Charismatic Chaplaincy

Charism in Greek means “gift.”  (charis:  “favor or grace”).  The grace “gifts” or free, favorable “fruits” of the Spirit.

I've always observed the dove as one of the most nervous and least peaceful of birds
I’ve always observed the dove as one of the most nervous, most vulnerable and least peaceful of birds

I was a part of the charismatic movement years ago and still remember the power of that “direct relationship” with the “Comforter,” the Dove of Peace, the Holy Spirit.  The God of the Universe speaking right to me and through me!  Miracles!  Healings!  Answers to Prayers!  Ecstatic joy and laughter and singing and clapping and raising our arms in praise, praise, praise.  “Father, I Adore You” and “He’s Everything to Me” were favorite songs.  We felt great; blissed out in the divine.  Didn’t think too much, but sure felt great.  And, other than the youthful, childlike exuberance, I now see this as both dangerous and sad.  And at times I can still get angry about the manipulation of young minds.  To be “filled with the Spirit” and KNOW what God thinks and feels. . .well, I get it, I’ve been there, and I think this thinking, or lack of thinking, is quite disturbing and scary.  I realize many are simply doing as they are directed and they innocently mean well.  But the truth is a bit harder to swallow.  To be blunt, I sometimes view this irrationality as a suicide bomb in the brain.  I shudder to think what would have happened if we, in our youthful JesusFreak days, had heard “The Voice” say, “I want you to KILL for Me”!

Here’s my comment on an NPR story about the growing charismatic movement among Latino Catholics:

“Former Pentecostal, then Evangelical, then Philosophy [major], then Protestant Minister, then Freethinking non-theist Teacher. . .and I hear this, and feel both angry and sad. The history of religion begins and ends with an overt or covert, “Do not think. Be skeptical of reason. Believe. Be dramatically emotional in faith. Your leaders will think for you and tell you what God thinks.” The old and new charismatic movement is understandable for its swing away from clerical authority. Yet dangerous in its personalistic authority. I once spoke in tongues, prophesied (speaking with the voice of God) and believed Jesus was my best friend and lord too. It takes many years, experience and a great deal of thinking to grow out of immature faith. If this is the future of Catholic Christianity, a long history of anti-intellectualism and extreme personalistic and otherworldly faith will prevail. Sad and dangerous.”

Chaplaincy should be charismatic!  In the best sense.  I would say that Chaplains give the “gifts” of time, patience, compassion, presence, genuineness, honesty, truth telling and the like.  Then, to draw out and encourage the “gifts” of others can be wonderfully rewarding.  Our natural talents and skills ought to be celebrated.  Our innate, unique contributions to the community are something to sing and laugh and raise our arms to!  In praise of natural Goodness!


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