Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Word On Pentecost

Well, not so much on Pentecost itself, maybe. More on the charismatic movement and the perception of Pentecost these days. Let me say as a qualifier that just about everyone I've met with any sort of involvement in the charismatic movement has creeped me out. This is just anecdotal, but what I've found is an incredible lack of respect for the sacraments and the nature of revealed Truth. If I had a nickel for every time such a person has just so happened to get a "word" from the Holy Spirit that is utterly contrary to defined teaching, I could probably balance the national budget all by myself.

Anyways, one of the things that seems to come up a lot is a lot of prayers for what I would call extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Typically, this is the whole "speaking in tongues" thing. Keep in mind that this isn't the speaking in tongues of Pentecost itself. That was the phenomenon of speaking something and everyone understanding regardless of what their normal ability to comprehend might be. What the charismatic movement seeks is speaking in "angelic tongues," which is sort of the opposite of Pentecost, since the speaker, who normally speaks in a discernible language, then speaks in what the masses comprehend as gibberish.

For the purposes of this post, let's put aside whether or not what you might think of the glossolalia phenomenon or whether it's usual exercise in these congregations abides by St. Paul's directives in 1 Corinthians 14. Let's consider the counsel of people already in heaven for a moment. The following is taken from St.Vincent Ferrer's Treatise on the Spiritual Life. I'm taking his word for this because, if anybody had experience with the whole speaking in tongues deal, it was St. Vincent. He regularly spoke to diverse crowds that all understood him in their own languages. With that in mind, consider his opinion of spiritual gifts:

The first remedy against the spiritual temptations which the devil plants in the hearts of many persons in these unhappy times is to have no desire to procure by prayer, meditation, or any other good work, what are called revelations, or spiritual experiences, beyond what happens in the ordinary course of things; such a desire of things which surpass the common order can have no other root or foundation but pride, presumption, a vain curiosity in what regards the things of God, and, in short, an exceedingly weak faith.

These are pretty strong words, and such sentiments are not uncommon among the blessed. For example, St. John of the Cross spends a whole chapter in the Ascent of Mount Carmel warning against people getting caught up in this kind of stuff. So how did we get from something that probably could be classed as the common teaching of the Church to the kind of free-for-all services that seem to be entirely devoted to invoking these sorts of events?

I think St. Vincent probably hits the nail on the head when he talks about pride. People seem absolutely convinced that they can't be deceived, either by themselves or The Adversary. This is a bit scary for me since the charismatic movement is kind of a big deal around here. I'm not saying there aren't good people or good Catholics involved with the movement. It's just that I always get the mental image of playing with matches when the subject comes up.

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