One Way to Satisfy the Soul

Brothers and Sisters,

This week I would like to look at the charism of giving.  It can often accompany the charism of Voluntary poverty.  It is characterized by a genuine joy that accompanies the giving.  Scripture tells us that God “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).  For those like me, giving is not necessarily a joy-filled activity.  I have not fully let go of the attachment to financial security.  I know ultimately everything comes from God, but I like to have enough to cover the unexpected expenses, just in case the provision isn’t when I would like it.

Don’t get me wrong, we do give the biblical tithe plus additional alms, but I think those with the charism go significantly beyond that.  One of the charism workbooks I have says, “For them, generosity is not merely a duty or responsibility, it’s their idea of a really good time….They aren’t anxiously wondering ‘how much can I keep?’ but eagerly asking ‘how much can I give away1?”

 Folks with this charism have been given the grace to trust God to provide for them, and He does, sometimes in remarkable ways.  It has been suggested that God provides more abundantly to those who He can trust to give the money away.  

I ran across some quotes on generosity (http://www.generouschurch.com/quotes-on-generosity).  Perhaps we could look at the quotes below individually and try to discern the charism of giving or the charism of voluntary poverty in the person who said it.

“Once you make a lot of money, it’s incredibly enjoyable to give it away. It’s a way to satisfy the soul.” — Stanley Druckenmiller, U.S. hedge fund manager.

“You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” — John Bunyan, English Puritan writer and preacher

John Bunyan by Thomas Sadler, oil on canvas, 1684

“”I was once young and now I am old, but not once have I been witness to God’s failure to supply my need when first I had given for the furtherance of His work. He has never failed in His promise, so I cannot fail in my service to Him.” — William Carey, Baptist missionary to India

“No one is so generous as he who has nothing to give.” — French Proverb

“The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord.” — James L. Kraft, Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Corp. chairman

“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.” — Charles Lamb, English essayist and author

“To give without any reward, or any notice, has a special quality of its own.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American aviatrix and writer

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” — Jack London, American novelist

“Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.” — Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Roman Catholic bishop, orator, radio-broadcaster and author

Fulton J. Sheen, Roman Catholic Bishop and early television preacher, on a set for one of his regular television programs, 1952

“Jesus commended the widow not for giving away so much, but for keeping so little.” — Ed Owens, Chicago fund manager

“He that gives all, though but little, gives much; because God looks not to the quantity of the gift, but to the quality of the givers.” — Francis Quarles, author

“Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.” — John D. Rockefeller, Jr., American industrialist and philanthropist

“Almost always the most indigent are the most generous.” — Stanislas, King of Poland

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic missionary to India

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

1 Discerning Charisms Workbook by Eryn Huntington and Sherry Weddell, available from Siena.org

The Charism of Discernment of Spirits vs. Natural Discernment

The featured image is from the Ceiling Painted Dome Cupola Angels Fighting Demons in Vatican Museums.

Brothers and Sisters,

I was reading through some old posts and came across one on Discernment of Spirits.  I ended the post by saying I had plenty more to say and would save it for another day.  Well that was over a year ago and we are getting close to Halloween, so it seems like now might be an appropriate time.  I will pick up where I left off so if you don’t remember that post please click the link in the first sentence of this paragraph.

The term “Discernment of Spirits” can mean different things depending on the context in which it is used. 

In the Ignatian/Jesuit tradition it can be defined as follows:

“Discernment of spirits is the interpretation of what St. Ignatius Loyola called the “motions of the soul.” These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Spiritual discernment of spirits involves becoming sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.”1

If we confuse this with the charism of discernment of spirits, we will have difficulty understanding the charism properly.  The Ignatian model is useful for discerning good from evil for everyone whether or not they have the charism. The Ignatian model does have some limitations.  Deacon Marques Silva states in his talk on discernment2 that St. Ignatius admitted that his method of discernment applied only to the first four of Teresa of Avila’s 7 mansions from her book Interior Castle.  In other words, it was not helpful in the realm of contemplative prayer (infused contemplation).  For more on this idea I would suggest this article4.

The charism of discernment of spirits is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as:

“the discernment is made by means of an intuitive light which infallibly discovers the quality of the movement; it is then a gift of God, a grace gratis data, vouchsafed mainly for the benefit of our neighbour (1 Corinthians 12:10). This charisma or gift was granted in the early Church and in the course of the lives of the saints as, for example, St. Philip Neri.”3

Church of San Polo (Venice)St. Philip Neri by Giandomenico Tiepolo

The same article distinguishes this from the type of discernment of spirits gained by study and reflection, Ignatian Discernment of Spirits would probably fall under this type.  Both are very important, but the former is the charism and the later is not.  The former cuts through the human delusions and demonic trickery to present the true nature of the motivating spirit of what is said or done.

It would seem that the charism would be the one to have if a person had a choice between the two.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to know what was good or evil intuitively rather that going through all the work of getting the knowledge from careful study of the experience of others? 

The anecdotal examples that I know of from people who had discerned that they had the charism would seem to suggest that they might be happier without it.  One person said she would get physically ill in the presence of evil.  She said there were places that she could not go because of way she would react physically to the demonic spirits attached to that particular location.  Another person found it very helpful in her line of work in the penal system, but said it was not a pleasant experience when the charism was needed.   In the final case, the person would say that it was impossible to explain it to someone that did not have the gift.  He was very clear that it was not a pleasant experience.  In all of these instances, the conversation centered around being aware of the diabolical side of things rather than the holy.  I am not sure whether the reason the negative side sticks out is because that was when they experienced it most or that is what I remembered because it is more sensational.

There is a word of caution when it comes to discerning this charism.  The current cultural fascination with the occult, witchcraft, and ghost-hunting may make the charism seem like a great way to become the center of attention.  However, being able to discern the presence of an evil spirit is not the same as having the authority to get rid of it.  As we see in the Acts of the Apostles: 

13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. Acts 19:13-16

People with the charism are very valuable in deliverance ministry and on exorcism teams, but it is advisable for them to be trained by experienced people with the spiritual authority to deal with these things.  It is probably not advisable to take this upon oneself without a specific calling.

I welcome any comments of those that have any experience, positive or negative, regarding this charism.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/
  2. http://www.arlingtonrenewal.org/discernment-of-spirits.html
  3. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05028b.htm
  4. https://ianvanheusen.com/monastic-vs-ignatian-discernment/

“Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”

Title is a quote from Dorothy Day. 1

Brothers and Sisters,

This post follows my recent post on the topic of the charism of voluntary poverty.  The gospel from Luke 12:13-21 recounts Jesus parable about the man with the abundant harvest who is faced with the dilemma of what to do since he does not have enough room to store the harvest.  He decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones.  He is soon informed by God that that was a foolish choice because, “’this very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

I have been learning a bit more about the life of Dorothy Day.  I think it is safe to say that she had this charism.  When confronted with the needs of impoverished working class people during the depression, she did not just give them a dollar or two and move on with her life.  She moved the needy people into her house and later opened housing for poor men and then poor women and their children.  She lived with the people, she did not go off to a comfortable home after work, but she lived where they lived and ate what they ate.  When the people in her shelter were hungry, she and her daughter were also hungry.

Hera is a little background for those who may not be familiar with her story.

“Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 8, 1897, the third child of Grace and John Day.  Her nominally religious family moved to the San Franciso Bay area and then to Chicago where she was baptized in the Episcopal Church.  She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana and became interested in radical social causes as a way to help workers and the poor.  In 1916, she left the university and moved to New York City where she worked as a journalist on socialist newspapers, participated in protest movements, and developed friendships with many famous artists and writers. During this time, she also experienced failed love affairs, a marriage, a suicide attempt, and an abortion.

Dorothy had grown to admire the Catholic Church as the “Church of the poor” and her faith began to take form with the birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926.  Her decision to have her daughter baptized and embrace the Catholic faith led to the end of her common law marriage and the loss of many of her radical friends.  Dorothy struggled to find her role as a Catholic.  While covering the 1932 Hunger March in Washington, D.C. for some Catholic magazines, she prayed at the national Shrine of the Immaculate Conception that some way would open up for her to serve the poor and the unemployed.  The following day, back in New York, she met Peter Maurin, a French immigrant and former Christian Brother, who had a vision for a society constructed of Gospel values.  Together they founded the Catholic Worker newspaper which spawned a movement of houses of hospitality and farming communes that has been replicated throughout the United States and other countries.”2

Dorothy would not have approved of our modern welfare state, which makes the people dependent on the government to provide for them.  She was very much in favor of helping people to become capable of taking care of themselves.  She lived a deeply spiritual life, complete with daily mass, liturgy of the hours and the rosary.  She also was very outspoken against wars and coercive violence. She saw them wars and violence through the eyes of the victims rather than through the political ends that were trying to be achieved.  This made her an unpopular figure in many people’s eyes.

“What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute–the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words–we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.” 3
― Dorothy Day

She is a great example of a person who voluntarily chose a life of poverty.  Men and women in religious orders take vows of poverty whether or not they have the charism.  But someone like Day who chooses this life out of a deep conviction that it is the right thing to do, the correct response to injustice, it would seem must have a little help from the Holy Spirit. 

Whether or not we have the charism we would probably do well to incorporate a dose of voluntary simplicity into our lives.  Jesus “emptied himself and took the form of a slave” (Phi. 2:6b-7a) and in order to imitate him we should do likewise.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/11/favorite-quotes-from-dorothy-day
  2. http://dorothydayguild.org/about-her-life/brief-biography/
  3. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/119043.Dorothy_DayT

A Cross-dressing Saint

Brothers and Sisters,

I was recently at a parish dedicated to a very interesting Catholic Saint.  One of the charges at her trial was that she had violated the scriptural mandate found in Deuteronomy 22:5.

“A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.” 

Some of you I am sure already know who it is, but for the rest of you here’s another clue.  She carried a sword with 5 crosses on the blade.  Each cross represented one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Still don’t know?  Here’s another, she was convicted and burned at the stake as a witch. OK, final clue, she was a peasant that lead the French army over the English to victory at Orleans in 1429.

Main Aisle of Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Indianapolis, IN. There picture was taken be during renovations of the Church. One of which was the addition of the terrazzo floor featuring 5 crosses on the main aisle to represent the 5 crosses on St. Joan of Arc’s sword.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about Saint Joan of Arc.  Whole books have been written about her life and accomplishments, so there is plenty of material to cover, but that is not my purpose here.  I would like to explore the major charisms that I think were evident in her life.

From the time she was thirteen years old she had been receiving communications from Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Margaret of Antioch, and St. Michael the Archangel.  Not everyone believed her of course.  The English, who were defeated by the French under Joan’s leadership, were convinced that she was being guided by demonic forces claiming to be Saints.  The French were increasingly convinced that her “voices,” as she called them, were of heavenly origin.  People who receive authentic communications from heaven are often referred to as mystics.  In terms of charisms I would put mystics  under the charism of prophecy.  In addition to that I see evidence for the charisms of leadership, miracles, wisdom, and courage or fortitude.

Let’s look at some examples from Joan’s life that may indicate the presence of those charisms.

Prophecy

  1. Joan was told by her voices “that her battle sword would be found there [St. Catherine-de-Fierbose], buried a few inches deep either in front of or behind the altar of the church.  ‘It would be rusted’, she said, ‘with five crosses engraved on it.’ The churchmen knew of no such sword. The townspeople thought the crusader’s sword was just a legend. But the weapon showed up just as Joan had said.” 1
  2. Joan was charged by her “voices” to contact the French heir to the throne, known as the douphin, to urge him to claim his rightful place as the King of France.  He was reluctant to do this as he was unsure about being the rightful heir and he was enjoying his carefree life.  Joan finally was able to get permission to see the douphin but he disguised his identity in a large room full of men dressed in fine clothes.  He wore ordinary clothes.  Though Joan had no idea what he looked like, she walked right up to him and “curtsied smoothly. ‘God give you life, gentle king,’ she said.  ‘What if I am not the King, Joan?’ he teased, pointing to someone nearby. ‘There is the king.’  ‘In God’s name, gentle prince,’ she answered. ‘It is you and no other.’”2
  3. The douphin was not fully convinced that her “voices” were authentic until Joan revealed knowledge of a secret to him, that he later said only God would have known.3
  4. Joan knew things would happen before they did.  She correctly predicted that City of Orleans would be free of the English, that the douphin would be Crowned King Charles VII at the Cathedral in Rheims, that Paris’s loyalty would return to King Charles, and that the Duke of Orleans would return from England where he was being held prisoner. 

Leadership

  1. Joan transformed an army of formerly demoralized French soldiers that were regularly beaten by the English, even when the French had greater numbers, into a force that defeated the English in every battle.  Her army was never beaten until she lost the support of her king.  She accomplished this with no military experience.
  2. She convinced the Douphin despite his reluctance to take his rightful place as king of France.
  3. She surprised her soldiers with her ability to ride horses, aim cannons, and best seasoned fighters in combat drills.
  4. Her determination to win and fearlessness, even when wounded, kept her men fighting even when victory seemed hopeless. While storming the fortress of Tourelles she “was shot with an arrow, as she had predicted, it drove into her body above her breast. She wept in pain and surprise.  Her voices had not told her how much it would hurt…she reached up and pulled the arrow out of her own flesh and blood gushed out before the wound was covered.  Then she had to rest.  Within a few hours she was back in the battle.”4
  5. Joan’s role was to lead, her weapons were her banner and sword.  She never killed anyone, nor drew blood with her sword.
  6. Joan relied of heavenly assistance not on her own ability.  When John of Dunois, the interim leader of Orleans, told Joan he was going to call off the battle for Tourelles, “she told him to call a break instead.  The men needed food and drink and a moment’s breather.  She needed to pray. Joan road her horse into a vineyard near the troops. She headed back in a quarter hour. A squire who was carrying her banner stepped into a ditch.  The painting of Jesus and Mary almost hit the dirt. Joan leaped and grabbed the banner to save it. That made it flap so violently that all of her troops assumed it was a signal.  They rushed together and stormed the bastide with renewed strength.  Within a few hours it was over.  They had taken Tourelles, and with it the bridge across the Loire.”5

Miracles

  1. “One day as Joan road through Lagny a family begged her to help their newborn baby. He was deathly ill, his body limp and discolored, but he had not been baptized.  Medieval priests taught that people—even babies—who died without being baptized spent eternity in hell.  This baby couldn’t be baptized because no one was sure he was alive.  Joan stepped into the small home and stared at the baby. She later said he was ‘as black as my coat of mail.’ She fell to her knees and prayed to Mary in heaven. Though he had lain as if dead for three days, the infant suddenly awoke and yawned three times.  He was baptized and died.  Then he was buried in Holy Ground, to the tears and relief of his family.”6
  2. Joan was very frustrated with John of Dunois, ruler of Orleans.  She said to him, “Are you the one who gave orders for me to come here on this side of the river, so that I could not go directly to Talbot and the English?” Dunois admitted to choosing the route.  “I bring you better help than ever came to you from any soldier”, Joan declared. “It is the help of the King of Heaven!” At that very moment the wind changed. I had been blowing in a direction that would make it hard for the boats to cross the river. Now that it changed the boats could sail easily across.  Everyone stood silent. How could this have happened, they wondered. Was God really sending a sign?  Had they all just witnessed a miracle? 7

Wisdom

  1. Advisors of the douphin were not easily convinced her voices were authentic.  Joan was sent to  Poitiers and subjected to three weeks of questions from Bible experts, archbishops, professors, priests, and more.  Though Joan could neither read nor write and had never been to school. They tried to perplex her by their questions, but she was straightforward and told them how the voices had come to her.8
  2. During her trial after she was captured by the English, Joan withstood the questioning of the Inquisitors loyal to the English.  They were trying to get her to give them evidence by which they could convict her.  Many learned men could not trip her up during her trial. They would ask her the same questions on different days, trying to get her to answer differently than before. In the court proceedings, we learn of a claim that she had answered differently than before, but upon examination of the record, her answers were found to be the same. They even threatened her with torture, but she said whatever she said during the pains of torture, she would deny after the pain was removed. 

There is one other thing about Joan of Arc that is hard to pass over.  That is her tremendous courage.  She embarked on her quest to take her message to the dauphin at 16 years old.  As a peasant, a woman, a youngster, and without formal education she had every reason not to do what she did.  It is undeniable that she had great courage.  Courage does not appear on most lists of charisms.  It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit also called Fortitude.  In Joan’s case it definitely should be considered a charism.  Without it she would have been completely unknown to us.

Courage (Fortitude)

  1. Joan went against every social convention of her time to take her message to the douphin.
  2. Joan went into the thick of battle, being wounded on two different occasions.
  3. Joan was threatened with torture during her trial while she was in English custody and still did not break.
  4. Joan cut her hair and wore men’s clothing, partly to protect her virginity while in the company of the soldiers and the male prison guards.  This ultimately was used to condemn her to be burned at the stake.
  5. As she was burned to death she looked at a crucifix and repeatedly called on the name of Jesus.

St. Joan of Arc has a fascinating story that is unique among the canonized saints in the Church.  I would encourage you to dig into the whole story, of which I have only scratched the surface.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. Kudlinski, Kathleen. Joan of Arc. 2008, New York. DK Publishing. Page 45.
  2. Ibid. Pg. 39.  
  3. Ibid. Pg. 40.   
  4. Ibid. Pg. 65.  
  5. Ibid. Pg. 66.  
  6. Ibid. Pg. 92. 
  7. Ibid. Pg. 51   
  8. Lang, Andrew. Story of Joan of Arc. Audio recording available at Librevox.org. Chapter 5.

Sell What You Have

Brothers and Sisters,

This week I would like to discuss the charism of voluntary poverty.

 In Mark’s gospel Jesus tells the man who ran up to him,

“You are lacking in one thing, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) 

In the next paragraph He drives the point home,

“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23)

  And then comes the memorable,

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

In this pointed visual allegory, a king who personifies wealth counts his money at a table while a jester places a fool’s hat over his head. His female counterpart, distracted by her aged reflection in a mirror, displays her vanity in her luxurious clothing, lap dog, and hangers-on: flattery fans her, and stupidity, with a boar’s head, serves her food and drink. Such allegories were meant to both entertain while cautioning the viewer to question their own relationship to wealth.
Wealth Permits Stupidity by Raphael Sadeler 1588 https://clevelandart.org/art/2017.199

I was privileged to be the leader of children’s liturgy one Sunday when we read this gospel, so I got to talk with the kids about this passage.  As we are often prone to do, the kids thought the “rich” that Jesus refers to, are someone else, perhaps someone who has so much money that they have never had to work, or someone with household servants, etc.  I had to break the news to them that compared with the majority of the people the world, even the poorest people in the United States have it pretty good, and most of the people in the United States are rich by world standards. 

I told the kids that this passage doesn’t mean that, none of us (rich people) are going to heaven, but that we need to make Jesus, and spreading his message, more important than everything else.  But there is still something that lingers in my mind which says that perhaps, we really can’t make Jesus the most important thing while we are encumbered with the typical American load of stuff. 

Pope Francis certainly has been emphasizing the importance for us to pay attention to the poor, to make an effort to help them, and to sacrifice some things to try to better identify with them.

The Breakers, the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, located in Newport, Rhode Island, United States. It was built in 1893, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994. Photo by Matt H. Wade.

This topic inspired me to pick up a book of Mother Theresa’s sayings (Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi) that had been lying on a pile of books in my bedroom.  The first story I came across, was how she left her teaching ministry with the Loreto Sisters with 5 rupees and set off by herself for Calcutta, obediently following the Lord’s instructions though she said it was the greatest sacrifice that she had ever made.  When she arrived at Calcutta, she was asked by a priest for a donation for the Catholic press.  She had given 4 or the 5 rupees to the poor, and so she hesitated, but gave him her last one.  That afternoon, the same priest came to see her and brought an envelope.  The priest told her that a man had given him the envelope because he had heard about her projects and wanted to help her.  There were 50 rupees in the envelope.  She had the feeling at that moment that God had begun to bless the work and would never abandon her.

I am certainly not at that level of trust and detachment.  But, despite all the objections that get raised, like “you have a family to support, you can’t just leave everything,” I could go a lot farther in simplifying my life than I have. 

Mother Theresa goes on to say, “One by one, from 1949 on, my former students (from the school run by the Sisters of Loreto where she taught) began to arrive.  They wanted to give everything to God, right away.  With what joy they put away their colorful saris in order to put on our poor cotton one.  They came because they knew it would be hard.  When a young woman of high caste comes and puts herself at the service of the poor, she is the protagonist of a revolution.  It is the greatest, the most difficult revolution—the revolution of love.”

The voluntary poverty charism seems to be working in the former students that she describes.  The feelings are there, “with what joy they put away there colorful saris”; the fruit is there, the Missionaries of Charity has become a world-wide order; the feedback is also obvious, most people know and admire Mother Teresa and her sisters.

The most intriguing thing to me is that voluntary poverty, sets conventional American wisdom on its head.  We are so convinced that happiness lies in stuff, or power, or fame when in reality those things don’t really give us lasting joy at all.    Lord, free us from conventional wisdom, and help us to know the joy that comes from trusting only in you.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

Did you ever feel like the Holy Spirit was trying to get your attention?

Brothers and Sisters,

I have to apologize that my title doesn’t have much to do with the post, but I thought it went well with the featured picture which I took while stuck in traffic on the way to work one day recently.

I would like to revisit a post that I wrote a few weeks ago. The post had to do with some charisms that were on a list of charisms that I had not commonly seen.  I decided to contact the leader of the Life in the Spirit Seminar to get an explanation of his understanding of these charisms.  I figured that was probably the best way to clear up the misunderstandings that I had.

The leader shared his source material with me, so I would like to pass it along.  Fr. Bob Hogan wrote a document1 called “Catholic Charismatic Renewal Resources” which is also linked at the Catholic Charismatic Renewal National Service Committee website2.  Fr. Bob was a member of the National Service Committee (for the United States) from 2007- 2013.

The first thing to note from the document is that the charism lists that we find in scripture are understood to be examples of charisms rather than an all-encompassing list. 

“The lists of charisms (spiritual gifts) in the Scriptures are not meant to be all inclusive. An area of ability or responsibility in our lives can become a spiritual gift, if it is prayerfully given over to the management of the Holy Spirit. If we begin to experience a power and wisdom in this area that is greater than our own, coming from God, then it has become a charism (ex. Fatherhood-motherhood, music, teaching, administration, helping, one’s job, etc.).”3

Even in the list of charisms provided in the document on page 38, the charisms from my previous post (holiness, inner healing, resting in the Spirit, and scripture) were not listed. So, I guess the short answer to the question is that these charisms were added to the list for that particular Life in the Spirit seminar, because the prayer group had seen those charisms more commonly than others that could have been on the list. Let’s look at the documents references to each of the four charisms.

Holiness

The document’s mention of holiness does not really treat it as a charism. Rather it is one of the four major roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

“This action of the Holy Spirit leads to:

Experiencing union with God

Inner transformation, leading to personal holiness

Ministry empowered by charisms for evangelization and service

Building communities that witness to a renewed Catholic life.”4

Expounding on the second point the document states:

“After we have this deep experience of union with God through the Holy Spirit we often think that we are now ready to minister in the power of the Spirit. However, this was not Jesus’ pattern. Jesus was first led by the Spirit to the desert for 40 days of prayer, fasting and facing his temptations. After the first years of initial excitement of the Catholic charismatic renewal many people began to hear the call to deeper inner transformation, leading to greater holiness. We needed to face our areas of temptation that can keep us from ministering in the full power of the Spirit because we are not fully rooted in the wisdom and fruit of the Spirit. We needed to learn to be better servants by crucifying the works of the flesh, and living in the Spirit, so that we embody the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:13-26: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). Only after this time of inner transformation in the desert does Jesus return to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14).”5

Holiness is also listed as one of the ten Major Focuses for Catholic Charismatic Prayer groups.

“4) Growth in Holiness: The Spirit’s work of inner transformation leading to a life of holiness; overcoming evil influences and growing in the fruit of the Spirit.”6

The Holy Spirit is definitely the source of the power behind a holy life.  Also, holiness is certainly a gift rather than something that is earned. But, to list it as a charism still seems like a category mistake to me.  Holiness would seem to universal to all who have invited the Holy Spirit into their lives rather than one of the many charisms given to certain individuals.

Inner Healing

The document does not treat inner healing as an independent charism.  It is more of a subset of the charism of healing.  It highlights the importance of inner healing in the healing process. It is on the list of Obstacles and Blocks to Healing.

“10) Inner Healing Needed: Guilt, past sins, past hurts, unforgiveness, tormenting memories, holding on to self-pity, like attention from your sufferings, deliverance.”7

There is often a link between inner healing and physical healing.  In certain cases, inner healing results in physical healing as well. Given the importance of inner healing in restoring people to total health, it is reasonable to believe that there is room for specialization in this type of healing.  As people grow in the healing charism, it will be very important for them to understand the roll of inner healing and the special ways of ministering to people who need it.

Resting in the Spirit

Resting in the Spirit is mentioned in the context of two charisms.  The first is related to the charism of prophecy, and specifically related prophetic messages. 

“Includes prophecy, prophetic images/visions, prophetic actions, words of knowledge (knowledge about how God is acting or an insight into the faith), words of wisdom (insight about how God wants us to respond), discernment, interpretation of tongues, prophetic manifestations (resting in the Spirit, tears, laughter, etc.), inspired Scripture, inspired prayer, word of exhortation.”8

It also appears in the guidelines for a healing workshop.

“- Resting in the Spirit (p. 49): Not sought for own sake or unduly emphasized; not manipulated; focus more on fervent worship and sound teaching of the gospel, than on emotional excitement; there is a strong correlation between what is preached and what is experienced; not all experiences are salvific; avoid term ‘slain in the Spirit.’”9

This treatment in the document would seem to support my conclusion in the previous post.

Scripture

Scripture when spoken of as a gifting in the document seems to be used in the context of the charism of prophecy.  In the section on the Elements of a Charismatic prayer group it says:

“5) Prophetic Gifts (prophecy, prophetic images, word of knowledge, word of wisdom): You love reading and praying with Scripture. You have a consistent personal prayer life in which you sense the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, guidance, wisdom and knowledge. You have a desire for God to guide, build up, encourage and console his people through his personal prophetic guidance.”10

“2) Prophetic Inspirations and Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-22; 1 Corinthians [I suspect Romans is meant] 4: 1-6, 18-19, 23-25; 2 Peter 1:19 [20].

-Teaching people how to receive prophetic inspirations and how to discern what is from the Holy Spirit; one’s own spirit; the world; the flesh; the devil. Need good, balanced teaching.”11

Scripture is also mentioned in the context of Developing and Ongoing Prayer Life.

“3) Scripture: Praying with a Scripture passage. Scripture is the living Word of God and the ‘sword of the Spirit.’ As we prayerfully read and ponder Scripture, the Holy Spirit reveals God to us through these words and relates what we are hearing to our life. Other prayers/books based in Scripture can be used (ex. Rosary, Catechism, Spiritual reading book). When a phrase, line or story of Scripture strikes you, go over it a few times and talk with the Lord about it, since this can mean that the Holy Spirit is seeking to show you something for your life. You can use a journal to jot down inspirations.”12

This exercise was helpful for me to understand more fully how these four charisms were understood in the context of the life in the Spirit seminar.  Perhaps more importantly, for those who may not be familiar with this document, it might answer some questions for you that I haven’t even thought of.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. http://cccrsa.net/charismaticcenter/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Charismatic-PG-Resources.pdf
  2. https://www.nsc-chariscenter.org/charismatic-prayer-group-resources/
  3. See endnote 1. Pg. 35 item 5.
  4. Ibid. Pg. 12.
  5. Ibid. Pg. 13.
  6. Ibid. Pg. 10.
  7. Ibid. Pg. 94.
  8. Ibid. Pg. 34.
  9. Ibid. Pg. 91.
  10. Ibid. Pg. 39.
  11. Ibid. Pg. 7.
  12. Ibid. Pg. 29.

Saint Augustine on Intoxication with the Spirit.

Featured Image: The Intoxication of Wine by Claude Michel circa 1780-90.

Brothers and Sisters,

I had a friend in college that was a teetotaler.  It did not stop him from coming to parties where people were drinking.  He said it was entertaining to watch people lose their inhibitions and discernment.  In the beginning he would occasionally get picked on for not joining in but eventually people accepted his decision.  Unfortunately, I was not so prudent.  My friend never really tried to get anyone to stop drinking nor did he talk about Jesus.  Later in his life his Christianity was much more explicit and fortunately so is mine.

Another situation that has come to my attention recently involves someone that I know who has recently gotten into a relationship.  This person is “in-love”.  He/she is really enamored with the other person.  He/she is convinced that their destiny is to be together for life.  The person is considering making major financial changes, which to me sound a little risky and not particularly prudent, especially with someone in a new relationship.

So why am I telling you all this?  I was noticing the parallels between the infatuation stage of relationships and behavior resulting from excessive drinking.  Both feel pretty good, they dull your inhibitions, they can strike others as funny, they can also have a negative effect on discernment.  My last post on phenomenon of being “drunk in the Spirit” has some possible connections to these parallels.  There are similarities and differences.

Getting back to that topic, let’s look at another scripture relevant to the discussion. 

“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5: 18-20 NRSV).

So why does Paul contrast being filled with the Spirit with getting drunk on wine?  Getting drunk on wine is clearly not encouraged, but when people have been drinking to excess they often engage in singing, karaoke, dancing, and other kinds of revelry.  So, what does that have to do with singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Shouldn’t singing and making melody to the Lord be very proper, with everyone reverently dressed, sitting or standing in rows of pews, singing prescribed songs with the only indication that the people are at all enjoying what they are doing being a slight smile on their faces?

In traditional liturgical setting, any behavior even slightly resembling drunkenness would clearly be inappropriate.  Turning back to scripture though:

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart….David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.’” (2 Sam. 6:16, 20-22 NRSV)

David is clearly going beyond the decorum that Michal expected from him.  The curse of Michal being childless which is mentioned in verse 23 would seem to indicate that David’s choice was appropriate. Further this distain from David’s wife could be likened to being reviled for the name of Christ that believers face at times.

“But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.” (1 Pt. 4:13-14 NRSV)

Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with beautifully done solemn liturgy.  Nor am I suggesting that the Spirit of God is not present in solemn liturgy.  But I am not sure the claim that the Spirit of God can not be at work when people appear to be inebriated to outside observers is always true either.

The reaction of the crowd to the behavior of the disciples on the day of Pentecost would seem to suggest otherwise.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.’” (Acts 2:14-15 NRSV)

It might be a stretch to assume from this text that the modern examples of being “drunk in the Spirit” are what was happening in this passage, but there must have been something related to being “drunk on wine” in the behavior of the disciples that would make such an accusation anything other than baseless.

St. Augustine of Hippo Washes the feet of Christ by Theodoor Rombouts, 1636.

In Father Raniero Cantalamessa’s book, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit, he quotes Saint Augustine, “The Holy Spirit has come to abide in you; do not make him withdraw; do not exclude him from your heart in any way.  He is a good guest; He found you empty and He filled you; He found you hungry and He satisfied you; He found you thirsty and He has intoxicated you.  May He truly intoxicate you! The Apostle said, ‘Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery.’ Then, as if to clarify what we should be intoxicated with, he adds, ‘But be filled with the Holy Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart’ (see Ephesians 5:18ff). Doesn’t a person who rejoices in the Lord and sings to Him exuberantly seem like a person who is drunk? I like this kind of intoxication.  The Spirit of God is both drink and light.”1

Who am I to argue with St. Augustine?

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa O.FM. Cap., Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled with the Fullness of God. Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2005. Chpt. 1, location 104.