That channel of grace is still flowing, whenever people read their writings and decide to follow Jesus more radically.
Monasticism was another great movement of grace, born from the Desert Fathers, where instead of living isolated and coming together only for the Sunday Eucharist, they began living a common life and various rules of life sprang up. The Rules of St Benedict, of St Basil and of St Augustine are still living wells of grace for those multitudes of people who today live under them.
St Francis and St Dominic both felt the call to poverty and preaching, and enormous numbers followed them, and still do today in the various Franciscan and Dominican orders.
For all its faults, the crusades were another movement of grace. What else could inspire so many to heroically leave home to serve God as both warrior and pilgrim?
Wherever God has raised up individuals of outstanding holiness, rivers of grace flowed. We can see that in the ministry of St Vincent Ferrer and the successful preaching tours he undertook through Europe with his co-worker priests and penitents. St Catherine of Siena was another, just gazing upon her was enough to convert many to Jesus.
We've then got the massive movement of grace we now call the counter-reformation headed by St Charles Borromeo, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier and the Jesuits, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and the Carmelites. The city of Rome was profoundly converted through the prayers, and witness of St Philip Neri and those who joined him in the Oratory movement.
The French Revolution was devastating, but from that pain and suffering all kinds of new religious movements and religious orders were born, many marked by devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus – itself an extraordinary outpouring of grace that spread like wild fire.
The Miraculous Medal, 1830, brought with it a tidal wave of grace that is still abundant today. We can see the same thing in the rapid spread of devotion to the Divine Mercy across the globe in the later part of the 20th century.
When it comes to tsunamis of grace, the tilma of St Juan Diego with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe converted multitudes of Central and South Americans to the gospel of Jesus almost overnight. Today millions of people visit that shrine in Mexico each year.
St Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje, La Salette and other places where God has sent the Virgin Mary remain places of extraordinary grace and conversion.
Then there's the Cursillo movement, Marriage Encounter, Catholic Action, Teams of Our Lady, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Antioch movement for young people, the Neo Catechumenate, and many other movements in living memory. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal exploded in grace at Pittsburgh in 1967 and was holding truly international conferences in Rome by 1975.
These are but the tips of the iceberg when it comes to movements of grace that our protestant brothers and sisters could call revival. Many of them have an individual of outstanding holiness at the initiation of them, with a charism of founder or foundress. Others have charisms of preaching and healing, like Fr Emiliano Tardif of living memory, and great crowds gathered wherever he was sent around the world.
The movement of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has brought healing, conversion and drops in the local crime rate where ever it has been established, as well as many vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
How did many of them start? Usually by an individual or group deciding to take God seriously in a radical way. Some saw the needs of the time and asked, 'God, what do you want me to do about it?' At other times the beginning was a sovereign work of God, gifting someone with extraordinary charisms and calling them to unusual levels of holiness. What we don't know on this side of eternity is how many of these movements of grace began with the long term prayers of a mother like St Monica for St Augustine or the mother of Alan Ames, or the prayers of grandparents; nor how many began in response to someone dedicating their lives to God under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. There are just too many stories of the link between a religious vocation and the start of a very fruitful priestly vocation, for this to be discounted.
So Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and active throughout all of Church history, and in our era too. All He needs are willing partners in His divine plans, especially people willing to pray and offer up sacrifices in supplication for the grace of conversion for many - and people willing to be obedient to His inspirations no matter how wacko we may think of them.
There's our challenge. Be like them, and with the Holy Spirit change our world into a better place, or play it safe and watch as humanity heads down the slippery slope to destruction.
Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, pray for us.
All holy men and women used by God to bring rivers of grace to others, pray for us.