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    Monday, May 07, 2007

    charismatics.. the only way they know how

    This article is not too bad at all. It hits close to home.

    "For a glimpse into the future of the Roman Catholic Church in America, peek inside St. Benedict's in Queens on a Sunday after the Matsons, Mays and Cassidys have all gone home and Joan Overton has shut down the pipe organ following the sparsely attended 8:30 a.m. Mass. That's when the pews fill up with the Durans, Lopezes and Fernandezes and the spiritual thermometer turns up a notch."


    I know that scene exactly. In a poor neighborhood there are few traditional Catholics, and the ones that do travel to attend the "sparsely attended" early Masses are not enough to fill up the place. Left on their own, these Churches would have to close. A few miles out toward the direction of the suburbs with money, the Churches are overflowing with contributions, and schools that funnel in young parents accompanying their school age children.

    But they are not left on their own. There are poor Spanish speaking Catholics coming to their Mass. Usually later in the day, but it is definitely not something the traditional Catholic would recognize.

    On the one hand, it looks to me too confined within a building with thick walls and stained glass windows. With no insult intended, I would say it resembles more of a tent environment, where kids can run around outside the perimeter, and a stray donkey or chicken might amble through.

    The congregation joins in singing the service music, but the hymns are handled by the loud band and microphoned singers. And they sing long to fit the performance mentality they have. The Priest is always happily waiting for the song to finish all 5 stanzas before continuing with his empathic reading of the ritual.

    On the one hand, you have the American Church starting to require a Master's degree in music to play the organ and choose the songs for liturgy. And on the Spanish hand you have loud guitar, tambourine, beans-in-dried-skin shakers, and microphones, microphones, microphones playing music and singing lyrics having no direct connection to the readings of the day.

    OK, I guess, Baptized and ready for formation. Or are they?

    I have not hidden my distain for the misguided delusional me-and-Jesus antics of crazymatics. It is one thing for a small portion of traditional Catholics to temporarily be swept up into their little world, but a scarier thing to see a foreign language culture filling the churches with their act.

    Or not? What else can the Church do but meet these people where they are and move them along through gentle training and example?

    Is there a hope for this when...

    "We're responding to a genuine movement of the spirit," said Bishop Robert J. Carlson, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Catholic Charismatic Renewal. "Especially over the past five years, the charismatic movement is where our growth has been."

    Please good Bishop, that is not something to brag about, and I would think again about how "genuine" a movement we are talking about. I wonder if that quote is correct in his using a lower case "s" for sprit. That I do not disagree with.

    Catholics are being energized by lay ministers in small prayer groups and are employing methods such as speaking in tongues as independent and direct spiritual channels.

    Lay ministers. Now that's a scary scene. They're called "animaors". Ha. Good Grief!

    A landmark study released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics describe themselves as charismatic.

    Some charismatic practices remain controversial, including a devotion known as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." The ritual, which varies greatly among charismatic groups, often starts with weeks of reviewing the gospel and culminates in a prayer to "release" the Holy Spirit from inside the soul. At that point, some participants express extreme joy and might begin to speak in tongues.

    "We know there are some people in the church who don't fully trust it, who feel that this is a type of worship that cannot be controlled," Malagreca said. "But not embracing this would mean ignoring the wishes of Catholics, and that we cannot do."

    Yikes, Makagreca had truly gone over the cliff.

    Only a small percentage of charismatics -- perhaps as many as 500,000 -- belong to the formal organizations sponsored nationally by the Catholic Church. Instead, far more have joined informal, often fervent prayer groups at their local parishes.

    Sonia Rodriguez, a 60-year-old Puerto Rican, spun in the aisles as she spoke in tongues. The crowd began frantically waving white napkins in the air to symbolically purify themselves while a preacher began calling down the Holy Spirit. Moments later, one young woman began spasmodically dancing as if in a trance while group leaders rushed to her side with outstretched hands. She finally collapsed into her chair amid a chorus of "hallelujahs" from the congregation.

    For some, the charismatic prayer service offered a rare chance to unload their burdens and experiences in the company of compassionate ears. Juana Jaco, a 47-year-old Salvadoran maid, took the microphone to give one of many "testimonies" of personal experiences with God.

    "Until last year, I thought I was worthless; my husband beat me, and I hated myself," said Jaco, who came to the service alone. In tears, she continued: "But then my uncle came to me. He was sick and needed a kidney. I didn't think twice; I offered him mine. After the operation, we began to pray together, and we both felt God come down and touch us both."

    One such group met two Sundays ago at St. Benedict's, where about 100 Hispanic parishioners joined together behind the stained-glass windows of the school gymnasium. Over the course of four hours, individual lay preachers -- called "animators" -- took turns rousing the crowd with evangelist-style sermons in Spanish.

    OK, what's the punch line to this joke? Or if not a joke, what's the Executive Summary?

    It's that non-Catholic churches are very successful. Look at the Mormons.. obviously foolish in their foundation, yet energized and nice people. Look at the history of the barking, fainting pentecostals from rural Appalachia. Still quite popular.

    God help us in our effort to take these folks where the are and shephard them to Catholic if they desire. God forbid us from becoming them.


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