Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Charismatic Catholics and/or me

Visited my blogsister Roz this weekend and attended a charismatic Catholic Church. This is the second time I've been there, and I'm still trying to figure out (1) what makes it feel so right, (2) what my place in that style of worship is and (3) what it portends for the whole Catholic Church.

Catholic charismatic Masses at this parish, and I fervently hope everywhere, are exactly orthodox: no foolin' around with the Order or the intent of Mass. We are there to participate in the once-for-all, ever-present Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We join Jesus, outside of time as God is, in the Upper Room, on Calvary and at the empty Tomb. We are given God's Life in the Body and Blood of our Lord. According to Roz, it is the charismatic congregation's openly-expressed love of the Lord that makes them very careful to keep the Mass as it should be and not stray off into irrelevancies. They don't need to make Mass "more meaningful;" by being deep in their charismatic prayer life, they find all the meaning that was already there!

The outward actions are very much those of a reverent, decently-catechized group of people. Actions are devout, the reading of the Word is measured and thoughtful, the homilies both careful in teaching and passionate in leading. The songs are chosen to reflect our desire to live in His Will and participate in His Joy. The Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Offertory and the Consecration, is done according to the rubrics, but fueled by visible joy, serenity and love. Most other ordinary parish Masses pale in comparison; my own parish seems rushed and casual. (I must say right here that I know that my parish Masses are too done sincerely, and at times, wonderful joy and reverence is explicit. I have been to weekday morning Masses that truly approached Heaven on earth. Since it's the Truth no matter how it's done, I am not alarmed by the differences, but only yearn for the greatest expression possible of gratitude for the Gift of His Body and Blood.)

The additions, for those of you who have not participated in a charismatic Mass, are not additions per se but extensions. They do not replace or dominate any of the normal parts of Mass. Instead of the expected singing of the Gloria and then getting right on with the prayer before the reading of Scripture, the singing winds down into a short time of "expressive prayer," that is, the music continues underneath a flowering of the end of the required prayer into anything anyone wants it to be. My pew neighbors sang again any of the lines of the Gloria: "We worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for your glory!" Or they praised Jesus in spontaneous words of praise and thanks. Or they didn't, and just remained standing in prayer. (Me, I mostly shut my eyes and remained both listening and preoccupied with my own prayer.)

Many of the congregational prayers, like the Sanctus, were accompanied by raised hands. If you made a silent movie of those moments, you wouldn't be able to distinguish the prayer styles from any Protestant prayer service: upraised hands, swaying, closed eyes, beautiful smiles. I've just realized in review that that style of prayer only occurs while the congregation is on their feet: there is no hand-raising while kneeling, which seems just perfectly right. (Me, I shut my eyes, peeking a little, and remained both listening and preoccupied with my own prayer.)

After Communion, the songs became music to underpin and make beautiful the time of thanksgiving and praise. The various voices rose and fell, thanking the Lord for the gift of His Sacrifice, His Body and Blood, His Goodness. People rose from their kneeling meditation as they chose to, and spent some time in audible thanksgiving. (Me, well, you got the pattern by now...)

The first time I attended, last year, I was so surprised by the combination of the ancient reverence I exult in and the open demonstration of how people really felt about their Lord and Savior, I cried through the whole thing. After Mass, as I was being introduced to friends in the vestibule, people noted my red eyes and nose (when WILL I learn to cry pretty?) but my friends said simply "Oh, it's the Spirit" and that was that. These people expect to see tears and emotion. I was undone by the mixture of holy boldness and aching care to keep to universal worship, to join our Mass with the Mass being celebrated at all times at all places in the world.

At about the time I visited this parish, I had been in a long time of praying "Come, Holy Spirit, but make it a glancing blow. I'm afraid of what You'll want me to do!" This year, I have become more accustomed to submission to His Will and could pray "Come, Holy Spirit, inflame my heart and I want to love You as You should be loved. If that means a little extempore praying, well, so be it and thank You." But nothing "happened." I didn't pray aloud; I didn't even raise my hands (at least, I don't think so). Interestingly, after we got home much later, I found myself wandering around the backyard in deep prayerful conversation with the Lord over a specific issue in my life, without deliberate intent.

It is easy, so easy to compare myself to others in any group I'm in. We all do it constantly; we are social beings. I had to keep fighting off the urge to feel "left out" because I didn't "feel" the Holy Spirit. I wanted to honor the Lord with the prayer not only of my spirit but of my body, and it didn't happen as it happened to the others in the church. I was of course comforted and fed by the Eucharist, so this worry was only secondary, but I actually needed a little reassurance that the Holy Spirit seemed to be active in my life. I know by faith, formed by the constant teaching of the Church, that I received the Holy Spirit expressly at Baptism and again at Confirmation, and of course in a constant flow of grace both sacramentally and during prayer in every moment of my life. But I wanted to be JUST LIKE the people I'd seen around me at Mass, overgeneralizing everyone in the pews as perfectly conformed in the Spirit and audibly rejoicing in His gifts.

I wonder how Protestants in expressive praise traditions do it every week. Are they so disciplined and developed in their prayer that they can pray in tongues at 10:15 am every Sunday, but then don't burst out with it while they're going through the car wash on Tuesday? Do they feel let down if expressive prayer doesn't come from them one week, and get tempted to worry that they have offended the Lord or become lax in their worship? Is someone who is habitually silent among expressive worshipers eventually feel frozen out or isolated? Do other people judge them by whether they seem to be "in the Spirit" or not? Do they feel able to rely on "faith alone" to know that they are right with their Father, if they feel dry and unable to join in with the rest of the congregation? Without the central jewel of the Eucharist in their worship services, are they "measuring" the truth of their worship by the flow of their participation in expressive prayer, and losing faith if they cannot match the general level of praise?

What does the charismatic movement bode for the whole Church? I think that it's a good thing. It is certainly a powerhouse for church growth and vocations and service work, astoundingly fruitful. I'd like to link to an excellent post and comments here that say much better than I could what this movement means. I can't add to it, except to say that, as long as this style of worship is not a divergence from right practice, that people do not divide themselves by it, that it is an expression of holy desire that shakes me to my foundations and can be a powerful way of opening me to the unending and overpowering love the Lord has for me. Its power and beauty reassures me that "eye has never seen, ear has never heard, nor has it dawned on the mind, what God has surely prepared for those who love Him."


Kate said...


I am sorry I didn't get to meet you! Roz told me you were visiting, but I had to get my cranky baby home pronto and couldn't hang around after mass.

As to being a non-charismatic in a charismatic parish...well, that's me. I married into a charismatic family in a charismatic community. I myself have always been cautious about the charismatic gifts, although my life has been greatly blessed by charismatics of various stripes.

hmmm...I may have to post on this. Stay tuned.

Justin said...

Great thoughts! I grew up in a non-denominational charismatic community, many but not all of it's members being active Catholics in their respective parishes. It wasn't until college that I discovered that the two concepts could formally mingle. Now I desparately seek out Charismatic Catholics, but we are in a distinct minority it seems, especially here in Chicago. Keep us updated on what you find around here, and I will do the same! Are you at all familiar with the "Catholic Charismatic Renewal Center for Chicago"?

MTR said...

So can Catholics go charismatic/energetic worship without sacrificing "Catholicism?" As an outsider looking in, I said ABSOLUTELY! I plan to post about this in my own blog soon.

Therese Z said...

Such blessings this comment box is, and will be, to me. Kate, too bad we couldn't meet. I'll be back again, though, although probably not very soon. Justin, I haven't heard about the Center. It bears investigating; do you know anything about it? I am afraid of being drawn by the beauty of expressed emotion away from the parish that God has been pleased to put me in, without knowing that any change would also be His Will. FTM, please, when you get a chance, let's hear from you (although the new baby is an excellent excuse!)

Justin said...

I know nothing about the Center except that they were one of the "Lay Movements" that would be attending a special Mass & reception that Jack talks about here. The PDF he links to includes the impressive list of attending groups. I was really disappointed to miss it.

I can definitely understand your fear, and it's a large gripe of many non-Charismatics who are fully aware of the movement. I have found that this is where there's an advantage to being a cradle Catholic: while I now experience and express so much joy through Charismatic Mass, I can be very comfortable at "traditional" Mass because it's even more ingrained into me. It's the advantages of ritual that C.S. Lewis tells us about.. I forget which of his books I read about it in.

Therese Z said...

If you ever want to post on lay-movement Catholicism, I will be eager to read it. I know some people who spent YEARS in an ecumenical lay movement (not C&L) and seem to have benefited greatly.

If I had my druthers, and had to join a lay movement, I'd probably try Opus Dei first, only through having read St. Josemaria's writings. Don't know any OD'ers personally. Cursillo doesn't do a thing for me, but I don't know much about it.

In other words, there is a LOT I don't know. So if you want to, tell us about it here, or post about it!

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that on the first day of the twentieth century the pope (I forget who he was) stood on the steps of St. Peter's and prayed that the Holy Spirit would descend on the earth. At virtually the same time, the members of a Protestant prayer meeting in Kansas began to speak in tongues -- the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. Catholics didn't become "charismatics" until the second half of the century. God does things in ways we can't imagine!

Therese Z said...

Cool! Nice example of how we should view our "separated brethren."

It's funny, this morning I was telling someone after Mass about my experiences and lo and behold, she is aware of some charismatics in our area, who do a "healing Mass" once a month. I've heard of it, and I immediately got the creeps, which I shouldn't have, because this person is someone I'd trust to know true spirituality when she encounters it. It's an ingrained response to something "new."

Come, Holy Spirit, but I'm a little scared....

Roz said...

Come, Holy Spirit, but I'm a little scared....

That sounds like the epitome of a faith-filled response:
(1) I want God.
(2) I know He's very much "not me" which is scary.
(3) I also believe he loves me, so I'm not completely terrified.

See, the whole Gospel message in one short phrase!

Kate said...

I've posted more about my experiences with charismatics on my blog, should anybody be interested.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading. Actually my first time reading a web-log. I have been a Catholic for a long time 36 years and I have also visited many different churches and am familiar with spontaneous prayer and "staying in the presence of the Lord" through song and prayer. A couple of weeks ago, I stood up in front of the church and proclaimed that "I was bored". I guess I should of said that I was hungry for more of the Lord. And I proceeded to say what I couldn't wait to see, like the presence of God being so powerful that people would run to the alter and go down on their knees and worship the Lord in random praise. And how I yearned for the day when the presence of God is so strong that no one wanted to leave the church when the service was over or the day when, instead of one song was song for 3 minutes, perhaps it or several were song for 30 minutes. When you see people and nothing is changing in their lives (no visible fruit), that's a problem and I yearn for some kind of charismatic movement. Divorces are running rampant within the church and people still compete with each other for popularity, status, and fashion (clicks) and conversations are NEVER about the Lord after church. How to you move forward if the whole church is content to stick to the same routine. God is bigger than that and we should expect greater things, esp. on Sunday. Yes, I am one of the Lay leaders, I guess. I really need to have a blog of my own. Help!!!



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