Catholic Phoenix


The Cynic Confronts Charismata, Part 1: Glossolalia

Jane found Mother Dimble an embarrassing person to share a room with because she said prayers. It was quite extraordinary, Jane thought, how this put one out. One didn’t know where to look, and it was so difficult to talk naturally again for several minutes after Mrs. Dimble had arisen from her knees.

                        (That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis)

 I empathize heartily with Jane. Though hearing others pray does not make me cringe, I confess that certain aspects of Christian mysticism make me fidget and stare at the floor. Such was my experience this past week when I visited a local Catholic church to listen to a man’s testimony of his miraculous recovery from 72 hours in a vegetative state, followed by visions of Jesus that have occurred regularly through the present. I believe God can and does work miracles, and that He may appear to whomever He wishes. I’m not so sure I believe in man’s faculties to assess and digest this stuff.

I suppose my main concern is that charisms – or gifts – such as visions, often look and sound to the outsider like lunatic ravings. Though the fellow I saw was certainly lucid, I have no way of personally telling whether or not he spoke the truth. He claimed his local bishop had approved the message, and the Vatican is on the list of places he’s spoken. We were informed that, though he spoke only English, many of the non-English speaking cardinals understood his message anyway. 

The Greek term charisma denotes any good gift that flows from God's benevolent love (charis) unto man … in its narrowest sense, charisma is the theological term for denoting extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others. (

Charisma sounds pretty great, so why am I still fidgeting? It seems Catholics fall on one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to charismatic phenomena. We either believe in every occurrence we are presented with, or else are highly suspicious or disbelieving. Persons who claim to have these gifts may counterfeit them, or else have convinced themselves they are real when they are not. In other cases, the source of power could be diabolical.  It is important to listen to accounts with an open mind, but remember a mind is only open so that it may close upon the truth.

1Thessalonians 5:19-22: Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

This verse is helpful to me, because it strikes a balance between belief and disbelief. However, if you are still a bit cynical like me, then read on. We are going to learn about the charisms that make me squirm the most, starting with…. drumroll please…              


Catholics do it. Pentecostals do it. Voodoo practitioners do it. So how do we know when this is a charism given by the Holy Spirit and when it is hogwash?  I’ll leave that to the Inquisition, but I will share with you what I’ve learned.

There are two categories of charismata: those tending to further the inner growth of the church, and those that tend to promote her outer development. It is the latter category into which falls the gift of performing miracles and glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues is diverse and can involve speaking in a known or unknown language while in a kind of trance. The object of the gift is to convey praise to God, and not necessarily ideas to listeners (For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit – 1Cor14:2). The gift of tongues edifies the speaker alone, so interpretation is necessary if the larger Church is to be enlightened. St Paul exhorts the Corinthians to pray for the gift of interpretation if they speak in a tongue, for he himself would, “rather speak five words in my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1Cor14:19). Tongues without interpretation are like a string of meaningless notes.

It is clear that this charism is real, but was it only so for early Christians?  By the time of St Augustine of Hippo, the manifestation of this gift may have declined:

That thing [glossolalia] was done for a betokening, and it passed away. In the laying on of hands now, that persons may receive the Holy Ghost, do we look that they should speak with tongues? Or when he laid the hand on infants, did each one of you look to see whether they would speak with tongues, and, when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so strong-minded as to say, These have not received the Holy Ghost; for, had they received, they would speak with tongues as was the case in those times? If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost? Let him question his own heart. If he love his brother, the Spirit of God dwelleth in him. (Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 6:10)

Other saints throughout history have had a similar opinion:

"For who is there that seems to have these signs of the faith, without which no one, according to this Scripture, shall be saved?" St Bernard of Clairvaux’s answer was that these signs were no longer present because the transformed lives of believers was all the sign necessary for his times.

St Thomas Aquinas: “…no one speaks in the tongues of all nations, because the Church herself already speaks the languages of all nations.”

Now we come to the present time and I am still intrigued by the draw this gift has for Charismatic Catholics, considering many have declared it extinct, while St Paul recommends silence unless interpretation is forthcoming.  My cynical side points out that modern manifestations of tongues seem to come with prior suggestion, such as heightened emotional states or perhaps the desire to fit in with a particular group. My smaller, humble and believing side awaits your comments.

101 comments | Add one of your own.

  1. Titus

    “He claimed his local bishop had approved the message, and the Vatican is on the list of places he’s spoken.”

    That, of course, is a verifiable assertion. And the phenomenon of private revelation in general is an established Catholic discipline governed by norms to assist the faithful. Maybe this guy sees or once saw Christ. Perhaps not. But that can be hashed out.

    As for “charismatic Catholics,” there’s only one thing to say: bull feathers.

    This is not part of the Church’s Tradition (it may be a part of her history, but not an enduring element of Tradition). There is nothing in the Magisterium or disciplines of the Church that indicates that the Holy Spirit engages in these sorts of things. Such antics are archeological nonsense, Protestant pablum. My wife, who had the misfortune of being raised as a charismatic protestant as a child, while not having any fondness for such sects generally, insists that she saw people “slayed in the Spirit”: poppycock. God did not send an angel from heaven to some babbling gaggle of the followers of a heretical sect for the purpose of knocking one of their members unconscious on the floor, or making them all blather gibberish. He certainly didn’t do it there, and he He doesn’t do it just because the babbling gaggle happens to consist of Catholics. The quiet toleration of these groups within the Church is foolish and scandalous.


    1. Daniel

      Quite harsh friend. They are our brothers and sisters as well,… and certainly there are things that you and I do or believe which others might consider on the more interesting side of the spectrum. Perhaps a little more humility is due when speaking of our fellow Christians.


      1. Anita

        Thanks Daniel!
        It is a gift that seems to have always caused confusion. I do personally pray at times (generally alone) with the gift of tongues. Arguing or accusing only leads us to ungodliness.


        1. thereserita

          Dear “bullfeathers”,
          Not that you seem very open to factual input but I’ll try anyway:
          I am a happy Catholic, sister of 2 priests & mother of 1. The Lord in his goodness gave me the gift of tongues many years ago. Over the years, the main use of that gift as been for private prayer. I.e., when speaking with God & I run out of words (e.g., how often the words ‘I love you’/'I praise you’ fail to do justice to what is in my heart!), then I am able to praise & love him in a language I don’t understand, like a child, but that he does! This is often useful too while interceeding for my own needs or those of others bc I often don’t know “how to pray as I ought”, like St Paul says, so “the Spirit interceeds for me…”
          Just a suggestion but, while we are instructed to weigh the spirits, you might want to cool the rhetoric lest you find yourself mocking the Holy Spirit.


    2. David

      The Holy See Herself seems to think otherwise. This movment has official approval from Rome. I’ll let my obedience go to Her. Or are you a higher authority?


  2. JoAnna

    I have a friend who is Protestant, and she wrote a LiveJournal entry once about how she spoke in tongues at one of her church’s services. She seemed terribly excited about it, but I was rather confused. According to her, she couldn’t understand what she was speaking, nor could anyone else. I thought, “Well, what’s the point of that? How is that glorifying God in any way?”

    It makes me rather grateful I grew up Lutheran where that sort of thing was unheard of; it made the transition to Catholicism a lot easier!


  3. Bruce Newman

    I saw this abused so much when I was in the Protestant charismatic church (I converted to Catholicism a year ago) that I have a strong distaste for it. People who know I came from that background have suggested I might be interested in charismatic Catholics. Well, I’ll be friends with anyone but one thing I’m happy about now that I’m Catholic is not having to contend with charismatics and their perpetual state of instability. I’ve got some spiritual order in my life now and I love it.


    1. Randall Tipton

      I pastored in the charismatic movement for many years. I left my original non-charismatic denomination because they didn’t allow speaking in tongues, a gift I had received.

      I agree with you that there is a lot of instability in many of those who practice a charismatic faith, but that is probably true of Catholics as well as all others. We live in a relativistic world of subjective experience.

      I came into the Catholic church a year ago like you did, and like, you, I have not pursued any charismatic associations. There is so much to mine from the richness of our tradition, and I have never felt like my feet land each day on more solid ground than the truth of my Catholic faith.


    2. Giancarlo Taliente

      Well, I can tell you one thing for certain. Charismatic Catholics are passionate about Christ. I have NEVER seen a luke warm C&E (Christmas and Easter) charismatic Cathlolic, but I know WAY, WAY too many “traditional” C&E’s where attending the miracle of Mass is a horrible sacrifice that can only be born twice a year. When talkinig about mysticism lets remember that the mass is about the most mystical event on earth. Where Heaven and Earth are united for an hour a day or week or year (depending on how often you go).


    3. Amy Culver

      I too am a convert – and saw a lot of this in my Protestant days. I was “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and spoke in tongues – but never felt really comfortable with it. It also seemed to me to be the sort of a thing that a lot of people felt really prideful about. I would sometimes do it in private when I was feeling anxious and it did calm me. Now that I have the fullness of The Faith and many prayers I can turn to, I just don’t feel the need. When I feel anxious, I just pray The Rosary – and that does the trick just as well, if not better. And… I don’t have to worry about what I might or might not be saying. There are times, though, when I am praying the Rosary out loud, it “feels” similar to when I used to pray in tongues. It makes me wonder if maybe that’s what I was doing back then. Again, if it was, then that’s fine – I can just do in English now! ;-)


  4. Dev Thakur

    Well, I 100% agree with you. When I hear someone speaking in tongues (which experience I have unfortunately had) my only question at first is “how can this be distinguished from lunatic emotional rantings?” I have never gotten past that question.

    For other supernatural phenomenon there are criteria. For medical miracles, the medical data can be investigated. For visions, we ask if others saw anything as well (witnesses). For inspired private revelations, we can examine the contents of the writings for internal consistency and consistency with known Catholic Revelation.

    But speaking in tongues is just silliness. By your fruits you shall know them, and I would also go so far as to say that the Catholic Charismatic movement has done great damage; even though individuals may have benefitted from it, in general it promotes a very emotional, a-traditional, and undignified approach to the way we worship in our Catholic Church.


  5. Ellen

    I’ve been around people who speak in tongues and honestly, it’s scary. Also, I’ve been around too many people who speak in tongues and who think it makes them somehow better than those who don’t.


  6. Dr. Cheryl Kayahara-Bass

    Good afternoon- I am a convert to Christianity first, and then sometime after, to Roman Catholicism, and I have spoken in tongues and prophecied now for over 25 years. The gifts have never diminished or left me. When I do, I am not in some semi-involuntary mental state, but rather quite rational and clear, as ‘the spirit of the prophet is in the control of the prophet’ (slightly paraphrased). I am also not in a state of hysterical emotion assome seem to think is requisite; indeed this would be rather uncharacteristic for me as I am a logician and philosopher of science by ‘trade’. However, I place my full intellect, especially my volition, at the utter disposal of the Holy Spirit, and wait for Him to motivate my speech and thought. It is quite distinct from my own, and I experience them simultaneously.
    It discourages me immensely to hear such degrading comments on the phenomena, which is real, like ‘bullfeathers’- as such an attitude cannot come from one who loves God with their whole mind and heart, but only his own opinion, an attitude that can bring about no good. Love isn’t stupid, but still, it ‘believes all things’. Thank you, God bless.


    1. Scott


      Some friendly advice. It is very off-putting in an internet forum to use titles and assert one’s spiritual gifts. Once upon a time I did this regularly, and have since learned that offering my academic credentials and/or the stupefying graces that God has given me is counter-productive. Merely offer your arguments/observations, and if they are compelling then they will have the desired effect. Otherwise you might come off as pompous…


      1. Jon White

        Scott, I was not “off-put” in the least by the Doctor’s comment. I found it to be an attempt at a straight-forward description of a phenomenon that was being treated with some disrespect in the article and previous comments. I am not one who speaks in tongues or believes necessarily that the Holy Spirit speaks through people exhibiting such behavior. I myself, though I had a Catholic education through high school, was an atheist from the age of 10 until 25, and was brought back to the Catholic Church in large part by spiritual phenomena that, had I not experienced them directly, I would have denounced at the very least as “delusional.” God the Holy Spirit causes “stuff” to happen in the world to people, and none of us in our meager individual existences can possibly appreciate the extent to which His distributive methods strain on the superlative side the meaning of the words generosity, variety, and largesse. By their fruits you will be able to tell whether they are disciples of the Lord.


        1. Scott

          Likewise, I was instantly converted by supernatural/mystical experiences as well. At the time I was an agnostic who was teaching and researching political philosophy at UMich (if anyone wants my credentials ;-) If I am a fool for Christ today, it is only because of such ongoing experiences.

          My point is that claims to personal authority (titles, spiritual gifts) don’t work so well in a mostly anonymous internet forum. As I’ve learned, many people will quickly tune you out. On the other hand, it would work fine on her own blog because it would just fill in who she is. Don’t you think it odd to call one’s self “Dr. So and So” on someone else’s blog? It’s a freakin’ blog :-) Are you “Dr.” at the laundromat?


          1. Briana

            I think the Dr was just saying what his profession (and personal authority) was because he was trying to show the seeming dichotomy between what he was, and what his gifting are. He is a logical, rational person by nature–and yet….

            At least that’s the way I read it.

            Let’s read things with a heaping dose of grace.

            For myself, as a brand new revert from a Pentecostal persuasion, though I don’t often speak in tongues, I do very much believe in them and I appreciate the Catholics here that are saying that they’ve been gifted. It makes me realize that I will more fully be home within the RCC.


  7. Garrett

    It’s definitely fake. So called “charismatic Catholics” are more aptly termed “uncontrollably emotional Catholics.” But to keep the original term, Charismatic Catholics seek emotion in all things of the Faith. They seek to feel the faith. What about the Darkness of the Soul, characterized by spiritual dryness? Emotions leave a cathartic effect on the bearer, but Charismatic activities are more about group therapy than Divine Praise. I’ve attended several events back before World Youth Day 2000, and I was left feeling overwhelmed by the Absence of God in the activities because of the complete lack of silence. So back to the original topic, why does no one speak in so-called “tongues” among non-charismatics? To me it should really be something truly spontaneous and God-given, or the product of some mental illness.


    1. James

      Garrett: “It is definitely fake.” I am just wondering if you realize that you are in disagreement with the Scriptures, numerous Fathers of the Church and even a few recent Popes? I think that I will side with them.

      Your other comments seem to reflect unfortunate experiences you have had with individuals. I am not sure how that translates into universal principles?


    2. Kathleen

      As a person who has often been perceived as intellectual and somewhat reserved, I found your comment amusing, Garret. When I am among non-charismatics, I do not pray in tongues, or do so only silently. My experience of the gift is in no way connected to an “emotional state” or trance. (I have sometimes described it as similar to the experience of praying the rosary.) I do find that praying in tongues increases my peacefulness and dependence on God.
      I first received the gift in 1971, as I walked alone on an urban sidewalk, praying that God would soften my cold heart and replace my intellectual approach to Him with love. Since then I have been very active in my parish, especially as a Bible study leader very loyal to the magisterium and very much in love with God. Most people who know me are not aware that I pray in tongues but I hope that all can discern that my life belongs to Jesus Christ.


  8. Shane Kapler

    Titus, in charity I must point out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church does present the charism of tongues as part of our Tradition:
    “There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms. . . Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church” (CCC 2003).
    When the Holy Spirit graces the Body of Christ with a gift it is not revoked – as Paul notes in Romans concerning Israel, “God’s gift and His call are irrevocable.” The gift can certainly be manifested much more prominently in one age than in another.


  9. Jacques

    What about trying to listen to the voice of God who speak silently in our hearts. Is like having and intimate conversation with our creator.
    Become light like a feather and let the breeze the Holy Spirit, let you take you in the Love of His quietude.


  10. William

    I could not find anything on glossolalia in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. IMO, attributing gibberish to the Holy Spirit is tantamount to blasphemy.


  11. John


    The Catholic Charasmatic Renewal is an officially recognized ecclesial movement within the Church. It is supported by the Pope and Magestarium. It is no different than Opus Dei in that respect. I am not a charasmatic, but I don’t think it is our job to judge. I heed to the authority of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    God Bless,



  12. Bryce

    Really? Are there any other charismata – teaching, governing, words of wisdom, for example – that make us uncomfortable, and therefore cause us to cynically doubt their existence?

    Also – was St. Augustine predicting the future – that glossolalia had declined indefinitely? I seem to recall that Israel didn’t have a prophet after Malachi until a certain St. John the Baptist – 500 years or so.

    Could it be that the Holy Spirit’s work through certain charismata is more salient in some eras of Church history than in others?


  13. Pingback: Is the charism of "speaking in tongues" genuine, or is it hogwash? - Christian Forums

  14. Josseph Muscoreil

    The truth is that the gift of “tongues” was given exclusively for the early evangelization of the world. Pentecost reveals the apostles talking to each in their own language for the sole purposes of evangelizing the masses. The gift of “tongues” has no meaning outside this loving context. I challenge those who got the “spirit (yeah, yeah)” to humbly ask The Most High for this gift while speaking to the various aborigenese tribes, numerous Chinese dialects, or the various shades of Arabic, throughout the world, who do not truly know CHRIST and HIS BRIDE, in their own language, so that we can save souls, and not just have a golly-gee emotional orgy where we pretend the heretical woman, who “laid hands” on those poor confused kids at Duquesne, in the late 60′s, (at the zenith of V-ll’s “spirit” that emptied The Faith of it’s Traditional piety, religous, and Faithful in favor of “aggiornamento” novelties) really gave the syncretists their sole dream, i.e., that something sacrament-like, trumping The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation some would say, like “Catholic Pentecostalism” (sic) and the so-called “slain-in-the-spirit” hot mess was a sign of something “renewing”. When you get secret powers, strength, and knowledge outside the bosom of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church you don’t need a retreat venue or a tour..YOU NEED AN EXORCISM!!!
    The 60′s church hippies have only the “renewal” and the beast of Medjugorge (while this infernal deception continually trumpets the virtues of DISOBEDIENT FRANCISCANS, SYNCRETISM, FALSE PROPHECY-meanwhile the world has been annually warned of impending disaster, by millionairre “visionaries”, each of the last 30 years, but we’re still here!,..and, of course, “THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL..” ) left.
    EWTN is the blame for much of this. Prior to Mother’s stroke she had all manner of false prophets (Gallagher, Rhyden, Gobbi, etc..) and a few pedophiles (Roberts and Bourque-who still resides there.) EWTN no longer promotes such fodder but you still get renewal raiders from Stuebenville and a good deal of citation from Dr. (Fr,) Von Balthasar, (and, unfortunately IGNATIUS PRESS who publishes Von Balthasar)who contends, while hell EXISTS, NOONE’S THERE! (Can’t wait to post that on the LADY GAGA blog! I’m sure everyone will be so..ECSTATIC! It might even put a little sublime ascent in their next vulgar giration!)
    We have the culture-of-death to fight to be sure. Still, we must suffer anything for OUR MOTHER as the great Fr’s Miceli, Martin, and Hardon did so gloriously, if we are to steel our resolve, and take back OUR FATHER’S HOUSE!


    1. James

      Von Balthasar, (and, unfortunately IGNATIUS PRESS who publishes Von Balthasar)who contends, while hell EXISTS, NOONE’S THERE!

      This is a gross misinterpretation of his book “Dare We Hope”. But who am I? Just one of those dissident Steubenville grads who reads and follows all of the teachings of the Church without picking and choosing. Mea Culpa!


      1. Scott

        Surely Von Balthasar’s naivety regarding Adrienne Von Speyr gives you pause and is relevant here? The great dilemma that any genuine mystic or person given spiritual gifts (prophesy, tongues) comes up against is the fact that God let’s demons “pose as angels of light”. Think of poor St. Ignatius of Loyola naively worshipping an apparition that was Satan (see his short autobiography)! Adrienne lacked such caution.


          1. Scott

            Thanks for the simple assertion, now how about an actual argument as to why we shouldn’t be cautious reading Balthsar–especially in regards to supernatural phenomena?


          2. Josseph Muscoreil

            The point, Good Sirs, is that just a bit of arsenic (spritual or otherwise), given over time, can kill, almost indiscernably. We are admonished to “test the spirit”. The Good Lord, in His Humility, acts in the ordinary, by means of obedience. When there are extraordinary signs of God, be they even approved supernatural phoenomena, the message is usually very cautionary, to say the least. As if God had to enter time, thru Our Lady or In Person, before many souls were lost (having the fore-knowledge of what a soul’s free will will propel them towards and hoping to impress upon that soul extraordinarily).
            St. Teresa of Avila warned her sisters not to seek out such extraordinary favors. She does instruct on the “mansions” of proceeding in a very devout prayer life, but that treatise on Mystical Theology, applies to very few souls because we are not her, or the other Doctors of The Faith, and I would hazard a guess, no one here has entered her first mansion yet, much less, with the eyes of Faith, could even recognize it.
            For every “Fatima”, there are 300 counterfeits whose motives are either monetary, insanity, or demonic.
            While we may be impressed with scholarship, we must never be too far removed from the innocent simplicity of the child, who audaciously proclaims, to the utter dismay of all polite society, academe, or the clerics, “Look! The king has no clothes! The king has no clothes!” Peace, brothers.


    2. Greg

      The TRUTH, Josseph, is that that is not what the Church has to say about the matter. The Church’s ongoing endorsement of charismatic gifts in paragraph 2003 of the catechism has already been posted. See also the following link, and reconsider railing against the Church:


      1. Joseph

        To equate, what are the GENUINE GIFTS and FRUITS of THE HOLY SPIRIT, elucidated in The Catechism,.. to the folly of the renewal raiders, and their yearning for a visceral god, who does tricks on demand, is an abomination of desolation, and perhaps answers OUR LORD”s mysterious question, “…But when THE SON OF MAN comes again, will HE find faith..” FAITH is the virtue of hoping and loving a GOD not readily seen or understood, but, at times, in sorrow or suffering, only with the Eyes of Faith. Please be so kind as not to question my love for CHRIST and HIS BRIDE, sir. Peace, brother..


  15. Gideon Ertner

    I grew up in a Charismatic Protestant environment and from time to time attended meetings where glossolalia, or whatever it was, was practiced. There was not usually given any consideration to St. Paul’s command that tongues should be interpreted or they are of no use to the assembly. Among Pentecostals I knew glossolalia was virtually considered a sacrament – a sine qua non of Christian life. You could be a Christian without speaking in tongues, because it is of course a gift, but I got the distinct sense that people would think you had a great cross to bear.

    I think the best verdict on this sort of thinking is St. Paul’s, ironic as it may be:

    “But in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct others also: than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

    Whether this is also the case in Charismatic Catholic circles I can’t say. But it does show that Catholics should not be taking too many cues from Charismatic Protestants.


  16. Joy Ernst

    My parents professed to be Church of God and believed in the Speaking in Tongues. Some years after converting to Catholicism, I joined the Charismatic movement in the Church. I thought that the people speaking in tongues sounded like angels and I desired the gift also. Well, I started speaking in tongues after much prayer …. But I am certain that I produced this “gift” within myself. I love the Church as a true mother and I praise God for calling me into His Church and will never leave her, but I did separate myself from the Charismatic movement even though I continued to love all the people I had met there. I questioned some of the “gifts” displayed at the gatherings. My mother, a Protestant, speaks in tongue in private prayer and it edifies her, I believe. I judged my own situation but feel inept to judge others because I believe my mom is sincere in the use “tongues” and she has a love of God. So as long as the Church permits I will not condemn, even though I will not partake or encourage others to join, a Charismatic group.


  17. Gideon Ertner

    I do accept that glossolalia could possibly be beneficial in some persons’ private spiritual life. But hearing it does nothing to me, and is in fact extremely off-putting as I have no chance of discerning whether what is happening is something genuine, fake, or downright diabolical (the Demon can make people talk in foreign tongues too).

    So glossolalians, do carry on but please keep it between you and God if you’ve no-one to interpret. As per St. Paul’s instructions.


  18. Armando

    I think that speaking in tongues can be a beautiful manifestation when it is led by the Holy Spirit. However, since it is hard to discern what it is that drives a person. In some cases I can say that it sounds a bit “forced” but in others it sounds very “genuine”, but these are merely outer observances. I reserve my observance and still praise God, after-all, that is the intention. Fortunately, the Church has many spiritual directions for prayer suited to different individuals.

    St. Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church. In Interior Castle, chapter 6, sections 11 and 15, she writes:

    “Amongst these favours, at once painful and pleasant, Our Lord sometimes causes in the soul a certain jubilation and a strange and mysterious kind of prayer. If He bestows this grace on you, praise Him fervently for it; I describe it so that you may know that it is something real. I believe that the faculties of the soul are closely united to God but that He leaves them at liberty to rejoice in their happiness together with the senses, although they do not know what they are enjoying nor how they do so. This may sound nonsense but it really happens.

    May His Majesty often grant us this kind of prayer which is most safe and beneficial; we cannot acquire it for ourselves as it is quite supernatural. Sometimes it lasts for a whole day and the soul is like one inebriated, although not deprived of the senses; Compare with this what has been said in the fourth chapter of this Mansion, nor like a person afflicted with melancholia, Melancholia here as elsewhere means hysteria. in which, though the reason is not entirely lost, the imagination continually dwells on some subject which possesses it and from which it cannot be freed. These are coarse comparisons to make in connection with such a precious gift, yet nothing else occurs to my mind. In this state of prayer a person is rendered by this jubilee so forgetful of self and everything else that she can neither think nor speak of anything but praising God, to which her joy prompts her. Let us all of us join her, my daughters, for why should we wish to be wiser than she? What can make us happier? And may all creatures unite their praises with ours for ever and ever. Amen, amen, amen!”


    1. Julie

      I do not believe St. Teresa was writing here about speaking in tongues, but in the context of her book, about infused prayer.

      Her words “this may sound nonsense” is a phrase she used in other places in the book. She did not consider herself to be a good writer and wrote Interior Castle in obedience to her Spiritual Director. She often referred to her own writings as “nonsense.”


  19. Fred Thomas

    I am not a Charismatic, and like many, have always been suspicious of Charismatics. That said, I will tell you that I went to a “Healing Mass” performed by a Priest who is now deceased. Not knowing what to expect, I was very pleased at his talk on the Mother of God and found all that he said to be in line with the Magisterium. Then he had us take out a handkerchief or white cloth and wave it for Mary. I happened to have a handkerchief so I did so, when he blessed them as a healing prayer cloth. The idea being that it was dedicated to Mary and with prayers to Jesus asking for healing of whatever the cloth was laid over, special graces would be invoked. The healing may or may not take place physically or mentally. So far, OK. He then proceeded to lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit. A few people went out like lights. I decided to let him lay hands on me as it could not hurt to receive a priests blessing. I was determined not to go out or fake anything. He skipped some people in line and came directly to me as I was praying the Rosary. When he put his hands on my forehead, I was arched backward in an awkward position, like I was being stuck to his hands like a magnet. It felt like electricity flowing through my body, but not painful, just controlling. No way could he hold me up in that position, and no way could I remain standing, but I did and it seemed like a long time. My mind went dark except for the melodious recitation of the Hail Mary in my mind. I tried to move my leg for balance, but it was as if it were stuck to the floor. I could only drag it a few inches and I heard people around me saying “look at his leg”. Instead of freely receiving the infusion of the Holy Spirit, I fought it and when he withdrew his hands, I almost fell backwards and staggered and felt quite woozy (people were behind me and assisted with my regaining my balance). I was an athlete, a Marine, and a coach, and had several players present, so I was not going to panzy out and go down. My mistake. I realized afterwards, that I had partially blown a real opportunity that comes once in a life time. Receiving the Holy Spirit in a special way.

    Talking in tongues? No, no one that I have heard except spontaneous prayers which I do my self, but that is not talking in tongues as some seem to believe.

    What I am relating is that there is more to the Charismatic movement than a bunch of emotional people and some fringe wanna-be’s. I am still not Charismatic, but I do not make fun or disbelieve as I used to. The Holy Spirit works differently for different people, so I respect the Charism. I have talked to skeptical priest friends about this and they all concluded that there must be more to it than what we see with the fringe people. Believe it, there are those whose are real.


    1. Greg

      Thanks for the testimony, Fred. Like you, when I was first introduced to the Charismatic Renewal, I was very apprehensive about what I was going to encounter. The convention I attended ended up being “much more Catholic” than I expected and I was quite pleased with how it all transpired.

      Of course, the endorsement of popes and the catechism and so forth seals the deal for me. This doesn’t mean that there are never any abuses within the movement at any time. I know there are. I have witnessed a few. But let’s not throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water. It can be said of every single group of human beings on the planet that “there are some abuses” that take place within the group from time to time – doesn’t matter who the group is. (Look at the Legion of Christ.)


  20. The Tisroc

    I have my bachelor’s in religious studies from ASU (insert your own joke here). While the professors and curriculum seemed to bend over backwards in gracious empathy toward the various religions of the world, Christianity was noted exception. I’ve seen Shakers, Holy Rollers, snake handling, and speaking in tongues. The footage we viewed of these Christians with these in varying degrees of lucidity. I won’t say that my extremely limited experience is in any way authoritative, but it did seem that those who received the gifts came to depend upon them. If God was angry he would take back his gifts.

    That being said, the video did demonstrate that the people really believed in the power of the Spirit. I saw a man die when the viper he was holding bit him. He held on to his faith and no medical attention was given. For 45 minutes I watched a man die for his faith. There was no sound track and no moving fadeout. 45 minutes of silence except for the dieing gasps for breath. The film was a not so subtle, “Faith will lead to insanity and will kill you,” but as a Catholic I have to wonder, is his faith responsible?

    The Catechism recognizes martyrdom, speaking in tongues, and the like as being gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gifts cannot be demanded and sought after. You’re not a martyr if you go looking for death, likewise you cannot treat gifts of the Holy Spirit as magic tricks – If I do X, Holy Spirit will do Y.

    Perhaps I lack faith, but I too am weirded out by Glossolalia in the modern age.

    I am admittedly biased, but great post, Danica.


      1. The Tisroc

        Sorry DPJ, I sometimes forget that I need to cloud my intellectual radiance when I condescend to comment on CP posts.


  21. Titus

    officially recognized ecclesial movement

    I’m afraid I’m not familiar with this term: I’m not saying it’s meaningless, or that it’s inaccurate, just that I’m unfamiliar with it. I suspect, although I am not completely sure, that its use here is somewhat imprecise. Opus Dei is a personal prelature: a very definite, if somewhat unique, type of juridic person. Likewise, I am familiar with the existence and approval of institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life, and public and private associations of the faithful. I know that the Church includes numerous particular churches and promulgates various texts for use in liturgies and rites. I am not aware of the existence of anything called an “ecclesial movement” in Church law.

    Furthermore, even if Charismaticism or some expression thereof has been given some manner of approbation through the promulgation of texts or the erection or approval of a juridic person for the promotion of Charismaticism, that approbation is not necessarily Magisterial. In fact, the mere act of promulgating some positive law in that manner is almost certainly not an act of the Ordinary Magisterium. So while such approbation (if and to the extent that it actually exists) may serve as evidence that Charismaticism is a legitimate expression of the Catholic faith (and it undoubtedly makes clear, insofar as it goes, that the observation of its approved norms are lawful), it does not compel me, or any other Catholic, to believe the same about Charismaticism, much less to believe the fantastic claims that Charismatics make about themselves. If it did, the original poster would be guilty of scandal for promoting or suggesting as permissible disbelief in Charismatic claims. I have never seen anything in my entire life to suggest that this is the case.

    Titus, in charity I must point out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church does present the charism of tongues as part of our Tradition

    I’ve always found the use of the word charism to be somewhat confusing (see especially the ways in which the use in ¶ 2003 differs from the seemingly more common use in reference to the particular way of life observed by a religious order). That difficulty aside, I’m not denying that the Holy Spirit grants extraordinary graces, or that the Holy Spirit has in the past granted the extraordinary grace of speaking in tongues, or that the Holy Spirit could grant that grace to someone at any time. What I am saying is what Sts. Thomas, Augustine, and Bernard are quoted as indicating above: the extraordinary grace of speaking in tongues is not a current element of Tradition. Certainly its historic existence makes it a part of Tradition writ large (i.e. the sum of all practices observed by and graces given to the faithful since Adam, or at least since the Incarnation), but not in the sense of what has, in the process of salvation history, come down to us today. Speaking in tongues is thus like pax boards, folded violet chasubles, theological consensus about the existence of Limbo, or the prohibition on dairy products in Lent: things the Church has not maintained to the present, although she benefited from them in an appropriate time. (I recognize that these things, not being graces, are not precisely the same, but cut me some slack while I’m at work.) The Holy Spirit could come down and bestow upon my receptionist the gift of speaking in tongues, right now. But I suspect that won’t happen.

    Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit were to bestow the extraordinary grace of speaking in tongues, it would be quite unusual for the fruit of this grace to be nothing more than a compulsion to be incomprehensible. If someone can explain how that (as opposed to the gift of being universally understood given to the Apostles in Acts, which I think to be much more the “speaking in tongues” that deserves a place in the beliefs of Catholics) promotes the salvation of souls, I would legitimately like to hear it.

    Finally, I am most definitely not making a judgment about the intentions, good will, or honesty of persons who attach themselves to Charismatic movements. I don’t know why people frequent such groups or why they come to believe what they profess. I suspect that at least some of them are mendacious, others are culpably ignorant, and still others just overly excitable. But a generalized suspicion does not warrant a particularized conclusion. I do maintain, however, that regardless of why they believe or say as they do, that their conclusions are incorrect, and sufficiently incorrect to be described with a colloquialism.


    1. Shane Kapler

      Titus, in CCC 2003, the Church mentions both miracles and tongues as charisms which can increase sanctifying grace and build up the Church. As you say, they are quite different from a common theological opinion; they are graces witnessed to in the N.T. and they have been reported at different times in individuals throughout the life of the Church. I would have to consider the opinion that tongues is no longer a charism operative within the Church a theological opinion, a mistaken opinion – not affirmed by the Catechism.

      So far as a purpose for tongues – what about as a gift of individual prayer? There is a distinction between speaking in tongues in a group, where the charisms of interpretation is needed to deliver a prophetic word to the group, and the use of tongues in personal prayer. This is the distinction Paul makes in 1 Cor. 14:6-

      “(For) if I pray in a tongue, my spirit is at prayer but my mind is unproductive. So what is to be done? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will also sing praise with the mind.
      Otherwise, if you pronounce a blessing (with) the spirit, how shall one who holds the place of the uninstructed say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
      For you may be giving thanks very well, but the other is not built up.
      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.”

      So what purpose could tongues serve in personal prayer? This charism gives a person the opportunity to express things his or her conscious mind could never adequately formulate. Not only can tongues allow someone to praise God, but also to intercede– the Holy Spirit allowing a person to pray Jesus’ intentions for the members of his Mystical Body. It is a visible manifestation of something going on within the soul of every Christian:

      “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

      The third value I see is the potential for personal spiritual development. Paul said in First Corinthians that “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (14:4). One way this spiritual edification occurs is for a person to yield to tongues in the knowledge that they are worshiping and interceding on behalf of other members of Christ’s Body. He is, in a sense, allowing the Head of the Body, Jesus, to more fully conform the intercession rising from earth to Heaven to that of his sacred heart. In cooperating with him, the Christian’s soul progresses in grace, being molded more in Jesus’ image and thus more responsive to the stirrings of the Spirit. When Paul said that the person who speaks in tongues builds himself up he was not saying that that was the only way a Christian is built up interiorly; that is foolishness. The same happens within souls whenever they cooperate with the Lord’s will to pray or serve.


    2. ann

      ecclesial movements is very much a term used by the Vatican. Pope Benedict hosted a gathering of ecclesial movements prior to Pentecost in 2006. praying in tongues is a wonderful gift i have had for over 30 yrs. It is very much a part of my prayer life. I received it because i was open to it and desired it. the Holy Spirit will not force anyone to do anything. I enjoy praising Our Lord in this special way and it lifts my heart toward Him and away from myself. It is an “Other Centered” prayer. There is plenty of documentation of it’s acceptance in the Church. cfr…, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Fr. George Montague, Fr. Benedict Groeschel and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal…Major Players in the Catholic World…


  22. Karen

    Speaking in tongues is sometimes genuine. I have a very close relationship with God. I received this gift when I was a teenager. It is a very personal and wonderful gift, but not necessary for for sanctity or to prove that you have been baptized in the Spirit. This gift is for praying, when you have no words to convey your thoughts or feelings. This is when the Spirit utters through you unknown words. Sometimes a pain so deep within your soul is released. Edifying, and filling your soul with the fire of love for the Triune God. There are times when God wants us to speak His words, not our own. There have been many saints who have spoken in tongues. There is no limit to what God can do. Why try making God in our image, when we were created in His image. For me the gift of tongues is a private expression of my love for God. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves and let go of our pride, letting go, and letting God.


  23. Tapestry

    I always thought speaking in tongues was like the Apostles did when they received the Holy Spirit They spoke about Jesus to all these people,and they each heard in their own language. though the Apostles were only speaking in their own.
    That to me is speaking in tongues not drifting off into never-never land and saying nothing at all while people wonder what is wrong with you.
    Pentecostals are scarey people and I know many adults who’s parents were that faith who are now pagan because they think all Christians are like that! I am saying that to do that nonsense certainly doesn’t spread the faith or the love of Christ to anyone.


    1. Greg


      I hope from all of the other posts that you can see at this point that there is a distinction that needs to be made between those who exercise these charisms genuinely and those who do not. There are “bad eggs” in every grocery basket. Yes, some charismatic/pentecostal groups and individuals are…well…”yahoos.” people that are caught up much more in emotion or even Gnosticism than in real Christianity.

      But then there are plenty of groups and individuals within the Charismatic Renewal whom, I can assure you, are just the opposite. If memory serves, Mother Angelica is one of those individuals. See her biography by Raymond Arroyo for more.

      Be aware that speaking in tongues (the real deal) rarely (if ever) involves going into any sort of “trance.” One is fully conscious and fully in control when speaking in “personal” or “private” tongues, and fully conscious and mostly in control when speaking in public tongues. (See Shane’s distinction between the two above.) I say “mostly” in control in the case of public tongues (when God is delivering a message to the community through you) simply because the experience is so compelling that you can decline to deliver the message, but you feel like you’re going to burst if you do. For lack of a better analogy, it’s kind of like an intense sneeze. As the message “materializes” in the deliverer’s spirit, the deliverer starts to feel more and more compelled to deliver. They are not “knocked unc0nscious” and “taken hostage by an unseen force.” They remain conscious and in control. But at the same time, how easy is it to control a sneeze? To not scratch and intense itch? Not a perfect analogy, but to give you some sort of perspective…

      I myself have done both. As a more rationally minded, skeptically inclined individual, I began to pray (with the rest of my prayer group) in private tongues for a Hispanic man a couple years ago, who was to deliver a talk at the church and was having difficulties in preparing for the talk. As we prayed in private tongues for a few minutes, I suddenly said something that distinctly sounded Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. (Other than maybe “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”) Other members of the group did. When we finished praying, one of them said, “Do you realize what you said a minute ago?” I said “No.” She translated the message. That was the first time that had happened to me (that I had spoke in “public” tongues) that I know of. It was very cool and edifying.


  24. Caesarius

    What I can add to this conversation for anyone who truly wants to understand these experiences is this. I am a spiritually private and reserved person. I strive to daily come into God’s presence in a state of interior silence, attend daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, pray my daily rosary, spiritual reading, etc. And I pray in tongues when I feel so led by the Spirit. I don’t believe in judging anyone else’s spirituality and I am acutely aware that I do not and cannot know another’s heart – nor can another know mine. My hope is that, through my private prayer and work, God will grow me in love and purity and humility and all that is Truth. And through His transformation and power I will be an effective soldier of Christ, bearing abundant good fruit. I think that pretty much sums up myself and my “Charismatic” friends who serve the poor, march for life, bind up the wounded… and pray – even sometimes in tongues.


  25. Diane

    My parish priest spoke in tongues just once. He did not know what he was saying or that he was going to say it before it came out of his mouth. A while later, after prayer, the woman he had spoken to approached him. She said that he had helped her. He asked what he had said. She told him that he had said to her, in perfect German (which is he did not and still does not speak) to forgive her brother. It turns out that she was estranged from her brother and the relationship needed healing.


  26. Charles Smith

    Wow, I knew this one had the potential to be controversial, but didn’t imagine it would take off like this!

    Danica, in pondering the scripture verse you quote, I am called to ponder on an event that occurred many years ago, when I was living in a small town in SE Missouri. One of the neighbors children asked if my older children (then 7,8,9 respectively) could go to “church” with them one Sunday evening. We needed to go do some grocery shopping so I agreed, telling the children I would pick them up on the way home. Upon arrival at the small Pentecostal church, I step in, hearing what sounded like mortuary music being played (help me here, you know what I mean!), and a number of people on the floor, one appearing to be in an epilectic fit, the others moaning and gibbering.

    Immediately my concern for my children turned me into Papa Bear! I look all around, to find my children cowering in the last row, and their excitement was unmistakable as I asked if they were ready to go. I tried to see if I could tell the neighbor boy’s mother that I was taking them, but Gabriel grabbed my arm and said, “Dad, let’s just go, they know you are coming for us!”

    My children were frightened, they were scared, and I had to promise them that I would NEVER make them go there again. David said to me, “I’m not sure what church is supposed to be, but that’s not it!”

    Later, when speaking to the boy’s mother, she told me that she had gone there for years, and that everyone there was to “let the Spirit flow, and let whatever comes out come out”. When I asked her if she was the one making it up or if she thought that the Holy Spirit was inspiring her, she was pretty clear that this was her own doing.

    It goes without saying that the kids never went back, right?

    Do I believe that the Holy Spirit is inspiring members of our Catholic Christian community to speak in tongues? I certainly believe it to be possible. But I also believe that you cannot decide that you are the one that gets to make that choice. I also believe that if it occurs, the Spirit operates and does not tell you to come up with gibberish. Someone should be able to understand it.

    Much of it though, I honestly think, is just plain, well, bullpucky.

    That being said, I have a number of friends and acquaintences that identify with some sort of affinity toward the Charismatic movement. I find them to be devout, faithful to the Church, and obedient to the Magisterium. There are those, however, that also subscribe to the belief that if you don’t “agree” with them, then there is something wrong with you. I don’t find this particular group to hold a monopoly on this sort of mentality.

    Here’s the thing- the Church sees a particular gift in the Charismatic movement, and finds elements of it to be true and faithful to Christ and the Church. I’m not saying you will find me at City of the Lord anytime soon, but I’m not going to run them out of town or the Church.

    We are to test these things, and if found true, hold to them. But if found to be evil, call it for what it is, avoid it, and warn others.


  27. Linus

    Well, I do believe that people can ” speak in tongues, ” so can the devil and who is to judge who is speaking – God or the devil. This is why St. Paul told his listeners that unless an interpreter was present, the one who had the gift should remain silent. Today, such activity should always be reported to the Bishop. We are not to judge one way or another. At the same time we are not to encourage such people.


  28. Bill

    I honestly don’t know what to make of speaking in tongues as it is practiced today. First, how can the Spirit speak through these people in all different denominations and not lead them to the Eucharist. Second, most (not all ) charismatics I know are not quite stable mentally. They seem to be more concerned with their gifts than the Church herself.
    I am very sceptical


  29. James

    Has anyone considered that that the gift is a gift of learning languages. It seems to me a proper explanation as many priests are often gifted with the languages they need to perform the work of God.

    As to progression in the spiritual life, it doesn’t matter if the “Charismatic tongues” is hogwash or not.

    Certain gifts, natural or supernatural, are jars of clay best left un-opened.


  30. pete

    Just now reading the passage in Acts, I see that,
    “speaking in tongues”, is meant to be understood
    as the ,”speaking other languages”, so that the
    Word can be proclaimed to other nations who
    are not speakers of Greek or Aramaic.

    So if anyone during worship starts to sing with
    ,”gibberish”, it is not the Holy Spirit, or atleast
    to be called ,”speaking in tongues” in context of
    the passage where the Holy Spirit descends at


  31. Cody

    If speaking in tongues is truly returning, perhaps it comes from the fact that the Church no longer speaks in the universal language.


  32. Mike

    Well, this is very tough to judge in my opinion. I’ve always been skeptical of this gift of tongues, but I do trust it more when conducted in a Catholic Setting, because I believe since the Church is so anal(and I mean this in only a sarcastic manner) about making sure things are done right, according to scripture and church teaching, that they make sure not to let things get out of control like you may see in Non-Catholic settings. I go to a charismatic catholic prayer service where I live and I will say that I feel pretty safe and trusting of what goes on. Firstly, tongues is not the main focus and is only done sometimes and also, it is done according to scripture. People will praise God in English, Spanish or tongues, but then things get quite and people will either interpret the tongue or quote scripture.

    It is much different than the Pentecostal Church I go to with my girlfriend where interpretation is never done at all. It tends to be highly emotional like some of you have noted, but this is what contrasts this church service with the Catholic one I go to. The Catholic service is nothing like this. My honest opinion is that I personally think this is a form of therapy for people who have many worries, concerns and fears. Nothing wrong with having problems, everybody has them, but this is the vibe I get at this Pentecostal Church. Besides this weirdness I’ve noticed, I’ve also noticed a hyper-sensitivity to the Devil and his presence. I am telling you, some of the people there, including my girlfriend see the devil behind every corner. If they loose their keys, it’s the Devil, f they get someone treats them bad, its the devil. If the computer is not working right, it’s the devil. Sometimes I wonder that in all of this giving the devil so much credit, that they haven’t in fact summoned him.


  33. Scott

    Here’s how we know that most instances of speaking in tongues are false: the early Church had the gift and they went from a handful of men and women to the conversion of the Roman Empire. Surely it is a gift that attends stunning out-pourings of the Holy Spirit that consequently produces saints and concrete, revolutionary changes in society. By contrast, US Pentecostals have the highest divorce rate among denominations, are a weak presence in pro-life ministry, and are unable to evangelize the highly-educated Westerners who need it most. If the Holy Spirit was present like they claim, and given their obvious cooperation (hear them gaggle and see them roll on the floor), then they could convert the Ivy Leagues. Similarly, advocates of the Charismatic Renewal in the Church have long wondered why their movement has lost its momentum. I attended the famous Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor once, and so can appreciate the great love and joy of such Catholics, but where is the momentum?


    1. kevin

      I don’t think that is a fair assessment b/c the catholic churches pews are also emptying, that doesn’t mean the church in general is wrong, I wouldn’t use that argument if I were you.


  34. Theresa Henderson

    I’ve seen fakes, I’ve seen sincere folks who convince themselves, and then I’ve seen the real thing. It took me seeing all three to know the real thing when I saw it.

    The real thing involved somebody praying over me as I lay screaming at the bottom of a flight of stairs I’d just fallen down. Something horrible had happened in my sine and left hip and my leg was up under me backwards. The bottom of my left foot was against my left shoulder blade, the back of my knee at my buttock. My right leg was still straight out the way it was supposed to be.

    I had NEVER been so flexible as to be able to do splits, let alone bend my hip backwards that way. But as the woman prayed I literally felt something gently warm go down my body, as if water flowed down me, as it was straightened out.

    Did I still have pain? Yes . Was I hospitalized? Yes. Was I broken in any place? No. And everybody who saw me fall and saw me laying there said “No way nothing was broken!” I had to describe my body position to every doctor who read my x-rays, the MRI, and the cat scan. It looked broken. Was it? No. They said it was a healed growth plate injury. I was walking in four days. Still in pain now, after 2 years but still walking.

    RE: “Slain in the spirit” If somebody stands with their eyes closed and their head slightly tilted backwards as many are told to do, it is extremely easy to thwart their sense of balance. They are falling before they realize they are falling and are caught before they have that split second desire to tense up.

    You can imitate the sensation by blindfolding somebody and having them try to climb a flight of stairs without hanging onto a handrail. they have a feeling they are falling backwards, when they are not, or falling forwards, when they are not and they’ll overcompensate the feeling. It is one of the lessons a newly blinded person has to learn in spatial senses. Most of us don’t realize the importance that eyes have in our sense of place in the environments around us.


  35. Tom

    Having grown up in a Catholic Charismatic Community, participated in ‘praying/singing in tongues’, prophecy giving etc and, seen the demise of said community amidst great scandal I’ve had an opportunity to spend some significant time thinking and praying about what the whole ‘charismatic’ experience actually is.
    My relfections are recorded here:

    I am but a searcher – open and honestly trying to find meaning.

    This quote from Hans Urs Von Balthasaar does however seem quite apt…

    “A concentration on the Spirit (as the object of worship) only leads to a pietistic “Jesusism” that is so prevalent today in the churches and among young people. People have the idea than in charismatic circles they can “experience” something of the Spirit and of Jesus in an “immediate” (unmediated) way; but as we have said, the genuine experience of faith is only given to those who patiently persevere in the Christian life. We are not questioning the fact that young people need a certain existential “experience” of Christianity in their surroundings or meetings if they are eventually to keep their faith alive. But the continual inclination to remain in the inward-looking group can be a symptom of an infantile stagnation, particularly nowadays.”

    Theo-Logic: Volume III page 398

    Hans Urs Von Balthasaar


    1. Charles Smith

      I think the problem here is this thought that the message of the Gospels need to be retuned to the youth of today. That it has to come to them in a new, neat, sexy (for lack of better terms) package. This idea that Protestants, and especially Evangelicals, seem to project is that if you “feel good” during the service, then the Holy Spirit is with you and all is well. This idea that one can speak in tongues on demand is inward-looking at best, and in the worst, turns us from Christ, and does not rely on the Spirit to guide us.

      Many of us know that our greatest examples of being close to Christ is when we’ve felt the desert, and waited patiently for God’s hand to guide us home to Him.


    2. Joseph D'Hippolito

      Von Balthasaar’s comments seem to be just a more eloquent way of stereotyping Pentecostals (and evangelical Protestants as a whole) as narcissistic, “feel good” types. Well, the Catholic Church has its own narcissistic problems: members who believe that mere denominational identification (i.e., group identity) automatically makes them more superior than other Christians; priests and bishops who believe that they are beyond accountability (even from Rome itself).

      “…the continual inclination to remain in the inward-looking group can be a symptom of an infantile stagnation, particularly nowadays.”

      Really, Hans? Have you ever considered the fact that God often meets us in inward contemplation, especially during prayer (and I *don’t* mean Eastern meditation)? How else do we chew over the meaning of Scripture in our minds *except* by looking inward?

      Of course, excessive introversion can be narcissistic. But excessive extroversion (including the “peace and justice” type) can be nothing but an excuse for avoiding oneself.


  36. Joe

    There are obviously different kinds (diversities) of tongues in the New Testament. There is tongues for personal edification (tongues of angels), tongues for public edification (coupled with interpretation), and tongues as a sign to the unbeliever (actual foreign human languages). All of these manifestations have been documented within the last generation by researchers, and are a clear part of the Church’s rich historical tradition. They have ebbed and flowed, but never disappeared. Clearly the Spirit has a purpose for them, so let’s not allow their misuse or false-use to quench them. I like babies, even though their bath water gets dirty. Our faith cannot be a reaction to the misuse of somebody else’s, especially since scripture, tradition, and magesterium all throw their support toward the need and authenticity of this charism.


  37. Conor

    It seems as though there’s something to each argument. Speaking in tongues seems to be a phenomenon that is part of the Church’s history, and very well could exist today. Dr. Cheryl Kayahara-Bass has given the best witness to it I’ve ever heard. My experience with charismatic Catholicism was unfortunately very negative, and it did in fact seem that everyone who participated was trying to fit in. It didn’t feel full, but I think that those actively involved really did seem to get something out of it. Perhaps it is something that is targeted toward those who, by disposition, are more inclined to take something from it. Maybe, just like I am starting to become more comfortable with making a sign of the cross when I am in public, e.g. if I’m taking a walk, it naturally and slowly becomes more comfortable for those of us put off by it. Maybe not. I don’t wish to criticize it, but I know that I really gained absolutely nothing by it, but I also did not feel separated from those who, during those times, were intensly charismatic.


    1. Denys Powlett-Jones

      The record is 67, for the tattoo post. Still–not too shabby, Danica! Who knew she could be such a catalyst?


      1. Danica

        It’s funny – my husband and I have discussed the subject of charismata intensely many times (and how we must be the only Catholics who squirm at their appearance). It is heartening to see that others are interested in this subject — and approach it with such concern.


  38. April

    I agree! Thank you, Danica!!! On the positive side, I believe there is much good from all of this, and all these comments … people deeply thinking, researching and speaking passionately about our faith. This is Good News.


  39. Pol Llaunas

    A good and simple web about praying in tongues as is usually done at the Charismatic Renewal

    About not charismatic people praying in tongues: there are quotations of Santa Teresa de Avila and Saint Augustine. Also I knew a non-charismatic catholic who told me he had prayed in tongues (articulate words, with love and a hearful feeling towards God, without following any grammar nor vocabulary) but as he knew nothing about it and knew nobody doing it, he forgot that… until he found the Charismatic Renewal.


  40. Pol Llaunas

    According to a 2006 study, about 14 percent of all Americans (USA, I mean) do pray in tongues. They are 33 percent in self-defined Pentecostals and 50 percent in charismatics, including Catholics. Catolics are about 23% of population, but 38% of “charismatics” are Catholic.

    Please, note that even Charismatics do not claim to pray all in tongues: only about half of them do.

    The International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service, in Rome, is the link between the Renewal and the Vatican. Here you are their definition, and figures, and Pope addresses to the Renewal.


    1. Scott

      Cool. As I noted above, if 14% of Americans are graced with this extraordinary gift from apostolic times, then why is the US full of syncretist, lukewarm Christians? Either the Holy Spirit has grown weak or most of the incidences are bogus.


      1. Caesarius

        Your argument is implausible. 100% of Eucharist receiving Catholics are graced with receiving BODY, BLOOD, SOUL and DIVINITY of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. By your argument, you’d expect Catholics to be “perfect”. And how many Catholics, including priests, don’t even believe in the Real Presence?!


  41. Pingback: The Cynic Confronts Charismata |

    1. Danica

      Thank you for this link – I think this pretty clearly defines how most people experience charismata (particularly tongues), from the more traditionalist view (if tongues, then heretic) to an exclusivist view (if no tongues, then no Holy Spirit).


  42. Pingback: divine expressions, laws of physics | your resource for images of Jesus


  44. Ben

    Wow, what an interesting reaction!
    It is amazing to read such radical pronouncements against speaking in tongues. I guess there is lot of prejudices, ignorance and bad experiences behind this.
    Look, we all have met people who were, let’s say, weirdos, who claim to speak in tongues, to see Mary every morning and to know the date of the end of the world.
    But it seems to be that a wise attitude is to turn back to the Scriptures and to the Teaching of the Church, to pray for wisdom and discernment before jumping to harsh conclusion.
    Having received this gift of speaking in tongues 20 years ago and witnessed thousands of people having the same experience, I can tell you that it is a spiritual reality. The question is then, what fruit this gift brings to the tongue talker?
    I think that is a deeper question and an important one, if we want to be listening to the Spirit in these days.
    The Charismatic movement is a gift for the Church and it must challenge us to open up more to the Holy Spirit to become saints and preach the Good News at all time.


  45. Jamie

    I do believe in the gifts and charism’s of the Holy Spirit. I have prayed in tongues and have been slain in the spirit. I experienced those charism’s when I was new to my faith and needed them to know God was near. I have grown in my faith and while I still pray in tongues ( never in front of anyone else) I no longer need those experiences to know God is with me. (I have 7 + children that remind me everyday.) I participated in charismatic prayer groups until the Lord revealled the lack of humility. When ever someone was healed or revealed something they got proud, as if it was a testimony of how much faith they had, instead of glorifying God for His act of Mercy. I saw this lack of humility in extreme this past week when my sister in law who left the church for a Charismatic nondenominational sect told me that they no longer have any use for scripture because they walk in “revelation” . No use for scripture? No use for the sacraments? This tells me just because you think you are praying in tongues, the tongue you are speaking in just might not be the Holy Spirit’s. Does this mean that all who recieve these gifts are being lead by Satan. No, just remember to be humble and if the “spirit” is telling you something that is contrary to Church teaching and the Holy Bible. Cease and desist immediatley.


  46. Lizzie

    I went to a Charismatic Retreat in New Orleans and the ladies running in broke out in “tongues” at the drop of the hat. And in one part of the meeting, they actually encouraged (implored) us to “practice” speaking in tongues, too.

    It was the grossest sort of theological error. Tongues are a GIFT, not something you can practice. I was disgusted and was left believing that these ladies were the perpetrators of a huge hoax,


  47. Marcia L Castro

    I am a 60 year old plus cradle Catholic and remember hearing the readings from the book of Acts about the gift of tongues many times during my life. When I was 16 I attended a Pentecostal Church service with a friend. I remember hearing tongues , seeing people being slain in the Spirit, and thinking to myself that this was some sort of side show routine. When I was 35 years old I had a particularly trying point in my life . I turned to God, started reading Scripture, and at a friend’s request , I agreed to go to our parish’s weekly Prayer Group meeting. I needed more prayer in my life, I rationalized; besides no one told me it was a Charismatic Prayer Group. After a few meetings I decided to go to a Charismatic Mass. I was impressed by the singing and the participation in comparison with our Sunday Mass where only the choir ever sang and few actively participated in the liturgy. After mass I went to Father Recker for healing prayer. I also and asked for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Nothing changed. I felt the same , until about 3 weeks later. I was kneeling down saying my evening prayers when suddenly a strange language began pouring out of my mouth for approximately 10 minutes. After that , it came to me in English ,the most reverent and beautiful praises that I had just given to my Lord and Savior. I have never given a prophetic word during prayer meetings, or a Charismatic Mass. I wasn’t gifted with that charism . But at times of joy, sorrow, or great need, when my mind does not know what to say , the Lord hearings and understands how I feel and the words I am unable to express with my earthly mind.
    I have been to a Healing service where a very prominent priest walked by and people were slain in the Spirit, people who did not have an inkling of who the priest was , and some who were very leery of the gift of healing-my own mother included. I myself felt the power of the Holy Spirit pushing me to the floor as he walked pass; just as Christ felt power leave Him, when the woman touched the hem of his garment.


  48. LJ

    The beauty of all of this is that if we look closely at St. Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians we have to realize that it is not necessary to have the great debate over glossolalia. St. Paul was a genius, inspired himself by the Holy Spirit, and one of the first charismatics by his own statement.

    All we need to do is follow St. Paul’s rules of order and it is not necessary for anyone to judge the validity of another’s gift. No more than 2 or 3 tongues speakers in any gathering, and those with an interpreter. If those conditions are not met then there will be no speaking in tongues at any given assembly of Catholics. Simple enough?

    As to praying in tongues, he makes it clear that this can be done quietly or silently at any time, because it is between that person and God, and has nothing to do directly with others in the Church, and does not “edify” them.

    And as a general rule he caps it by saying that God is not a God of chaos or disorder, by which any one of us can discern a meeting. If it is chaotic and/or disorderly, ie., many people speaking or praying at once as individuals and not in unison, it is not of God. Plain and simple. We do not need the gift of discernment to distinguish a meeting that is out of order.

    In this way then, we do not have to decide one way or the other about anyone’s gift of tongues, or whether the gift is still alive in our time or not. Just follow St. Paul’s rules of order and we will quickly find that this sorts itself out.

    As a general note we would do well to remember the highly gifted saints/mystics who were very close to God in the Holy Spirit. St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, even St. Padre Pio come to mind. Two obvious characteristics were common among them; They were obedient to their superiors in the Church, and they strove to conceal rather than exhibit their special gifts. Why did St. Pio wear gloves to cover the wounds of Christ in his hands as we see in many old photos?


  49. Josh

    I can only truly speak from my own experiences, but growing up a Catholic in the deep south made me very weary personally of many “charisma” in Christianity, especially speaking in tongues. I consider myself solidly orthodox in my beliefs concerning faith and morals, and prefer traditional Liturgy, including the Extraordianry Form. However, God for whatever reason in His Divine Providence decided to edify me specifically with the Gift of Tongues. I actually prayed before a weekend retreat something to the effect of “Dear Lord, let me surrender to Your Will completely so I can receive whatever You want to give me this weekend, but dear God, please do not let there be any of those wackos speaking in tongues. They’re so fake and they’ll just ruin it for everyone.” Yes I actually used the word “wackos” in my prayer. However, come Sunday during the Eucharistic procession, words of praise flowed from my mouth in a tongue I did not know. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew it was real.


  50. Joseph D'Hippolito

    A lot of the comments on this thread are snobbish. Because one group of Christians doesn’t worship the way “we” think they “should” (or the way “we” want them to), they automatically become second-class citizens, spiritually. Such an attitude offends God and His Son because it places personal aesthetic tastes over genuine, sincere devotion to Them.

    Also, for those who decry emotion in worship, let me just say that God is an emotional and passionate God. His passion burns for those whom He wishes to redeem. It burns tenderly for the innocent and vulnerable, the “widows and orphans” so frequently mentioned in Scripture. It burns for those who have chosen to embrace His Son’s atoning sacrifice. It burns for justice and righteousness, and it burns *against* the evil, wicked and unrepentant (Catholic bishops, please take note).

    Besides, some of the world’s greatest painters, writers and composers expressed their passion for God through their art and literature.

    I understand full well that excessive emotion during worship can detract from the focus on God. Nevertheless, God is not the second coming of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock — as many here, with their emphasis on raw reason and theology, seem to think.


  51. Pingback: Catholic Phoenix

  52. Sonny Ramirez

    Everyone is attesting to their own personal subjective experience, sorry, but that is not a sound theological foundation.

    I would like some hard core doctrine- (e.g. magisterial document, Father of the Church, Scripture, etc. ) which CLEARLY proves that the common Charismatic experience of NON-intelligible -vocal garble is in fact a real possible Charismatic gift. I am not talking about what the Apostles experienced at Pentecost- that is obviously legit because it was REAL languages they were speaking and it served to disseminate the gospel. I am referring to that “humming” noise that Contemporary Charismatic Catholics do- or else they may make utterances such as “shema shema shema la la la shema”…

    I am not making fun, I’m just trying to be clear in this post. Will someone please give us all some actual doctrine concerning this latter experience that I refereed to?? Please, Thank You.


  53. Jonathan

    I realllyy don’t want to get involved in any debates, but I want to just share my side of the story regarding Charisms, particularly speaking in tongues. I realize that this is a contentious issue, and I also realize that what I’m giving is a subjective account and is in no way authoritative; I don’t intend it to be anything but a simple recounting of my faith journey. Whoever reads it can take what they will from it.

    Rewind my life about two years ago to this month. I was a Protestant evangelical Christian who was searching desperately and sincerely to find the Faith of the Apostles, the living Faith of the early Church. I knew for certain that the Christianity I was a part of at the time, Evangelicalism, was pure phoniness and illegitimate, but I was not yet even remotely aware of the Catholic Faith. I gravitated toward the Charismatic Movement because I started to study it and realized that they seemed to be in touch with the characteristic spirituality and zeal that seems to be on display in the New Testament. At the time I was a minor, and my parents were pretty dead set against any sort of Charismatic or Pentecostal attitudes or spirituality, for various reasons. So, in a gift that I later realized to be a grace from God, I was not able to comfortably or easily get to an Assemblies of God or other Charismatic Christian center to get more involved in the Charismatic movement.

    I still didn’t give up my passion for the Charismatic movement, I actually pursued it more ardently. I read the New Testament zealously to try to put my finger on the pulse of New Testament Christianity, and the more I dug, the more I saw a very strong grain of this Charismatic attitude and spirituality. Trances, visions, tongues, healings, miracles, ecstasies, and something St. John called “being in the Spirit” were commonplace.

    Because I was convinced of the supernatural character of early Christianity, I started praying profoundly and with a pure conscience, *in my own room alone,* for an encounter with the Holy Spirit as the early Church had experienced it. I only had to pray for three days when something happened. I did not have any Protestant lay hands on me, I was not in a trance in a group of many people where hypnosis could be considered a cause, I was not even emotionally frantic or excited. I was placid, peaceful, calm, but fervently praying. I opened my mouth, and immediately my mouth began moving automatically and I realized that I was speaking in tongues. Again, no music, no hyped-up crowd, no laying on of hands. One moment I wasn’t able to pray in tongues as Charismatics do, and the next moment I was. The best way I can describe it is that your tongue, lips, roof of your mouth, even your vocal cords and throat muscles, utter varied language patterns automatically without you directing them to, on their own. You can stop by ceasing to speak and closing your mouth, and you can start essentially on command, but if you try to say something in English while praying in tongues the signals from your brain won’t move your mouth to form English words, the mental commands don’t work, your mouth is physically being moved by something other than your will. Spooky, sure, and I’m sure that it will give the author even worse creeps, but I was not alarmed when it happened. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world, and I really did experience an incredible peace and joy, a spiritual boost, and an awareness of the presence of God. I experienced the oft-spoken of zeal for Christ, boldness in speech, and ardent love for Sacred Scripture. I was literally on a spiritual high for five or six days afterward where I could hardly contain myself from laughing and joyously praising Jesus Christ and living in His joy was most natural.

    Obviously, this is purely experiential, and of no merit in the face of cynicism, right? I’m sure that I would hear the same thing from cynical fellow Catholics as I would from cynical Baptists or other non-Charismatic Protestants: “It could just be your mental state somehow and some way even though we can’t fully explain it, even though you weren’t in a clear trance or among other Charismatics or even emotionally excited.” “It could be just the evil one and his minions trying to trick you.” “Don’t you know that the devil can trick you?” And so it goes.

    Well, there is a Scriptural principle that I have heard often echoed among Catholics, and that is the fruits of experiential spirituality purporting to be of Jesus Christ and His Spirit are the truest indicator of whether or not something is of God. Let me say this: for the first year after that experience I became disillusioned with the Protestant Charismatics, HIGHLY disillusioned. I realized that many of them didn’t live out grace very fully in their lives, they had very unhistorical and sometimes offensively and deliberately ignorant understandings of what Christianity was. None of them were orthodox, as I came to find out. I also noticed an utter lack of the ‘physicality’ of the authentic Christian Faith, there was an extreme ignoring of the physical reality and component of man, and his suffering, and his trials, and the elevating the spiritual and spontaneous as the only reality worth paying attention to in man, to the detriment of their religious inclinations, let me tell you! Suffering is a dirty word among many of them. They cannot fathom an earthly Jesus, the God whose very life was this dusty-and-muddy earthly existence of suffering, sacrifice, pain, and death.

    So I continued my search for Apostolic, authentic Christianity. Grace was leading me the whole way, I would later understand, and the Holy Spirit was rapidly leading me to a destination I never would have suspected: The Catholic Church. Now we’ve arrived at about a year after my initial experience with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. After some intellectual dabbling in Protestant liturgical, stable, and relatively more orthodox Christianity, I became dissatisfied yet again with the disagreements in their ranks. They had no way of actually knowing the Truth, and they constantly fought and bickered over the interpretation of the Scriptures. I knew in my spirit that I was moving in the right direction, and that this liturgical, orthodox Christianity had elements of profound truth to it.

    And then it happened.

    I discovered the Catholic Church in late spring 2011. I was enraptured immediately, and despite having to fight of mental ticks of anti-Catholic screed that I had absorbed since childhood, I absorbed ten-fold more orthodox ‘food for the soul’ in Church Teachings. I clung to it, I made it myself, I deliberately cleaved my whole worldview and being to it. Within the last year it has transformed me, and I know that I was home at last. I am not an orthodox Catechumen, I have a pretty great personal catechesis, and I hope to be received into the Church on Easter in 2013. The entire time I sought for the truth I continued to speak in tongues and was sustained by the presence and grace of God, and I continue to be to this day. Over the course of my studies in Catholicism I even had several more intimate and extraordinary encounters with the Holy Spirit beyond what you ordinarily immerse yourself into by speaking in tongues. I’ve experienced ecstasies, and continue to have an uncanny sense for Scripture and Tradition which I see as the seamless and inspired voice of the Holy Spirit in His Holy Catholic Church. In short, I am an orthodox, liturgical, Traditional Latin Mass-loving, Tradition-loving, conservative Roman Catholic who speaks in tongues and has a deep and profound relationship with the Holy Spirit. I do not consider myself a Charismatic Catholic in the sense normally meant, and I am uncomfortable with their liturgical abuse, their wayyyyy too over-the-top ecumenism, their looseness, their often insulting and extremely un-Catholic attitude toward Sacred Tradition. In short, I’m a black sheep ;) and I’m ok with it. So was St. Peter when he was fasting and fell into a full-out trance and experienced prophetic visions regarding the gentiles in public. So was St. Paul when he spoke in tongues (apparently ALL of the time!) So was St. John when he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. I seek the fulness of everything God has for me, as a Roman Catholic.

    To this day, I’ve set foot in Charismatic Churches or ecclesial communities maybe two times in my entire life. I’ve never been laid hands on by Protestants or anyone else. The Spirit I received was directly and specifically and supernaturally from Jesus Christ, and no one else, while I was completely alone and not even remotely in hysterics. I can testify that at least some Charismas, including tongues, are absolutely real and they have consistently guided me to just about the best proof of their legitimacy: Jesus Christ’s one and only Church, the Catholic Church, and to His Vicar, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. It has enriched my life, brought me to greater Grace, brought me to the Sacraments, brought me to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Oh! Mary! Spouse of the Holy Spirit! I know her, I love her, I am devoted to her, she is, after Jesus, my all, and I am all hers. Virgin made Church, rejoice, Alleluia!), brought me to the One True Church. That is not to say there aren’t a lot of fakers out there, or even some false prophets who are literally demonically influenced. I am dead certain that both are extremely plentiful in the Charismatic movement. Take the heresy-spouting Benny Hinn, for instance, or other less noticeable figures who are intensely into the supernatural without any fruit whatsoever. If you see people who seem to be making up ridiculous and repetitive baby-talk that does not even remotely sound linguistic, they may be faking tongues that they see in others. If you see men who commit adultery or other heinous sins and are leagues away from the Catholic Church or anti-catholic, I can bet ya they have no place in Christ’s grace. If they hate the Blessed Virgin, yet another sign. But some of it is indeed real, and would that all legitimate Charisma-bearing individuals would follow their graces to the Catholic Church and not refuse the Triune God from having full power over their lives.

    God bless all that read



  54. Bob

    I am a very orthodox Catholic with a graduate theological education. I converted to Catholicism when I was in my mid-teens. The Charistmatic Renewal Movement played a very big role in my conversion. My experiences of being “Baptized in the Holy Spirit” (a very poor theological term in my humble opinion, but I use it because it is a common expression to describe a certain type of religious experience) and speaking tongues gave me tremendous faith and it has set my heat on fire with love for Jesus Christ. I am a very active member of my parish, teach adult catechesis, and I am in formation to become a deacon.

    I think there needs to be a lot of discernment with the “charismatic” gifts, but my experience tell me that they are indeed genuine in some instances. We cannot put God in a box and declare that it is not possible for God to bestow similar gifts today as in the early church. Where is your faith?

    In the end, however, the spiritual gifts mean nothing without the virtues. If they do not lead us to God and greater communion with the Church, then we know that it is not from God.