Now that Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday have passed, we fly towards the 3rd pinnacle Feast of the Catholic Faith–Pentecost Sunday, where the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit became manifest and the Church was literally born according to Acts 2. Due to my background with the charismatic renewal, both positively and negatively, I have spent much time searching my own heart in order to know where I stand as a now-and-forever Catholic Christian on the topic of spiritual gifts. The following article and the links attached should give a broad view of this, and I pray they will help those of you who may have some of the same questions I have had since returning to the Church. May we all experience, as Blessed John XXIII prayed, a “new Pentecost.” And may it be a fully authentic one.
A few years back I wrote an article called “Towards a Sacramental Charismatic Theology.” I would in fact suggest reading that article first, in order to get my initial take on the topic, and as it is a sort of “part one” to this current post. The link for that article is as follows:
What I hope to do today is expand upon that topic, and to share my own insights since then which have pushed me further from “charismatic” and closer, hopefully, to the Sacramental. I would be clear at this point that I am against none of the genuine moves of the Holy Spirit which can and still do occur, both personally and in corporate worship. And many of those moves involve authentic charismatic gifts. What concerned me then and even more so now is the general attitude of those within what is called the “charismatic movement,” both Catholic and otherwise. I believe that we have begun to undermine the entire Church by not having clearer teaching on the topic, however. I do not expect to remedy that today in one blog, but as someone who has participated since 1970, when this movement was but a raw fledgling of experimentation after Vatican II, and who ended up outside of the Church precisely as a result of it for the next 35 years, sharing then in 6 different Protestant faith communities during that time (not counting 2 or 3 nondenominational ones), and my share too of New Age and other more tangible spiritualities due to a hunger that was never quite met in that entire time, I think I have developed at least a sense of what is missing when we reduce that which is “charismatic” to a movement.
For that reason I no longer identify myself as a “charismatic Christian” these days. On the other hand I belong to the largest and most truly charismatic Church within all of Christianity. I believe in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the 9 charisma listed in 1 Corinthians 12. I believe fully in apostolic authority and private revelations from the Lord Jesus Christ to chosen believers. On rare occasions I have even had a few moments where I felt that He has spoken to me quite directly in situations where guidance or help was so sorely needed.
Man I sound like a regular Joyce Meyers here, don’t I? So how is it I have come to distance myself from a movement which obviously has done such good and highly influenced the Church overall in the last 50 to 100 years?
One thing I mentioned in some detail in the first article was the way most such meetings are conducted, whether Catholic or Protestant. Here I wish to expand on that thought and share why I believe that to be sometimes detrimental to the greater move of the Spirit within the Church. I was always troubled by the lack of consistency on following the clear Scriptural guidelines on the charismatic gifts, specifically as delineated in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. I think they are some of the most misused passages in the movement in fact, and I want to spend some time dissecting them. Not all will agree with my thoughts here, but I believe, as with all Sacred Scripture, it needs to be read in its own light, as well as within the light of other Scripture passages and the ongoing Sacred Tradition of the Church, and not with the insatiable desire to “get the gifts” at all costs.
So here goes, and I would only implore you to read what I share with an open mind and heart, and not with a stubborn desire to stay within a “feel good” Christianity that bears less fruit and, in the long run, feels “less good” than simple tried-and-true Catholic Christianity.
I would first of all start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and the definition of what is commonly called the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” among Pentecostals and charismatics. In articles 1285-1289 of the CCC we read the following:
1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.89 For “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”90
I. CONFIRMATION IN THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION
1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.91 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.92 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”93
1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.94 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,95 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.96 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.97 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.98
1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”99
1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.
There is some significant stuff here for those who seem compelled to seek a separate “baptism in the Holy Spirit” after being initiated both into Christ through baptism and then Confirmation. The most substantial point is this, also alluded to in my other article—we do not need a separate “baptism in the Spirit” once we are validly confirmed. We do at times need to awaken the gifts given to us within these Sacraments, but that can be done in a wide variety of ways. We also need to spend more time honoring the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Church teaches are with us at baptism to some extent but specifically embossed upon our hearts and souls at the moment of Confirmation—these are listed in the prophet Isaiah’s writings, and are the means by which Jesus performed His earthly ministry, as well with which we are to perform ours. In Isaiah 11:2 we find these listed—
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. 
Listed more concisely (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord ) and per Church Tradition, we receive the fullness of these seven gifts during our own personal “Pentecost” of Confirmation, at the time when the bishop (or the priest administering the Sacrament under his authority) lays hands upon us and anoints us with chrism oil. We are also told that this is a one-time event which cannot be repeated, as it places an indelible or permanent mark upon our soul, as does baptism and Holy Orders. Only these three Sacraments do this. I wonder then how we can go to lay persons later on and then ask them to lay hands upon us all over again so we can finally get the “good stuff” (i.e. speaking in tongues generally), and if this is not an actual insult to the original gift at times?
There are as mentioned 9 charismatic gifts, and neither here nor anywhere else in the text of Sacred Scripture can we find indication that we are each to have the “gift of tongues” or any of the rest for that matter. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 it demarcates these and clearly not all persons had the same gifts:
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
One of the most serious misconceptions here is that we “all” should be speaking in tongues in the first place! This idea comes from one isolated verse in 1 Corinthians 14 where St Paul tells us:
5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
“I want you all speak in tongues…” that certainly sounds crystal clear and not to be missed (even though somehow the Church Universal inexplicably did so for 1900 years!). Unless of course you go back and read the rest of the chapter of course, first and foremost being 1 Corinthians 14:1 (which is in reality a summary of all three chapters together):
1 Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
What was St Paul actually saying here? Read in its fullness, and continuing on with the chapter, it could easily be inferred that St Paul, rather than encouraging “everyone” to speak in tongues, was rather suggesting strongly to the Corinthian diocese that they were totally missing the boat by having such an obsession. And we have this same obsession today. You cannot attend a charismatic meeting without tongues being present, and it is very nearly an absolute expectation that, if you unfortunately somehow have missed out on this gift up until now, you will not need to “leave for home without it!” In other words get in the prayer line and do it now, do what is told you and tongues will then be yours. Period.
Another discrepancy I believe exists has to do with the uses of the gift of tongues. One school of thought is that it is primarily a “prayer language,” and I believe this can be a valid usage of the gift (1 Corinthians 14: 14-16). However, if used in this way, there is a very specific stipulation that has been ignored by virtually every Pentecostal or charismatic prayer group in the world, or so it would seem at least, and that is the following: do not, without an interpreter present, do this during public gatherings of believers!!! That would include the Holy Mass first and foremost, but also during gatherings of believers where worship often includes what could be thought of as (or sound like) the “buzzing of bees” to the outsider. This misuse, more than any other thing, is what gives charismatic meetings a bad name, and somewhat ironically St Paul apparently knew of this problem even during New Testament times. But they ignored him then, and we ignore him now.
When I first attended a Catholic charismatic meeting in the 1970s, a supposedly amazing new phenomenon was taking place called “singing in the Spirit.” What happens is that one person starts singing in tongues, no interpretation, and almost instantly or on cue the entire group is going at it within a millisecond or two. I question this practice. It is something that has been peculiar to Catholics more so than others in the renewal movement and I believe there is an obvious reason for this which I totally missed for many years because I was unaware of some of our own great Catholic Tradition. Catholics, from the least to the greatest, are used to singing at least some form of Gregorian chant if even on a small level—and even if it is simply the melodic version of the “Pater Noster (Our Father)” as sung at most Sunday Masses in our day. It is built into our Catholic DNA as it were. The “singing in the Spirit” mentioned above is amazingly similar to this. Protestants who do not know this type of singing do not tend to use it during even the most Pentecostal moments or at the height of their worship services. But Catholics do. Far from being “proof” that the Holy Spirit has sovereignly taken over the group like the cloud hovering over the Israelites of old, I believe rather it is chiefly a cultural peculiarity. If you were to go to the Middle East for example you might hear some Semitic sounds while “singing in the Spirit,” and in the Deep South of the United States some heavy-duty country-sounding “hooting and hollering” as well as the accompanying running up and down the aisles might take place instead. Yet each claim theirs to be the “real” manifestation of the Spirit. I will just say buyer beware. It is not wrong to sing in tongues—privately and at home. But I would challenge anyone to show me where it happened in the New Testament or in the early Church as a group. I have not found it. I do not think you will either.
Lastly I have seen Catholic charismatic renewal groups and literature take the two short passages of the CCC which even mention charismatic manifestations (specifically 696 and 2003), quoted in full below,
696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions. “Do not quench the Spirit.”
2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.” Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.
and calmly turn them on their head in order to claim (somewhat dubiously in my opinion) everything from insisting that Blessed John Paul II had this gift to the stranger-than-truth claim that every single charismatic gift is for all of us, and just a matter of “stirring it up” from within. Accordingly to that view, it has been mysteriously lying dormant since the moment of our Confirmation, and we just need to grab hold of it. Somehow the Church apparently lost this entire concept, even though she managed to keep the Sacraments intact and administered correctly for over 2000 years, and it is thus up to the charismatic renewal to come to the rescue and bring it back! Stirring up the gifts within us in nothing new—St Paul again told St Timothy to do so in 1 Timothy 4: 13-15:
13 Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. 15 Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 
But was he saying “Timmy—can I call you Timmy my son—could you PLEASE get cracking on that tongue-talking business or you will lose the Holy Spirit one of these days when you least expect it?” Was he saying that? I do not think so. Again context is everything, and I would point you above to the passage where Paul tells our beloved St Timothy to “stir (to in other words not neglect) the gifts.” Do you see tongues even on the list here? It would appear that St Timothy, a bit more timid than his modern namesake Tim Tebow, was not taking the time or energy to use the gifts given to him at his ordination into the priesthood. And that was what St Paul was commanding and exhorting him to do here.
I could go on and on, but much has already been written by others such as the great Tim Staples—yes another Tim (a former Southern style rooting-tooting Assemblies of God/Pentecostal minister, as I in fact was) and other Catholic apologists to verify what I share here. Time does not permit sharing verse by verse, but I would encourage you first and foremost to get out your good Catholic Bibles, blow off the dust, and read 1 Corinthians 12-14. Slowly. Like me you may be surprised what is and is not there.
Here are some of the thoughts of a great man and my brother in the Church, Tim Staples: It is worth a watch.
No, I do not fully identify as a “charismatic Christian” anymore. I do not need to. I am part of the “one, true, holy, Apostolic” (and may I dare to add one phrase to the Creed, especially since John Piper and Wayne Grudem have no problems messing with it from time to time!), and yes, “charismatic Church.” We are all charismatic as Catholic Christians. But let us do it God’s way. We surely should stir up our gifts and ask for more. But with that asking comes the responsibility of using them properly as well. Yours may indeed be tongues, mine perhaps prophecy (which incidentally was not necessarily foretelling the future but “forth-telling” and expounding on the already revealed Word of God more often than not). Prophecy incidentally is as such a gift that I am convinced is often used by priests who mysteriously bring those wonderful homilies where one sits and says “how did he know about my need to hear that word today.” Perhaps your gifts lie in those moments during silent Eucharistic Adoration where you kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament full of confusion and eventually leave the Chapel or altar suddenly very clear on some personal issue you have been struggling with—all of these are valid gifts of the Holy Spirit who lives within you and each of these are ways they may be developed or revealed. I would as well not neglect to mention how often meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary or simple but prayerful Scripture meditation are major ways in which God speaks deeply to our hearts, often in very unexpected ways. The Holy Spirit is flowing within us every moment if we allow Him to do so.
Being a faithful Catholic Christian, if we are true to our Faith, should and does cause us to stir up whatever gifts we may have. So yes that command is to us as well. But to assume it must be “tongues” is a fallacy. And the charismatic movement is, in fact, made up of the entire body of Christ (again 1 Corinthians 12; 12-31 brings this out beautifully—look it up). The Catholic walk in Christ indeed has it all.
As a “last of the last words,” at least for this post, I would refer you as well to a great and in-depth post by a friend of mine, Jared Dale Combista, from his great blog Verum Nocet: He is a young man from the Philippines who has done a great deal of study on the topic and his information well worth considering. Here is his link:
ALL SCRIPTURE REFERENCES: Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1997). The Holy Bible : Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition, translated from the original tongues, being the version set forth A.D. 1611, Old and New Testament revised A.D. 1881-1885 and A.D. 1901 (Apocrypha revised A.D. 1894), compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1952 (Apocrypha revised A.D. 1957) New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
- And Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 4:30 (prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com)
- Greiving the Holy Spirit (Spurgeon) Part II (prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com)
- Early Christians Speak – of the Spirit (riverwindfire.wordpress.com)
- The Holy Spirit – Fr. Thomas R. Harding, Th.D. (epages.wordpress.com)