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A Reader Asks About the Charismatic Renewal

BY Mark Shea

| Posted 6/23/13 at 11:01 PM

 

He writes:

I have recently become interested in the Catholic Charismatic movement. I was wondering if you can point me to any writings you may have on the topic with respect to reconciling this movement with the more traditional form of Catholic worship. I am a quiet person and have reservations about the charismatic movement due to images of people acting hysterical, rolling on the floor during prayer services, etc. I don't even know if these images are true. My reservations, aside from the outwardly emotional aspect of it that does not fit my personality, are:

1. This looks nothing like how the historcial church worshipped. It seems like a novelty in Catholic history (aside from maybe Pentecost). Is this a bad thing?

The Charismatic Renewal is one of a million socially-conditioned responses to the gospel in the Catholic community.  It’s been influenced by Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal culture but is still rooted in the core of Catholic worship: the Mass.  It has, like all human things, it’s plusses and minuses, but generally more plus than minus.  The charismatics I know tend to be consistently devout, faithful, obedient Catholics full of the fruits of the Spirit.  By their fruits you know them.  Some groups can be overly emotional and if that’s not your speed, you are under no obligations to buy in.  But as a rule, I am fond of charismatics.

2. How would the Church Fathers react if they were to be transported in time into a charismatic service? It seems they be taken aback by such a sight. Is this a valid concern?

Or they might just think they were at the Corinthian Church Paul knew.  If it comes to it, there is a great deal in the modern Church that is perfectly legitimate--everything from the devotion to the Sacred Heart to Eucharistic adoration to the Mercy Novena--that would be strange to many of the Fathers.  And there are things that pre-date the Fathers, such as glossalalia, that petered out with time as a common phenomenon, but still pop up here and there in Catholic circles.  The Fathers would be familiar with the fact that the Church is a very strange and diverse place.  Charismatics are one of a huge number of Catholic subcultures who demonstrate that delightful fact.

3. How is this seen from an Eastern Orthodox point of view (not that we should necessarily be concerned with how they view us but I think it is a concern given the desire for reunfication of East and West)?

I think it would undoubtedly look Protestantized.  But the measure of Catholic private piety is not “What will the Orthodox think?”  It is the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.