Charismatic? Part III


Holy Spirit Window, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

 

FROM that letter in Part I:

I go out of my way to attend a church that is very traditional—where people dress properly, remain quiet in front of the Tabernacle, where we are catechized according to Tradition from the pulpit, etc.

I stay far away from charismatic churches. I just don’t see that as Catholicism. There is often a movie screen on the altar with parts of the Mass listed on it (“Liturgy,” etc.). Women are on the altar. Everyone is dressed very casually (jeans, sneakers, shorts, etc.) Everyone raises their hands, shouts, claps—no quiet. There is no kneeling or other reverent gestures. It seems to me that a lot of this was learned from the Pentecostal denomination. No one thinks the “details” of Tradition matter. I feel no peace there. What happened to Tradition? To silence (such as no clapping!) out of respect for the Tabernacle??? To modest dress?

 

I was seven years old when my parents attended a Charismatic prayer meeting in our parish. There, they had an encounter with Jesus that profoundly changed them. Our parish priest was a good shepherd of the movement who himself experienced the “baptism in the Spirit.” He permitted the prayer group to grow in its charisms, thereby bringing many more conversions and graces to the Catholic community. The group was ecumenical, and yet, faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. My dad described it as a “truly beautiful experience.”

In hindsight, it was a model of sorts of what the popes, from the very beginning of the Renewal, wished to see: an integration of the movement with the whole Church, in fidelity to the Magisterium.

 

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Charismatic? Part II

 

 

THERE is perhaps no movement in the Church that has been so widely accepted—and readily rejected—as the “Charismatic Renewal.” Boundaries were broken, comfort zones moved, and the status quo shattered. Like Pentecost, it has been anything but a neat and tidy movement, fitting nicely into our preconceived boxes of just how the Spirit should move among us. Nothing has been perhaps as polarizing either… just as it was then. When the Jews heard and saw the Apostles burst from the upper room, speaking in tongues, and boldly proclaiming the Gospel…

They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine. (Acts 2:12-13)

Such is the division in my letter bag as well…

The Charismatic movement is a load of gibberish, NONSENSE! The Bible speaks of the gift of tongues. This referred to the ability to communicate in the spoken languages of that time! It did not mean idiotic gibberish… I will have nothing to do with it. —T.S.

It saddens me to see this lady speak this way about the movement that brought me back to Church… —M.G.

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Charismatic? Part I

 

From a reader:

You mention the Charismatic Renewal (in your writing The Christmas Apocalypse) in a positive light. I don’t get it. I go out of my way to attend a church that is very traditional—where people dress properly, remain quiet in front of the Tabernacle, where we are catechized according to Tradition from the pulpit, etc.

I stay far away from charismatic churches. I just don’t see that as Catholicism. There is often a movie screen on the altar with parts of the Mass listed on it (“Liturgy,” etc.). Women are on the altar. Everyone is dressed very casually (jeans, sneakers, shorts, etc.) Everyone raises their hands, shouts, claps—no quiet. There is no kneeling or other reverent gestures. It seems to me that a lot of this was learned from the Pentecostal denomination. No one thinks the “details” of Tradition matter. I feel no peace there. What happened to Tradition? To silence (such as no clapping!) out of respect for the Tabernacle??? To modest dress?

And I have never seen anyone who had a REAL gift of tongues. They tell you to say nonsense with them…! I tried it years ago, and I was saying NOTHING! Can’t that type of thing call down ANY spirit? It seems like it should be called “charismania.” The “tongues” people speak in are just jibberish! After Pentecost, people understood the preaching. It just seems like any spirit can creep into this stuff. Why would anyone want hands laid on them that are not consecrated??? Sometimes I am aware of certain serious sins that people are in, and yet there they are on the altar in their jeans laying hands on others. Aren’t those spirits being passed on? I don’t get it!

I would much rather attend a Tridentine Mass where Jesus is at the center of everything. No entertainment—just worship.

 

Dear reader,

You raise some important points worth discussing. Is the Charismatic Renewal from God? Is it a Protestant invention, or even a diabolical one? Are these “gifts of the Spirit” or ungodly “graces”?

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A Priest In My Own Home

 

I remember a young man coming to my house several years ago with marital problems. He wanted my advice, or so he said. “She won’t listen to me!” he complained. “Isn’t she supposed to submit to me? Don’t the Scriptures say that I am the head of my wife? What’s her problem!?” I knew the relationship well enough to know that his view of himself was seriously skewed. So I replied, “Well, what does St. Paul say again?”:Continue reading

The Ark and Non-Catholics

 

SO, what about non-Catholics? If the Great Ark is the Catholic Church, what does this mean for those who reject Catholicism, if not Christianity itself?

Before we look at these questions, it is necessary to address the protruding issue of credibility in the Church, which today, is in tatters…

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What is Truth?

Christ In Front Of Pontius Pilate by Henry Coller

 

Recently, I was attending an event where a young man with a baby in his arms approached me. “Are you Mark Mallett?” The young father went on to explain that, several years ago, he came across my writings. “They woke up me up,” he said. “I realized I had to get my life together and stay focused. Your writings have been helping me ever since.” 

Those familiar with this website know that the writings here seem to dance between both encouragement and the “warning”; hope and reality; the need to stay grounded and yet focused, as a Great Storm begins to swirl around us. “Stay sober” Peter and Paul wrote. “Watch and pray” Our Lord said. But not in a spirit of morose. Not in spirit of fear, rather, joyful anticipation of all that God can and will do, no matter how dark the night becomes. I confess, it’s a real balancing act for somedays as I weigh which “word” is more important. In truth, I could often write you every day. The problem is that most of you have a difficult enough time keeping up as it is! That’s why I’m praying about re-introducing a short webcast format…. more on that later. 

So, today was no different as I sat in front of my computer with several words on my mind: “Pontius Pilate… What is Truth?… Revolution… the Passion of the Church…” and so on. So I searched my own blog and found this writing of mine from 2010. It summarizes all of these thoughts together! So I have republished it today with a few comments here and there to update it. I send it in hopes that perhaps one more soul who is asleep will awaken.

First published December 2nd, 2010…

 

 

“WHAT is truth?” That was Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical response to Jesus’ words:

For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:37)

Pilate’s question is the turning point, the hinge on which the door to Christ’s final Passion was to be opened. Until then, Pilate resisted handing Jesus over to death. But after Jesus identifies Himself as the source of truth, Pilate caves into the pressure, caves into relativism, and decides to leave the fate of Truth in the hands of the people. Yes, Pilate washes his hands of Truth itself.

If the body of Christ is to follow its Head into its own Passion— what the Catechism calls “a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers,” [1]CCC 675 — then I believe we too will see the time when our persecutors will dismiss the natural moral law saying, “What is truth?”; a time when the world will also wash its hands of the “sacrament of truth,”[2]CCC 776, 780 the Church herself.

Tell me brothers and sisters, has this not already begun?

 

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1. CCC 675
2. CCC 776, 780

Time to Set Our Faces

 

WHEN it came time for Jesus to enter His Passion, He set His face toward Jerusalem. It is time for the Church to set her face toward her own Calvary as the storm clouds of persecution continue to gather on the horizon. In the next episode of Embracing Hope TV, Mark explains how Jesus prophetically signals the spiritual condition necessary for the Body of Christ to follow its Head on the Way of the Cross, in this Final Confrontation that the Church is now facing…

 To watch this episode, go to www.embracinghope.tv

 

 

Measuring God

 

IN a recent letter exchange, an atheist said to me,

If sufficient evidence was shown to me, I would start witnessing for Jesus tomorrow. I don’t know what that evidence would be, but I’m sure an all-powerful, all-knowing deity such as Yahweh would know what it would take to get me to believe. So that means Yahweh must not want me to believe (at least at this time), otherwise Yahweh could show me the evidence.

Is it that God does not want this atheist to believe at this time, or is it that this atheist is not prepared to believe in God? That is, is he applying the principles of the “scientific method” to the Creator Himself?

 

SCIENCE VS. RELIGION?

Atheist, Richard Dawkins, wrote recently about “Science vs. Religion”. Those very words are, for the Christian, a contradiction. There is no conflict between science and religion, provided science humbly recognizes its limitations as well as ethical boundaries. Likewise, I might add, religion must also recognize that not all things in the Bible are to be taken literally, and that science continues to unfold for us a deeper understanding of Creation. Case in point: the Hubble telescope has revealed to us wonders that hundreds of generations before us never thought possible.

Consequently, methodical research in all the branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 159

Science tells us about the world God created. But can science tell us about God Himself?

 

MEASURING GOD

When a scientist measures temperature, he uses a thermal device; when he measures size, he may use a caliper, and so forth. But how does one “measure God” to satisfy the atheist’s need for concrete proof of His existence (since as I explained in The Painful Irony, the order of creation, miracles, prophecy, etc. mean nothing to him)? The scientist does not use a caliper to measure temperature no more than he uses a thermometer to measure size. The right tools have to be used to produce the right evidence. When it comes to God, who is spirit, the tools to produce divine evidence are not calipers or thermometers. How could they be?

Now, the atheist cannot simply say, “Well, that’s why there’s no God.” Take for example, then, love. When an atheist says he loves another, ask him to “prove it.” But love cannot be measured, weighed, poked, or prodded, so how can love exist? And yet, the atheist who loves says, “All I know is that I love her. I know this with all my heart.” He might claim as evidence of his love his acts of kindness, service, or passion. But these very outward signs exist among those who are devoted to God and live by the Gospel—signs which have transformed not only individuals but entire nations. However, the atheist excludes these as evidence of God. Therefore, an atheist cannot prove that his love exists either. There are simply no tools to measure it.

So too, there are other attributes of man that science fails to fully explain:

Evolution cannot explain the development of free will, morality, or conscience. There is no evidence for the gradual development of these human characteristics—there is no partial morality in chimpanzees. Humans are obviously greater than the sum of whatever evolutionary forces and raw materials are said to have combined to create them. —Bobby Jindal, Atheism’s Gods, Catholic.com

So when it comes to God, one must use the proper tools to “measure” Him.

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOOLS

First of all, just as he does in science, the atheist has to understand the nature of the subject he is approaching to “study.” The Christian God is not the sun or a bull or a molten calf. He is the Creator Spiritus.The atheist must also account for the anthropological roots of men:

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being. CCC, n. 28

Man is a religious being, but he is also an intelligent being capable of knowing God with certainty from the created world by the natural light of reason. This, because he is made “in the image of God.”

In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone… there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.CCC, n. 37

In this insightful passage from the Catechism, the tools for “measuring God” are revealed. Because we have a fallen nature prone to doubt and denial, the soul in search of God is called to “self-surrender and abnegation.” In a word, faith. Scripture puts it this way:

…without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6)

 

APPLYING THE TOOLS

Now, the atheist might say, “Wait a minute. I don’t believe God exists, so how can I approach Him in faith?”

The first thing is to understand how terrible the wound of sin is to human nature (and certainly the atheist will admit that man is capable of terrors). Original sin is not just an inconvenient blip on the human historical radar. Sin produced death in man to such a great degree that communion with God was severed. The first sin of Adam and Eve was not stealing a piece of fruit; it was an utter lack of trust in their Father. What I am saying is that even the Christian at times, despite his foundational faith in God, doubts as did Thomas. We doubt because we forget not only what God has done in our own lives, but we forget (or are ignorant of) the powerful interventions of God throughout human history. We doubt because we are weak. Indeed, if God were to appear in the flesh before mankind again, we would crucify Him all over again. Why? Because we are saved by grace through faith, not sight. Yes, fallen nature is that weak (see Why Faith?). The fact that even the Christian has to renew his faith at times is not proof of God’s absence but of sin and weakness’s presence. The only way to approach God, then, is in faith—trust.

What does this mean? Again, one must use the right tools. It means approaching Him in the way He has shown us to:

…unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven… he is found by those who do not test him, and manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. (Matt 18:3; Wis 1:2)

This is far from simplistic. To become “like children,” that is, to experience the evidence of God means several things. One is to accept who He says He is: “God is love.” In fact, the atheist often rejects Christianity because he has been given a distorted perception of the Father as a deity who watches with squinted eyes our every error, ready to punish our guilt. This is not the Christian God, but at best the Misunderstood God. When we understand that we are loved, unconditionally, this not only changes our perception of God, but reveals the shortcomings of those who are Christianity’s leaders (and thus their need for salvation too).

Second, becoming a child means following in the commandments of Our Lord. The atheist who thinks He can experience the evidence of God the Creator while living as an enemy against His created order (ie. natural moral law) through a life of sin, does not understand basic principles of logic. The supernatural “joy” and “peace” Christians testify to is a direct result of submitting to the Creator’s moral order, a process called “repentance.” As Jesus said:

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit… If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:5, 10-11)

So faith and obedience are necessary tools to experience and encounter God. A scientist will never measure the correct temperature of a liquid if he refuses to place the temperature probe in the fluid. So too, the atheist will not have a relationship with God if his thoughts and actions are in opposition to the character of God. Oil and water do not mix. On the other hand, through faith, he can experience the love and mercy of God no matter what his past has been. By trust in God’s mercy, humble obedience to His Word, the grace of the Sacraments, and in that conversation we call “prayer,” the soul can come to experience God. Christianity stands or falls on this reality, not on ornate cathedrals and golden vessels. The blood of the martyrs was shed, not for an ideology or empire, but a Friend.

It must be said that one can certainly experience the truth of God’s word through a life opposed to His moral order. As Scripture says, the “wages of sin is death.” [1]Rom 6:23 We see the “dark proofs” of this maxim all around us in the sadness and disorder in lives lived outside God’s will. The action of God can therefore be evident by the restlessness in one’s soul. We are made by Him and for Him, thus, without Him, we are restless. God is not a distant deity, but one who pursues each of us relentlessly because He loves us endlessly. However, such a soul often has a difficult time recognizing God in these moments either because of pride, doubt, or hardness of heart.

 

FAITH AND REASON

The atheist who wants evidence of God, then, must apply the right tools. This involves the use of both faith and reason.

…human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of Love of the Triune God. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, June 16th, 2010, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, June 23, 2010

Without reason, religion will make little sense; without faith, reason will stumble and fall short of seeing that which only the heart can know. As St. Augustine said, “I believe in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”

But the atheist often thinks that this demand of faith means that, ultimately, he must shut down his mind and believe without the aid of reason, and that faith itself will produce nothing but a brain-washed allegiance to religion. This is a false notion of what it means to “have faith.” The experience of millennia of believers tells us that faith will provide evidence of God, but only if one approaches the mystery in the disposition proper to our fallen nature—as a little child.

By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation… Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” —CCC 50, 157

But this need for childlike faith, frankly, will be too much for a proud man. The atheist who stands on a rock and yells at the sky demanding that God show himself has to pause for a moment and think about this. For God to respond at every beck and whim of men would be contrary to His nature. The fact that God doesn’t appear in all glory at that moment is perhaps more proof that He is there than not. On the other hand, for God to remain somewhat silent, thus causing man to walk more and more by faith rather than sight (so that he can see God! “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God…“), is also proof. God gives us enough to seek Him. And if we seek Him, we will find Him, for He is not far. But if He is truly God, truly the Creator of the universe, shouldn’t we perhaps humbly seek Him, in the way in which He has shown that we will find Him? Is this not reasonable?

The atheist will only find God when He gets off his rock and kneels beside it. The scientist will find God when he sets aside his scopes and devices and uses the proper tools.

No, one cannot measure love through technology. And God is love!

It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven… More than any of the cargo we might carry with us—in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology—it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Asian News.it, April 18th, 2010

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:22-25)

 

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1. Rom 6:23

A Painful Irony

 

I have spent several weeks dialoguing with an atheist. There’s perhaps no better exercise to build one’s faith. The reason being is that irrationality is a sign itself of the supernatural, for confusion and spiritual blindness are hallmarks of the prince of darkness. There are some mysteries the atheist cannot solve, questions he cannot answer, and some aspects of human life and the origins of the universe that cannot be explained by science alone. But this he will deny by either ignoring the subject, minimizing the question at hand, or ignoring scientists who refute his position and only quoting those who do. He leaves many painful ironies in the wake of his “reasoning.”

 

 

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