Monday, February 26, 2007

A Protestant Looks in on Catholic Charismatics

This a response to an interesting Roman Catholic blog "Dubious Criticisms of the Gift of Tongues".

The reality is that today many, many good, practicing, orthodox Catholics have experienced praying in tongues. Yet, understandably, many others recoil with fear and suspicion at such claims because it is something new that the Holy Spirit is doing after many centuries of its being relegated to the experience of mystics and canonized saints.

Some of those who understandably recoil, keep an open mind they know that the Popes and the bishops have embraced and continually encouraged the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as part of the universal call to holiness authentically and explicitly affirmed by the texts of Vatican II.

Some of those who initially recoiled have themselves gone on to experience the gift of praying, or even singing, in tongues, not as a mark of privilege or superior holiness, but as a gift of God given for the edification of the one praying. St. Paul so states the matter, "For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:2; all biblical citations are from the RSV translation) and so "edifies himself" (1 Cor. 14:4a, quoted in part; good advice.

Every Catholic, every Christian, should read one Corinthian 12-14 carefully and with an open mind. And if the one praying is edified and brought closer to God and thus becomes more holy, then others who come into contact with that person will likely also be edified. Of course, the mere fact alone of receiving the gift of praying in tongues, just as the mere fact of receiving the gift of teaching or administration or helping or preaching, does not automatically make the person holy.

What those gifts do, when properly exercised in decency and in order (see 1 Cor. 14:40), is to help others become holy--to build up, directly or indirectly, the Church, whose mission is the universal call to holiness. But all of these gifts, including the gift of tongues, can also make the recipient of the gift holier if the recipient continually asks God to give him more of the Holy Spirit in the course of exercising all his gifts for the good of the Church, just as we seek sanctification in our daily work.
Just because we might pray the Rosary daily (which I myself try to do and highly recommend to others) does not make us holier than anyone else without first and continually and sincerely opening our hearts to embrace God's will and to obey it. Without such an attitude of openness to God's messages and of obedience to God's will, the Rosary becomes mere babbling (as anti-Catholics like to say)--and so it can happen with those who exercise the gift of praying in tongues or any other form of praying without freely corresponding to the grace and favor of God.

Now, some Catholics who consider themselves orthodox do not keep such an open mind toward the gift of praying in tongues, even though it is explicitly mentioned in Section 2003 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (tolle lege!/pick up and read!) as an extraordinary charism or gift. They (I assume, in good faith) instead instill fear in people by raising the specter of evil spirits. My response is that it is a good idea for charismatics, and all other Catholics for that matter, to pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to rebuke the evil spirits who are real and who indeed prowl throughout the world. But those evil spirits do not just aim at charismatic Catholics and their praying in tongues. Those evil spirits lurk everywhere and can pervert even the most hallowed and most common of Catholic practices.

The worst sin most consistently condemned by Our Savior in the Gospels is that of hypocrisy. In fact, he calls the Pharisees, the paragons of piety, children of the devil precisely because of their hypocrisy (John 8:44). So, even the most orthodox in their Catholic practices can be subject to the influence of the devil. Even a devotee of the Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass may be acting under the influence of the devil. Does that mean we should avoid Latin or Tridentine Masses? Not at all. We should pray that God and his angels protect us from the devil, we should frequent the sacraments, we should do all those things that can build us up in Christ, with trust and without undue fear, for we are now children of God who no longer have the spirit of fear of the Pharisees so suspicious of Jesus (compare Romans 8:15-17).

In fact, from my experience, some Catholics treat charismatic Catholics in the same way the enemies of Jesus treated Jesus, who was even accused of being possessed by the devil himself (see Luke 11:14-23). It is quite interesting that Jesus was so accused right after he uttered these words: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" (Luke 11:13). That verse just quoted is the heart of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: ask the Father to give us more of the Holy Spirit and to give us all the good gifts the Father has for us.

Just like Jesus, today, charismatic Catholics are accused by some of being possessed by devils. The best reply to this accusation is Jesus' reply. Jesus pointed out that he was indeed casting out demons, that he was attacking the kingdom of Satan, and that it was illogical for Satan to attack his own kingdom because "every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste" (Luke 11:17, in part). In the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, many, many orthodox Catholics have found a greater hunger to read Scripture, have found a greater hunger for more prayer (including contemplative prayer and the Rosary), a greater hunger for the Sacraments, a greater desire for Eucharistic Adoration, a greater closeness to Mary who was so uniquely and so fully overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and a greater love for the Pope and the magisterium, all the time yielding fruits of praise to God, evangelism, varieties of lay ministry, and many priestly vocations and vocations to the religious life, including the vocation of consecrated virgins. All of those things lay waste to the kingdom of Satan. Satan is not behind them. The logic pointing this out is not mine. It is the logic of Our Savior in the Gospels. Don't take my word. Pick up and read.


Anonymous said...

Jesus and the Father have made their abode in our hearts. It's the Holy Spirit who empowers our realtionship with Jesus. The Father is the great commander. Jesus always does what the Father speaks, through the power of the Holy Spirit. He, through Jesus takes our prayers, through Christ Jesus to the Source, the Father, and releases them in the natural. He, the Holy Spirit is welcome in me to manifest His gifts in and through me anyway He wants to, and that includes speaking in other tongues.