My Journey to Trenecostalism

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In light of all the discussions about this, I thought I’d share my story with you guys, and we’d draw whatever discussions from it as they come up.

My religious history is somewhat complex, so I’ll give the really, really short version. I was baptized Catholic (i.e. as an infant), but wasn’t raised in any religion. My parents were themselves raised Catholic (after all, they’re Sicilian) but, as might be expected, they abdicated their Catholicism shortly after graduating from a Jesuit university (Loyola, in Chicago). My father can be now be called an agnostic, and my mother some kind of liberal Protestant.

I went to Catholic school for two years (6th and 7th grade), during which time I was Communicated and Confirmed. This was my first real introduction to religion, and I reveled in it. Like most young Catholic boys, I thought I might even be called to priesthood. Such aspirations were quickly dispelled by my father who, not wanting to see his first-born and oldest son “waste his life,” made known his disapproval and told me I couldn’t be a priest if I liked girls.

My 8th grade year, we moved from Hialeah to Fort Lauderdale, and I was once again enrolled in public schools. Here, I rebelled against all forms of “organized religion” and embraced a philosophy akin to my mother’s liberal Protestantism (i.e. Modernism). My freshman year of high school, however, I made many friends and acquaintances who were very devout Christians. Moreover, they were Protestants, for the most part Pentecostals.

My arguments/discussions with these friends/acquaintances soon led me to question the Modernism I had taken so much for granted, and led me to research the world’s religions, even considering the existence of a real, objective “Truth.”

My sophomore year of high school, I reverted to the Catholic Church, convinced that hers was the one true Faith (much to the chagrin of my friends had hoped to convert me to conservative Protestantism!). Also my sophomore year, a new Catholic parish was founded near my house, one that was unbashedly charismatic. I approached this cautiously, fearing it was really a “Pentecostalism” in disguise. I eventually found their enthusiastic style more to my liking, and even went through the “Life in the Spirit” seminars, and received the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Soon after the “Baptism,” however, I began to question the theology surrounding this movement. It seemed in many ways to resemble the Modernism I had abdicated (i.e. an overexagerrated emphasis on emotions and feelings). I visited an Orthodox Church, and was moved by the sense of sacredness and, well, Liturgy, and saw that my charismatic Mass simply paled in comparison. It resembles more a Cub-Scout jamboree than Sacred Liturgy. I began to research the liturgical tradition of the Church, and discover what liturgical abuses are. I saw that at my charismatic parish, we were ripe with abuses, as has been every charismatic parish I have ever attended!

I was torn. On the one hand, the faithful of my charismatic parish seemed loyal to the Holy Father and Church teaching. On the other hand, there was no sense of sacredness in the Mass. The pastor insisted that we “warm-up” with loud rock-n-roll music before every Mass. There was never any silence. Music was played during the Eucharistic prayer. We had Euchairstic Ministers up the yin-yang, mostly women. The pastor would spend homily after homily, not preaching on the readings, but preaching about why we shouldn’t attend Mass late, and why we all needed to join “cell-groups” or receive the special “Baptism.”

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And the more I learned about Church doctrine and tradition, the more I saw the whole “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” teaching as extremely suspect. I don’t know a single historical precedent of referring to the Biblical “Baptism in the Spirit” as anything other than Christian water baptism, at which one receives the Holy Spirit. The Church, nor her Fathers, teach that it is a post-Confirmation emotional experience. Quite the opposite, the notion comes from the de-sacramentalized theology of Pentecostal Protestantism. (My pastor claimed that when Jesus said you had to be “born again of water and the spirit,” he was talking about a) water baptism, and b) the “Baptism in the Spirit;” by contrast, the Church says that in a valid water baptism, one is both born again of water AND the Spirit!) After I was “Baptized” I began to question whether or not I had received the “Gift of Tongues.” To this day, I don’t know if I do. There are times when I get emotional and ecstatic in my prayer, but are my wprds really “Tongues” or mere babble, for which there is a natural, if pious, explanation?

Also, what the heck is being “slain by the spirit”? I admit, when, at the “Baptism” hands were lain on me, I did fall to the ground, apparently in some kind of ecstasy.

But I have a hard time finding any rationale for this, as well as any rationale to speaking in tongues, since when most charismatics speak in tongues, its without an interpreter, even when this is done in public.

And yes, I’ve heard of saints experiencing similar ecstasies like “being slain in the spirit,” but these were never exactly planned. They didn’t go to a tent-revivial, and wait for priests or lay-people to anoint them in order for them to “be salin.” These sort of ecstasies just happened; they weren’t planned, or ritualized.

So I see some few good fruits of this movement, but all the bad seems to weigh against it.

All along, after I reverted to Catholicism, I began to wonder if I was called to religious life. After much discernment, I entered the postulancy of the Society of Saint John Cantius (in Chicago, IL). The Society celebrates both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine Mass, in Latin, facing the altar, with sacred music, etc.

During my postulancy I was sent to Magdalen College (in Warner, NH). Even after I left the Society, I continued to attend Magdalen for the remainder of my freshman year. Again, I experienced the beauty of the sacred liturgy (Novus Ordo) as celebrated on campus, and with students who were enthusiastic about their Catholic faith, as much as my old charismatic friends were, but without the liturgical abuses or Protestantised theology.

I’ve been back in Florida for about a year now. I still have an affinity for the Tridentine Mass, but I deplore abuses within the “traditionalist” community too. I find that “traditionalists,” when they gather for fellowship, do little more but complain and whine against heresy and abuse in the Church. Charismatics have a bad, horrible liturgy, but their fellowship and prayer meetings I find very uplifting.

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In short, I think I’m a “Trentecostal”! I think the Church’s liturgy should be reverent, traditional, non-spontaneous (isn’t this what the Church says it should be?), and yet I find the charismatic prayer meetings, even with speaking in tongues, to be very edifying.

Here’s my dilemma: it seems I just can’t have both!

And what’s more, my grandmother, who in recent years has returned to the practice of the Catholic faith, has for years been attending this same above-mentioned charismatic parish, and last night received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”! (I haven’t asked her about it yet.)

She’s now an object of scorn among my parents, who see this movement as a big rip-off of the Health, Wealth, Prosperity preachers seen on TBN and elsewhere on TV.

I want to stand up for my grandmother, but at the same time keep the abuses of the charismatic renewal in perspective. I guess I have a really hard time reconciling many of the movement’s beliefs and tenets with traditional Catholicism. It all seems so . . . novel. It would be one thing if these “Life in the Spirit” seminars were simply seminars trying to get Catholics to renew their faith. But they’re much, much more. People really do see it almost as an “8th sacrament” one which they need to get all Catholics to receive.

And it seems so . . . wrong . . . to believe that only Catholics who happen to attend this hyped-up, feel-good charismatic parishes are the ones receiving charisms like tongues, healing, prophesy, or being slain in the spirit. When was the last time you heard of a Tridentiner speaking in tongues? Or “resting in the spirit”? You don’t. Whats the implication? The Traditional Mass somehow stifles the Spirit?

I guess I’m confused because the Church’s leaders seem to have very uncritically accepted the Charismatic movement, without subjecting it to any theological scrutiny.

Rant Over

Are there others who have had similar experiences, and feel the same way I do?
I feel the same way you do… I don’t have much to say about it though except for the fact that I belong to a parish that is VERY charismatic with the speaking in tongues, baptism in the spirit (which I still don’t understand), healing ministry, etc.

And I feel drawn to it because it gets your emotions running and you feel “lifted up” or “feel good”.

But I have found it is just that, emotions, and I prefer the Tridentine Mass and Traditional Catholicism to the Charismatic Catholicism which I feel is not grounded in history and in many points is contrary to the Faith of Catholicism.

Fun and uplifting doesn’t equal “correct”.
(i.e. an overexagerrated emphasis on emotions and feelings).
What in the world is wrong with being “emotional” about our faith. Do you think those in the Bible who were healed or received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and afterwards were “emotional” about it? Were the Disciples of Christ “emotional” about it when they realized the demons were subject to them?

Is LOVE an emotion? Is JOY an emotion?

God bless
Emotions can be good. Lack of emotion can be good. The entire liturgy should focus on the source and summit of our faith, which is the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Christ. If that is your focus, that is good. If the focus is getting an emotional lift, the focus is on you, not Him.

Pax Christi

You may want to read Msgr. Ronald Knox’s masterwork, “Enthusiasm.” In it he looks at “enthusiastics” (emotional) movements throughout Christian history, particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book was published in 1950, so the recent charismatic movement is not mentioned.
I was responding to Midgies question about whether or not Joy and Love are an emotion. The answer is plainly no. Emotions come and go but joy and love are ever steadfast. Do you still love your wife or husband after those initial feelings are gone? I should hope so! I guess what I am trying to say is this: don’t rely on emotions to guide you into truth and joy, rely on God and the Church of Jesus Christ.
As far as charismatic movements and such, you’d have to measure them against fidelity to the Holy Father and the Magisterium. In the second paragraph of this link, Pope John Paul II cautions charismatic leaders to hold to the hierarchy of the Church.

I think it’s important make sure the spirit is “holy.” I don’t know how to do it unless you can measure it in terms of fidelity. I have a friend who left the Church because “she wasn’t getting anything out of Mass.” I think it’s sad that she didn’t know what she was getting at Mass, and that she seemed to be looking for something that made her **feel **like she was getting something.

Not really one for holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” (can’t say I know what that means), but I appreciate reverence and inspiration in the Mass. I’ve been greatly moved on many occasions during the liturgy, but more often than not, it’s due as much to personal meditations than peripherals. When it comes to speaking in tongues and such, I’m with St. Paul: : “I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you, but in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1Cor14:18-19)
I was responding to Midgies question about whether or not Joy and Love are an emotion. The answer is plainly no. .
Well, it may be plainly no to you, but it is not for me.

Love is also a strong positive emotion of regard and affection…and Joy is an emotion of great happiness.

We are called to REJOICE in the Lord!

~ Feel happiness or joy
~ To express great joy
~ Be ecstatic with joy

"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."

"Rejoice evermore."

God bless you
If love is only an emotion, it can never be self-sacrificing. Ultimately, all acts of this emotional love are founded in and enacted for the satisfaction of emotion.

Love is an act. It is the conscious will of the best for another person. It is not natural to us because we are a broken, fallen people. Sometimes God helps us towards acts of love with emotional attachment which eases the process, but it is important not to confuse love with this emotion.

Western culture now confuses even infatuation with love, which is even worse. Combine this with our general lack of commitment and responsibility, and out pops a 50% divorce rate.

Though I have not read it (yet! It’s on my reading list!), The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, from what summaries I have read or heard, should be sufficient to disprove the “love is an emotion” argument.
Love is an act.
God is Love. God is an act?

Love God with all thine heart. Love is more than just an act. Love is a Power. The Love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God’s Love poured into our hearts is what gives us the Power to act.

"Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you."

I have personally experienced the Love of the Lord in my life and I can assure you it was so powerful that it changed my life in an instant.

If love is the act, then how are we to understand:

*** “Your every act should be done with love.” ~** 1 Cor. 16:14*

God bless you
What in the world is wrong with being “emotional” about our faith.
There is nothing wrong with being emotional about our faith. The problem is grounding our faith in emotion, which will eventually fail us.
God is Love. God is an act?
God is love personified. Every moment of His being is an overflowing and outpouring.
I have personally experienced the Love of the Lord in my life and I can assure you it was so powerful that it changed my life in an instant.
Experiencing the ecstasy of the Lord is a profound and moving experience. But what if all feeling of that Presence departs? Then we must live by faith, not by emotion. We must live by trust, not by feelings.
If love is the act, then how are we to understand:

*** “Your every act should be done with love.” ~*** 1 Cor. 16:14

The only way I can see how to interpret this Scripture, if love is an emotion, is that I must somehow wait for or generate the feeling of love before engaging in any act. If every act must be done with the emotion of love, then when I do not feel particularly loving, then I am perfectly justified in not acting. But this does not agree with the rest of the gospel.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” - John 15:13

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” - 1 John 3:16

Let me use this picture that St. Faustina was commissioned by Jesus to paint of Him to make my point. The Rays in this picture represents Jesus’ Love. It’s a Power, an Energy, a Mighty Force that emanates from His very Being.

As I’ve mentioned in other notes I’ve written on this board, Jesus appeared to me. I found myself in another dimension kneeling at the Foot of the Cross looking up into the Eyes of Love Himself. I was literally consumed in this Power I call LOVE when I was in His Presence. Just one look into His Eyes made me into a new creature!

Jesus said we are to love others as He Loved us…unconditionally. I experienced the Lord’s Love when I did not deserve it. None of us deserve it, but those who seek WILL find! I love the Lord because He FIRST loved me. I can now love others unconditionally as Jesus loved me. My love is witnessed in the acts I now do, as Jesus’ Love was witnessed in the Acts He did. Love is not the act. The act is the result of Love.

God bless you
Thanks for sharing. I have two recommendations for you, do with them what you will.
A) Talk to you grandma. Ask her what she thinks, and talk to her about your reservations regarding the Charismatic movement and this particular parish.
B) Talk to the pastor, then, if he doesn’t listen, write to the bishop. If there are liturgical abuses, it is our duty as Catholics to address them, and if necessary, to report them. (Not to mention doctrinal errors…priests that stray from orthodoxy need to be gently confronted). (I don’t have any official references to give you, but perhaps someone else can).
As C. S. Lewis points out in his The Four Loves, there are different kinds of love.

Divine love, the love spoken of in the Bible (e.g. God is Love) is agape, or charity.

This kind of love is not an emotion; it is an act of the will. It finds its perfect manifestation in the sacrificial love of Christ for his Church.

Emotions may accompany this love, but they are not essential to it.

If love were simply an emotion, then we could not be commanded to love God or neighbor, since emotions, by their very nature, cannot be commanded.

Saint Francis de Sales tells us that we should be careful about seking after spiritual consolations (i.e. groovy feelings). They may lead us to love the consolations of God, rather than the God of consolations.
Saint Francis de Sales tells us that we should be careful about seking after spiritual consolations (i.e. groovy feelings). They may lead us to love the consolations of God, rather than the God of consolations.
I.e. seek after God, and he will give us those consolations we need. We should not put the consolations above God.
DV, is it not love that “empowers” us to do God’s Will?

"I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me." ~ Phil . 4:13

Is love the act, or is the act the result of love which empowers us?

God bless you
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