I am a fully professed member of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic. The BSCD stands for the integration of a number of things (which is good – that influenced our joining), one of which is the charismatic and the contemplative. I want to take this as a type of test case of the problem of integration and look at some of the questions it raises.
The first question is: “What is integration?” I was in high school during the first half of the 1960’s. In 1964 E. C. Glass High School was integrated. Five students from Dunbar High School, the Afro-American high school in the city, were transferred into E. C. Glass by court order. All were high achieving students. All needed the higher standards and wider academic class selection of E. C. Glass. Most, if not all, were in my advanced English class, which means that I got to know them. What was clear was that integration did not mean upgrading Dunbar so that the academic level and facilities equaled those of Glass: that would be separate but equal. Integration did not mean bringing those five students (in the first year, followed by more the following year; eventually Dunbar would be closed and Glass and a new high school in another part of the city would continue on as fully integrated high schools) into Glass and giving them their own classes (a parallel stream within Glass) or even allowing them into lower level classes in Glass. Integration meant that those students became fully a part of E. C. Glass High School and were a part of any and all classes that fit with their academic aspirations and abilities, as well as were able to join any sports teams, musical organizations, or co-curricular activities for which they were qualified and in which they were interested. It was not that the students of E. C. Glass all accepted this change easily – I witnessed some racial harassment of Owen, the male I knew best, in physical education class (Owen endured it with equanimity) and would suppose that the women students experienced a parallel situation – it was that the changes that happened were what integration meant. It did not mean separate and equal, it did not mean being both held at the same time in tension, but it did mean the two mixed on the basis of total equality. And this meant that some aspects of the E. C. Glass culture, or parts of it, would have to go, such as the assumption that Afro-Americans were inferior or less capable. I should note that at the same time or perhaps a bit later Rev Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, was photographed on the steps of his church, arms crossed, blocking the racial integration of his church. I understand that he quietly changed his stance a year later, but at that time he did not want African Americans in his church on an equal, integrated basis. Thus, if we in the BSCD integrate the charismatic and the contemplative or even the charismatic and the Catholic, we would expect the practices, theologies, and experiences of the two to be combined on an equal plane in a single structure or worship experience. Otherwise one would have parallel tracks or separate but equal.
The second question is: “What is the charismatic?” Concomitantly, we might ask: “What is the contemplative?” This issue is trickier. On the one hand, by “contemplative” we in the BSCD would mean Christian contemplation such as that pointed to by St John of the Cross or St Teresa of Ávila. This could be expanded to more imaged versions of contemplation, such as that of the Blessed Sacrament, or such eastern versions of contemplation as that which St Seraphim of Sarov practiced using the Jesus Prayer. All of them include the stilling of the passions, the cleansing of sin, deep humility, obedience to the inner voice of God, and, in the end, direct inner (or outer) experience of God, if that is granted.
On the other hand, the “charismatic” is more difficult to define. I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren, an ecumenical movement of the early 1800’s. To find a common denominator among denominations they sought the Spirit’s leading in the “Breaking of Bread” service (they recognized correctly that the Eucharist is the central Christian experience, the point of unity) so that they would not need to use anyone’s liturgy. John Nelson Darby would write in those early years, “It is the duty of Christian men in these last days to seek the renewal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he expected a wider set of gifts to be expressed than the “Spirit’s leading” they were experiencing, gifts such as tongues and healing. However, Darby came into contact with Edward Irving (and the New Apostolic Church) that claimed to be having an experience of these gifts of the Spirit. They may also have had a document from a Jesuit in South America that gave the key ideas of what would later be known as dispensational theology. Whatever the exact situation, Darby’s interest in “prophecy” and the “last days” did develop into dispensational theology and Darby’s tendency to react to strong individuals repelled him from the claims of the equally strong Edward Irving so that Darby developed the idea of gift cessationism that came to be connected with dispensationalism. The gifts of the Spirit were only for the initial period of the church, after which the Bible sufficed for the church age and any claim to spiritual gifts (other than the “leading of the Spirit” in the breaking of bread and similar situations) was illegitimate. The Reformed Tradition had a parallel theology, but it was not built on a theory of dispensations, the separation of Israel and the Church, and a particular view of the “last days.” None of these movements expected a crisis experience in either their gifts (or non-gifts) of the Spirit or in evangelism. They did evangelism, but any crisis experiences in evangelism were spontaneous and not required, certainly not engineered. Jonathan Edwards would be a good example of this attitude from the Reformed perspective (for example The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Applied to that Uncommon Operation that Has Lately Appeared on the Minds of the People of New England).
The end of the 1800’s all of this changed. Charles Finney introduced “the use of means” into evangelism: there was a shift in music to more emotional forms using contemporary tunes (which one hears when the hymns are played up tempo by a skilled musician), there was the “altar call” to come forward to the “mourners bench” where one knelt until one had the crisis breakthrough, and there were, of course, counselors who helped one through this experience, as well as the gifted preacher. This format would develop through the ministries of Billy Sunday, Dwight L. Moody (and Sankey), and Billy Graham into the “normative” crisis “born again” experience of the first half of the 20thcentury. If one has had the experience, then one is “saved,” and if one has not had the experience, no matter how orthodox one’s belief, deep one’s sacramental experience, or firm one’s commitment, one is still “lost.” The crisis experience is the key.
In my case, I grew up believing the faith, committed to the faith and, of course, Jesus, as far back as I can remember. I know that about age one my mother started to read Bible to me and my older brother. I can remember pride about age five in the fact that I had sung every song in the “breading of bread” (of course, I could not partake of communion at that age). But just a bit later I had an experience of spiritual and emotional abuse when a Sunday School teacher told us in my small class that if we did not “ask Jesus into [our] heart” Jesus might come and “rapture” your parents and they would go to heaven and you would be left behind – alone. It was well-meaning crisis evangelism, but its effect on me was terror. For weeks afterwards I would lay in bed in the darkness and “ask Jesus into my heart” multiple times before falling asleep. I never told anyone about that experience at the time. I made no change in my beliefs or faith commitments. It was an experience of terror, not of conversion. I would quietly grow up in the faith (and even, about age 8, give a talk at the Bible Club fund raising banquet, a talk that was broadcast over the radio – a big thing in those days), and, about age 14, in a rational, reflective movement in my bedroom one summer decided that it was “time to get serious” about my faith commitment, i.e. to take adult responsibility. I made some changes in my life (e.g. I stopped going to school dances, which brought about a breakup with my girlfriend), but mostly I approached the elders of my “assembly” (church) that fall and asked for baptism and to be “received into fellowship” in the “assembly” (church) that we attended. Baptism was put off until the next January, which was after I was 15 and after we moved into a new church building (the baptismal in the old building was leaky and the elders did not want to repair it). Baptism, in their view, was right and proper, but it was only a witness and was really in the end unnecessary. I was, however, “received into fellowship” a couple of weeks after making the original request, as I remember it, which meant that I could not only receive communion, but also take my place as an adult male in the “assembly.” In the ‘morning meeting” or “Breaking of Bread” I could “give out a hymn” or stand and pray or read (and expound) a short scripture passage or even pray for the bread and wine. I wisely limited myself at first to hymns or perhaps a short prayer. You have to get used to the “leading of the Spirit.” Shortly after I turned 15 the elders picked out three young men (of which I was the youngest) and on a quarterly or monthly basis had the youth lead the evening evangelistic service (at which there were no persons who were not died-in-the-wool members, so there was no danger of damaging anyone’s faith) with one of us young men preaching (women could play the piano or perhaps sing a “special number”). By summer the elders decided we were good enough to move to the family Bible hour (the preaching service after the “Breaking of Bread.” The Sunday after my 16thbirthday (which was Nov 22, 1963) I preached my first Sunday morning sermon (I still have it on tape – and if I feel any pride it should be enough to humble me). My point is that a crisis conversion experience was assumed to have taken place in me, but no one knew when it was. I would eventually be asked by a Christian organization, and would give that experience at age 5, but would know all along that it made no difference in my spiritual status. My other point is that while we denied some “charismatic gifts” and certainly “speaking in tongues,” it was clear that we practiced others – the “leading of the Spirit” into verbal expression in the “Morning Meeting,” and the gift of teaching and perhaps even prophecy (although we would not have called it that) in both the “Morning Meeting” and the “Family Bible Hour.” No one needed a crisis experience to exercise those gifts – all adult males who were “in fellowship” were assumed to have them, although some would be more gifted as teachers and preachers.
However, crisis conversion was not the only thing that happened in the late 1800’s, for there were a series of adventist movements (the Plymouth Brethren had been part of an adventist wave in the early 1800’s) then that applied the crisis idea to two other areas: crisis sanctification and crisis healing. The Christian and Missionary Alliance developed its houses of healing for the latter purpose (although they were willing to take more time that would be taken in later movements), and, of course, in that denomination Jesus was (and is) viewed as savior, healer, sanctifier, and coming king. There were, of course, other groups as well, for this was a time of ferment. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, among others, experimented with and longed for crisis spiritual gifts (i.e. what would be called “charismatic experience”), but it was what became the Pentecostal movement that developed this experience. Crisis was how one made spiritual progress, so one stayed in prayer until one received the gift of tongues (the “initial evidence” of the filling by the Spirit) and then stepped out in other gifts. Thus, crisis experience was the key idea of the period between 1880 and 1910, and it remained important in North American fundamentalism afterwards.
As the Pentecostal movement developed in North America, both sanctification and spiritual gifts were crisis experiences (remember that many Pentecostal churches also have “holiness” in their names). When the crisis spiritual gift reception (spearheaded by tongues) jumped into the mainline Protestant world in the 1960’s, the sanctification aspect did not come with it. Most mainline Protestant groups already had a theology of progressive sanctification. But the crisis aspect remained when it came to “charismatic gifts,” with tongues as the leading indicator. Tongues, of course, unlike the opinion now of the typical biblical scholar about what this meant in the biblical text, were seen more as a mantra or sounds expressing one’s emotion, than languages (which is what the term should mean in koine Greek) and likewise interpretation of tongues was viewed something like prophecy based on a “message in tongues” rather than the interpretation of a language that at least some people group (or angels) knew and spoke (even if no one in the gathered community did). Of course, the early Pentecostals also assumed that this actual language meaning was the meaning of the terms and on that basis some of the more enthusiastic undertook foreign missions without language training, often (but not invariably) with disastrous results. But by the time of the charismatic movement it was recognized, due to a number of linguistic studies, that this was not what the phenomenon called “tongues” usually was, although often a story or two circulated indicating that this “could” be the case once in a while. It is also true that in the mainline Protestant denominations crisis conversion was not a critical issue, even if crisis “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was in the “charismatic” parts of the denomination. That caused some tension with the Pentecostal source movements, which wondered whether the mainline Protestants were “saved.” But it meant that one had one crisis experience (baptism in the Holy Spirit) without the others (the “born again” experience or crisis sanctification). One might add that there was a tendency for the adventist eschatology to come with these experiences, i.e. that this experience was a restoration before the second advent and that the end of the age (often pictured in dispensational terms with a rapture) was close at hand.
The integration of this type of charismatic experience into mainline Protestant theology (and even that of some evangelical groups) was difficult. Thus, literature arose – e.g. that of Morton Kelsey – which argued that the gifts had always been around, so this present experience was a type of renewal, a new consciousness, but not a restoration; sometimes this same literature interpreted the gifts in Jungian terms or that of other psychological theory. The music that helped create the crisis experience was more easily integrated, at least so long as one had services set aside for its use. It tended to run on parallel tracks with traditional church music, although a few pieces of music were of high enough quality in both lyrics and musical composition that the did start to make it into hymnals, into the regular musical repertoire. This selection was not discrimination, but the filtering that has always gone on – a Charles Wesley or an Isaac Watts (among others) composed thousands of hymns, but only a comparative handful, perhaps 100 at best, have made it into the lasting repertoire. That is also not surprising: how many hymns or songs from the pre-printing centuries continue to be sung? Be that as it may, usually parallel tracks were arranged for both the music and the experience, with some services being “charismatic” and others being “traditional,” although there were exceptions: Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal, Houston, composed music that combined organ and guitar and that fit into the Eucharistic structure of an Episcopal Eucharist and that church, so far as I could tell, only had the one type of Eucharistic service. One thinks of the “King of Glory” setting of the mass in general or “Alleluia Nr. 1” in particular. While I only spent a week living in a community house of the Church of the Redeemer plus some briefer visits to services while visiting relatives in Houston, I am deeply thankful to that community in particular and their traveling Fisherfolk teams and to the mainline charismatic movement in general for being a step along my path of spiritual growth. All the same, the “charismatic” was usually compartmentalized from “church” in general, even if we tended to think of it as something deeper.
The problem of integration was even more difficult in the Catholic Charismatic movement. Generally, it was solved by either introducing some “charismatic music” at particular masses or having separate charismatic services that were not Eucharistic. In the 1970’s and 1980’s some priests made alterations in the mass structure or in the liturgy for healing during mass, which allowed for the introduction of free prayer and lay participation. In some settings the sacramental of anointing was (versus the sacrament of anointing) introduced so that lay people could anoint. This would fade out over the next decades as bishops and pastors, having seen the over-reaction to Vatican II and its results, insisted on reinstating liturgical discipline
There was more problem with integrating the basically Pentecostal theology. Often the theology was simply accepted and allowed to exist alongside tradition Catholic theology, with Catholic theology adding a sacramental side that made it Catholic. This is something of what I saw in Steubenville in 1980 at the National Catholic Charismatic Conference for Priests and Deacons (I was one of the 80 Episcopalians among the 800 participants). Various prophecies were stated, but, of course, these, while common in the charismatic movement, were not and could not be vetted by the Magisterium, as they should in a Catholic setting. Fr. Scanlon then said, “And we know these are true, for they agree with the Marian apparitions” (some of which, at least, had been vetted by the Magisterium and certified genuine). But there were other theological problems that were not addressed.
Catholic theology has the baptism of the Holy Spirit taking place at baptism – baptism in water and the Spirit. The newly baptized, adult or infant, is anointed at that time. There is a later event of first communion for baptized children, but, while ideally coming with catechism beforehand, this is a receiving of Christ in communion, not a new reception of the Spirit nor a being “born again.” There is also confirmation, but that, again after catechizing, is the time of strengthening and confirming the presence of the Spirit as one in turn confirms one’s faith commitment. It is not the baptism in the Spirit nor is it crisis conversion, although for some it may seem to be the latter. There is, then, growth in knowledge that is recognized at some critical points in life, but the Spirit is there all along. And, of course, in the case of adults being baptized, confirmation and first communion would happen at the same time. Likewise, the Catholic Church never asks in retrospect whether a person has been “born again” (had a childhood or adult crisis experience) but whether the person has been baptized and confirmed. The crisis, in both cases, is at the time of baptism, and it is a sacramental crisis event – what the person experiences or does not experience is not an issue, for the sacrament is effective with or without feelings.
There are other charismatic theologies and practices than that of the North American charismatic movement (which is certainly aging and may well be dying). In the Ruferbewegung in Germany we experienced a charismatic movement that was without the excited music, for it was without the need for crisis. It was assumed that believers had the Spirit, and that what was needed was the removal of blocks for the Spirit to manifest himself more. A quiet prayer over the person would be appropriate, as would the removal of theological objections, and after that a charismatic meeting would consist of gentle music, candlelight, quiet prayer in German, and then would spiral down (so to speak) into the depths and end up in tongues and/or prophecy, although only be a few of those present. Healing prayer was listening prayer that quietly asked for healing, perhaps at a distance from the person being prayed for. The charismatic service with its production of crisis was not part of the German scene we knew (although it was in the military chapel in Würzburg and at least some of the excited music was at a retreat Judy attended). A one- or two-week fasting retreat was more their style. Now that would integrate with Catholic theology better than the neo-Pentecostal approach that is usually used in North America.
Another approach to the “charismatic” is that of the early Vineyard. John Wimber, who saw his movement as neither Pentecostal nor Evangelical, but as a bridge, a middle ground, would another example of a more compatible theology. The early Vineyard music was music of intimacy with God, music sung to God. Some of that was lost later in the movement, but even then, the focus on God was usually maintained even if the music became louder and more complex. (And people stopped singing and became audiences, letting the worship team do the singing for them and evaluating the worship by how it moved them.) Wimber did not believe that one needed a crisis experience, but he allowed that some did have such experiences and that that was OK, perhaps even needed by them. Still, he did not try to produce one. Crisis experiences needed to be spontaneous. One was baptized in the Spirit at conversion (which for him was a conscious experience, not a sacramental one, for as an Evangelical Quaker he was not sacramental at all but had taken over the “born again” crisis approach of Evangelicalism, although mostly through personal conversation rather than higher pressure “rallies”). What one needed to do to experience the “gifts” was to obey the instructions in “the Book” and step out in faith. His conferences were generally trying to build a realistic faith that would endure. One listened to God and that did “what the Father is doing.” So, a particular prayer for healing might be changed as one perceived more and more clearly “what the Father is doing.” Perhaps despite cancer being the presenting issue, inner healing was what the Father was doing. Perhaps a demon might reveal itself, but the Father saw that as the least of the person’s problems and one might end up healing it out. The Christian life consisted of “teaching the Book, caring for the poor, and doing the stuff,” the stuff being operating in spiritual gifts and the like. Notice that social ministry was as much a part of following Jesus as spiritual gifts. It was all the Spirit. And while one might have a crisis experience, such as those who spontaneously started “speaking in tongues like a turkey gobble,” such an experience was not necessary. As Gary Best, leader of the Canadian Vineyards said many times, rather than receiving something that he did not have, “I just started keeping what I had been throwing out.” That meant that he had been getting impulses from the Spirit all his Christian life but had been neglecting to follow them. Once Wimber made him aware of what they were, he started paying attention to them and taking the risk of acting on them. As Gary Best (following Wimber) said, “Faith is spelled R I S K.” Again, this is far more compatible with Catholic theology. Where it differs is in that it follows evangelicalism and earlier fundamentalism in expecting crisis conversion rather than the development of sacramental grace. While the Holy Spirit comes automatically in conversion, the conversion itself must be conscious. One must have the “born again” experience in one form or another. Also, there is no real discussion of the relationship of sanctification with either conversion or Holy Spirit gifting. Of course, sanctification was desirable. No one advocated sinning. But since all sin had been taken care of in the “born again” experience, sanctification was a bit of an extra, although for Wimber at least acts of mercy were an action of the Spirit. To connect sanctification to the gifts of the Spirit might make the latter seem earned, which would not fit a Protestant theology of grace.
Now, as noted, both the Ruferbewegung and Vineyard (or at least Wimber) are more compatible with Catholic theology and sacramental practice than the neo-Pentecostalism that is usually the basis for charismatic experience in the Catholic Church. But there are Catholic approaches that are more compatible, if less exciting. I will look briefly at two of them, one from the East and one from the West.
In his book In the School of the SpiritFr. Jacques Philipp depends most upon St Thérèse of Lisieux. He, as a good Catholic, argues that the Spirit is in the baptized and what is needed is following the voice of the Spirit. That inner voice or quiet impulse is dulled by sin and by simply ignoring it. The voice becomes clearer as one follows it both into sanctification and into obedience. The voice might say to pray for or visit someone, and if spiritual gifts are needed, they will manifest at the time of the prayer or visitation. The Spirit works through the obedient heart. If one looks closely, the various gifts of the Spirit are there, although the book focuses on the seven in Isaiah, for they are the roots of the others, since all of the work of the Spirit is Jesus. If one asks, “How will I know it is the Spirit?” Fr. Philipp presents the rules for discernment of spirits from St Ignatius and the St Thérèse’s focus on totally accepting the will of God, even willing the will of God, no matter how painful it may be. There may be crises when one makes a breakthrough in one or another area, but it may also be totally gradual. As one becomes sanctified the voice of the Spirit becomes clearer and as one practices discerning and obeying, the process becomes almost automatic. The point is that it is not obtaining gifts that are under one’s own control that is the issue, but being oneself under the control of God, who can manifest himself through one in everything from the humblest service to the most dramatic prayer of faith. All of this, of course, is in the context of the sacraments, for that was the air that the spiritual masters he followed breathed.
St. Seraphim of Sarov takes a more Eastern approach in On the Acquisition if the Holy Spirit. In that work the focus is on sanctification and humble service. As one does this one grows closer and closer to God (and more and more humble, for one recognizes more and more one’s sinful nature). While God may manifest his gifts in one’s service along the way, it is as one develops closeness to God through constant prayer (daily prayers and, of course, the constant use of the Jesus Prayer) and sacramental life (even before he was a priest St. Seraphim was a frequent, even daily, communicant, which was unusual in the Eastern Church) and faithful, humble service that God can safely channel his wisdom and power through one. When one reads the life of St Seraphim one sees this in action. He becomes (if God wills) a staretz(orstarets) who is not only the source or wisdom but also of prayer and miracles, seen in spades in St Seraphim. Seraphim did not take this mantle up until he was 60, i.e. after some 37 years of monastic life, although others had sought him earlier and had indeed found wisdom and graces of the Spirit even then. Yet in the earlier period St. Seraphim had also at times chosen to wall himself off for years at a time, sensing he was not yet ready for numbers of people to seek the Spirit in him.
Obviously, there is a lot more to say about both of these books and both priests have other works out, either from them or about them. But there are some conclusions to draw. First, both approaches accept the so-called charismatic spiritual gifts. In that sense they are charismatic. Second, neither approach needs to use means to create a crisis experience. In fact, both would be concerned with the “dictatorship of noise” as Cardinal Sarah notes in The Power of Silence. Music may be the expression of a particular culture, and that is not bad, but in relationship to the Spirit excited music comes afterthe Spirit has acted and one is excited because of the Spirit, not as a means of putting oneself in the mood for the Spirit to act. We are not in the time of the ecstatic prophets of the earlier periods of the Hebrew Scriptures, but in the time of the still, small voice. Both approaches I have cited stress sanctification and that that and drawing close to God are the focus rather than the gifts of the Spirit being the focus. One discerns what the Spirit is saying and then says it or does it. The gift is there to do what God has led one to do.
There is safety in this approach. Many leaders of the North American charismatic movement have been “taken down” by some character fault or another – sexual issues, pride, greed (which often slips in bit by bit), and others. I personally have sensed such things in some (i.e. that they were at risk) and seen them in others (including seen the results in congregations that are no more). The greater the power God manifests, the deeper must be the humility, self-knowledge, and repentance. Otherwise one is in great danger, and, if the danger becomes reality, others will be destroyed. I myself started to slip into the danger of seeking the gifts rather than simply seeking intimacy with God, especially during the 1980’s. Power tends to puff up, as does knowledge. Thanks be to God, he stripped me of a lot and has made me a disciple of the monastics. Other headline ministries (although in the wider perspective of the Church, they were actually small) were not so fortunate and continued until they crashed. On the other hand, St Thérèse endured years of weakness and illness that made her into a chosen vessel and similar things could be said of St John of the Cross or St Teresa of Ávila or St Ignatius Loyola and many others. We are an impatient culture and seek techniques or means of getting things done immediately. God trained Moses in the wilderness for 40 years – he is a very patient God – and even Jesus spent 30 years in virtually undocumented obscurity as “the technos[builder, carpenter, handworker]” before spending 3 years in active ministry. And he did not have to rid himself of sin and the like.
If we want true integration of the charismatic with the contemplative, we need, first, to find the charismatic in the gifts of the Spirit, not in the music that is part of a particular time and culture, but is also part of a means of trying bring about a crisis of breakthrough in the Spirit. The music is not charismatic per se, and it can be a distraction from what the Spirit is doing. I have often struggled while praying for people in a charismatic meeting, standing outside the prayer group so as not to hear their excited prayers and trying to focus inwardly so as to get past the music and hear the quiet voice of the Spirit. If we want true integration of the charismatic, we will also need to see sanctification as a key aspect, if not to receiving the Spirit, at least to making the Spirit safe (untainted by our sin and desires) and to enabling us to hear his voice and discern it. If we want true integration of the charismatic, we need to cultivate humility and time with God. We need to realize that those who are not willing to spend the time with God are not going to be able to be used by God and that those who are willing to spend the time with God will not care whether or not they are used by God, but only whether they experience the Father’s smile. Yet they will be used powerfully. If we are to integrate the charismatic with the Catholic faith, we need to be thankful for how the neo-Pentecostal movement or charismatic renewal may have helped us in the past (as I indeed am), but realize that in the end the way forward is found in the lives and teaching of the saints, but East and West.