Our Crucial Role in the Culture Battle
By Mary Healy
It is not easy to be a faithful Christian in the times in which we are living. In our time there is a battle raging for the heart and soul, the very survival of Christian civilization—a battle you might call “the Wars of the Ring.” As our late Holy Father John Paul the Great recognized, right at the center of the culture wars, the crisis of Western civilization in our time, is the “ring” of the marital bond: the relationship between man and woman, sex, marriage, human life and the family. Does God have a plan for sex and procreation? Does he have a design that he has built into us—or can we redefine it and do it “our way?”
The Pope often said, “The future of humanity passes through the family.” As goes marriage, so goes the family. As goes the family, so goes the world. The widespread acceptance of promiscuity, abortion, contraception, divorce, human cloning and homosexuality has done great damage to God’s plan for life and love that is stamped in our very being. And we see the effects in many broken lives around us. Every one of God’s people has a crucial part to play in this battle, but in a particular way those of us who are privileged to be part of the Charismatic Renewal. What is our special role?
The church’s teaching on human life and love is credible and deeply attractive. It is also very challenging, since it does not compromise on any of the “tough” moral stands that contradict current ideologies—for instance, the prohibition of all contraception and non-marital sex. If it was hard to live the church’s moral teaching in former days, in a Christian society where human life was respected and the family was the primary social unit, how much more is it now, in a post-Christian society where everything opposes this teaching? In fact, for Christian morality to be lived, good teaching is not enough. Something more is needed. That something more is the experience of the power of Christ’s redemption that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
Those of us who have been baptized in the Spirit have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives, resulting in very tangible, perceptible change! We have been made aware in a unique way of the divine power that alone enables us to live according to the gospel, and according to this beautiful vision of the human person in the image of God. When I was baptized in the Spirit, I began to learn how incapable I was of approaching the holiness of God on my own. Rather than leading to despair, this awareness liberated me from the cycle of spiritual self-effort and failure. I came to understand that I have real access to the grace of Christ, so that he works in me his own death to self and life to God.
Fellowship with others in the renewal, and especially in the communities that have grown out of the renewal, teaches people in very concrete and practical ways what it means to repent, to forgive, to die to self and to receive God’s love which enables us to love beyond our human capacity. We have also learned the secret of praising and thanking God in every circumstance, even in our own troubles and failures, thereby deepening our knowledge of God as the infinitely wise and loving Father who arranges every detail in our life for our good. Through this grace we are empowered to live a life pleasing to God.
A second area where baptism in the Spirit has great impact is healing. The Book of Kings recounts how one day, the king of Syria sent his officer Namaan toIsrael to be healed of leprosy. He had heard through Namaan’s servant girl that the God of Israel was aGod who healed. But when the king of Israel heard that Namaan was coming, he was afraid. He tore his robes, thinking, “Oh no! He’s just looking for an excuse to pick a fight with me.” The king did not have much confidence in God’s power to heal. But Elisha the prophet heard about this and said to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel!” (2 Kg. 5:8).
When we as charismatic Catholics encounter people wounded by the culture of death, what is our response? Do we merely rehearse the church’s moral directives and tell them “Do the best you can… and don’t forget to go to confession?” Or do we believe in a God of power? Do we believe he is able to heal the human heart and restore his children to emotional, spiritual and even physical wholeness ? Most of us in the renewal can attest to powerful healings that have occurred, either through a simple prayer or laying on of hands, or through the more specific methods that have been developed by various ministries. In fact, the renewal is bringing about a paradigm shift in the Catholic church where healing through prayer, once expected only rarely at famous shrines or through great saints, has become widely recognized as a part of the normal Christian life. How significant it is that this is happening now, when it is so desperately needed!
Living the Christian life in our time de-mands great wisdom in applying the church’s teachings to the extremely complex and delicate situations that sometimes arise. Those who have experienced baptism in the Spirit can bear witness that the Holy Spirit prompts us with supernatural wisdom and guidance as we listen to him in prayer..
“Laurie” is one example. As the single mother of a teenage son, Laurie had come to know the Lord through the charismatic renewal and knew she could hear his voice through prayer and scripture. She also experienced great healing and a restoration of her own dignity and self-worth as she came to know God’s love. One day she came home and turned on the computer, to find the image of a naked woman filling the screen. She called her son, and embarrassed, he admitted looking at pornography. That night she prayed, “Lord, show me what to do! How can I discipline him so that next time he won’t just feel he needs to hide it better from me?”
By the next morning she knew what to do. “Mike, I want you to write the life story of this woman. Use your imagination. I want to know about her family, who her parents were, how many brothers and sisters she had, where she lived, what her life was like. I want to know what happened when she went to school and what she did with her friends. And most of all I want to know what experiences she had that caused her to so lose her dignity that she ended up posing for a camera in such a degrading way.” Laurie made Mike rework this story until she was satisfied that he had a sense of this unknown female as a person. Imagine how that exercise impacted this young man, and how he could never look at a pornographic image in the same way again. This was divine wisdom! This was the Lord speaking personally and directly to a parent in response to her prayer, giving her wisdom beyond her own experience and common sense in guiding her son into godliness. This is the kind of wisdom the Lord is ready to give all his children in our time, if we will listen to him.
By the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit, we have been empowered to live a radical Christianity, giving our lives over to Jesus without reserve and without compromise. The Lord has given us this gift not just for our own sake, but because he has a plan for us to minister to those who are deeply affected by the lies and distortions of the culture of death. God wants to heal, strengthen, renew and transform the lives of all his children! He will do this as we are attentive and responsive to the divine truths that the Holy Spirit imparts to us. This is what it means to live “the culture of Pentecost!”
Dr. Mary Healy is adjunct professor of scripture at the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University in Naples, FL and at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College in Alexandria, VA. She serves as Council Chair of Mother of God Community, a lay Catholic community in Gaithersburg ,MD. Mary often addresses conferences on biblical interpretation, the theology of the body, and the spiritual life.
Reprinted with permission from Pentecost Today, April/May/June 2007 Volume 32 Number 2.
CATHOLIC and Charismatic
By Fr. John Gordon
Forty years ago Pentecost was renewed unexpectedly in the midst of the Catholic Church. In those early days, in what came to be known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, participants looked for and received pastoral advice and wisdom from our Pentecostal and neo-charismatic brothers and sisters. They encouraged us in the use of the spiritual gifts; they encouraged us in our own Church. We grew in the grace of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the charisms. As the Catholic Charismatic Renewal matured we sought to place ourselves more firmly within the life of the Church. The Holy Year of 1975 was a significant time of grace for the Renewal. The international conference was held in Rome for Pentecost. The next day Cardinal Suenens celebrated Mass at the high altar in St. Peter’s for all the conference participants. Afterwards Pope Paul VI came and spoke glowingly, enthusiastically and appreciatively of the grace of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as expressed in the Charismatic Renewal.
Over the years the Bishops of the United States have issued pastoral statements regarding the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, culminating in the 1997 document, Grace for the New Springtime. [http:// www. nscchariscenter.org/grace eng.htm] In all these statements of the bishops there is both praise and gratitude to the Lord for this grace, encouragement to the Church, especially to priests and bishops to be involved in the Renewal, and a word of caution about some concerns that the bishops have had over the years. As we have received these encouragements and directions from the bishops we have sought to implement them in our lives. Thus you’ll find people touched by the grace of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in a wide variety of roles and ministries at the parish and diocesan level, indeed throughout the Church. We are catechists, schoolteachers, religious, deacons and priests and there are some bishops among us. We are involved in healthcare ministry and ministry to the poor. There is no aspect of the life of the Church in which persons touched by this grace are not also present. We saw in Pope John Paul II an elder brother who has encouraged us in our walk in this grace and has brought us more fully and more deeply into the life of the Church, and so it is fair to say that the Renewal has found itself a home in the Catholic Church. While there may be some places in which there is tension, in the main, the Charismatic Renewal is received as a grace. Even though individual persons might not choose to be involved with the Renewal it is welcomed in the Church. In addition to our charismatic styles of prayer, we have embraced traditional Catholic piety and devotion. In many places, the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, novenas and other forms of piety have been infused with a new grace and enthusiasm because of the Renewal. Yet at the same time I wonder, have we lost something of the charismatic aspect of our identity? While it is good, important and right that we be fully Catholic there is also a grace that has been poured out onto the Church to invite it back to the roots of Pentecost—back to the Upper Room and the grace and power that come when the gifts of the Spirit are exercised.
Many in the Renewal are fully aware of the teachings of the Church; we are well versed in the Catechism, in the documents of Vatican II and in the encyclicals of the popes. I would like to encourage us to be as well versed in the scriptures and the life that we have in the power of the Spirit, to be as well versed in the practice of leading people to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and helping others yield to the gifts of the Spirit—tongues, prophecy, healing, wisdom, knowledge, indeed all the myriad ways in which the Holy Spirit seeks to work charismatically through the Church, with a power that comes not from human wisdom or training or planning, but with a power that comes from on high. May the grace of Pentecost, that is Catholic and charismatic, bring life to the whole Body of Christ. May this life be faithful to the grace of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God’s power from on high.
Fr. John Gordon is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and is currently serving at a parish in the Archdiocese. He is a frequent conference speaker and a member of the National Service Committee.
Reprinted with permission from Pentecost Today January/February/March 2007 Volume 32 Number 1