17 September 2007

From Moses to Vatican II

Aside from the kids being about as obnoxious as they could in church, Sunday was a good day. Over the summer, we spent nearly every weekend at our cabin and attended Mass at the small, quirky nearby Catholic churches. The few times that we were in the city, we attended the very close and convenient Nativity of Our Lord instead of St. Agnes, which has been the parish I have belonged to since 1986 (not including the 10 years I lived in Seattle ;} ). It was so nice to be back.

Although St. Agnes has gone through many changes in the past few years, it is still the parish I feel most comfortable in. When I was pregnant with my son, I attended a "Natural Labor and Delivery" class where they tell you to envision a place that brings you joy, peace, comfort, etc., that you can focus on during the rough patches of labor. I always envisioned myself kneeling in a pew praying near the front of the church during Benediction and Exposition. It caught me off-guard when the instructor of the class asked us what our "relaxation" place was and I said it was on an inner-tube in the middle of a lake in the warm sun. Also a comfy place, but there was something so intrusive about her question that I wasn't going to ruin it by telling people. St. Agnes is home.

Father Ubel's homily touched on Moses. With the kids downstairs in the social hall with dad, I was able to listen to what Father had to say. It's too bad that so many of the Old Testament saints are left out of our liturgical calendar and out of the Church's recent memory. What I mean is, Moses was an incredible intercessor for his people. He was flawed, he was weak, but when the chips were down, Moses was a leader, protector and champion of his people. Moses also chastised his flock. When God was going to allow His wrath to blaze down on the people and destroy them, Moses stood up to God, told Him to wait a minute, reminded God of His promises and saved his people.

Moses is certainly someone I want in my corner...along with the litany of saints I ask for intercession. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you will probably see, like many other Catholics, I'm a strong proponent of intercessory prayer. I am shameless in asking just about everyone in the Communion of Saints for their prayers and intercession. Like Moses, but far more gently, I remind those saints that members of my family had a special fidelity to, just how faithful and persevering those family members were. I try to build on their religious capital, I grab their coat tails and become a squeaky wheel. Now that I'm a mother, I'm almost as bad as the mother of James and John in asking for help for my family.

Back in my youth, I was a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. A snippet from Wikipedia describes the movement as:
The Second Vatican Council stated in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:"It is not only through the sacraments and the ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the people, leads them and enriches them with his virtues.... He also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church."

I spent several years pretty deeply involved in the Charismatic Movement. It was at a Catholic church, but many of the people I knew weren't Catholic. The weekly meetings were lively and dynamic, and we always spent a great deal of time, as a collective, praying for the intentions of the members. We sat in a great big circle of concentric rings, people spoke in tongues, and folks witnessed about their faith. The evening was always capped off by everyone standing and placing their hands on the shoulders of the people in front of them and/or beside them and praying. Praying out loud. Speaking in tongues. Praying.

However, looking back as I have often done, I can't see that my involvement brought me any growth in my faith. In fact, it was the beginning of my Catholic-in-name-only (CINO) period. My experience may be much different than others. I was young, in junior high and high school, with friends and boys becoming an increasingly important part of my life. The youth group I belonged to that was part of this organization was a poor example of living your faith. Several girls in the group became pregnant, kids dropped out of school, others left the church. Just not your wholesome group of kids when you looked beneath the surface.

For a long time, I have had questions about the group dynamics of an organization like this. Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit really happening or are they some manifestation of a very heightened group experience? Why do so many Charismatics get the Gift of Tongues, for example, when many saints and other contemplatives don't mention these things at all? Is it just "different strokes for different folks," or is the Charismatic Renewal movement a tangent instead of part of the path.

In fairness to the Charismatics, it has been a long time since I have been a part of anything like this and I only ever attended the meetings of one group. I do know that I experienced many profound things through my participation in this group, but instead of it being something that comforts me and steels my faith, it has left me wondering what really happened. I have asked several very orthodox priests and a contemplative priest about my experiences and am still left wondering. Was it all group dynamics?

And, in returning back to Moses and intercessory prayer, I prefer my silent and solitary prayer to having a group "lay hands on me." For me, there is a closer connection I feel to the saints and Poor Souls when I am in prayer, than I ever felt at the Charismatic Renewal meetings, despite the physicality and hugely evangelical and overtly friendly tone of the group.

In my mind, it is not likely that the quiet solitude of kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Agnes, asking for intercession for all my intentions, will ever be replaced by anything else.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Very provacative post.

I confess to being rather baffled by the charismatic movement thing though I certainly have been in parishes that appear to be impacted by it.

I agree. I wish more of our OT saints were on the calender. Moses being one.

swissmiss said...

Love the "new you" in your icon!

I belonged to the Charismatic movement for many years and I am still baffled.

Hidden One said...

Thank you for writing that post.

:o) said...

Nativity used to be home for me. I still really miss Father Kelly. He was my confessor for years. Have they announced who is taking Fr.Christensen's place?

Thomas Dzomba said...

Beautiful post.

swissmiss said...

Thanks everyone for the comments.

Haven't heard if anyone is going to be assigned to Nativity. Think the Assistant Pastor is taking over, at least for now. Nativity wasn't my "parish" but I will miss Father Christensen.

:o) said...

I didn't care for him. I thought he was smarmy. I've seen him out of clerics and/or w/o his collar several times. Not impressed.

Ray from MN said...

I've been intrigued by the Charismatic movement and have attended events at several parishes (Lumen Christi, St Charles Borromeo, St Raphael's, etc.) but I didn't get much out of it.

For one thing, the music doesn't do much for me.

But I am regularly moved by the gift of tears and am content to have that as a solitary gift.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Thank you for writing about your experience. My experiences with the CCR have all been very confusing and negative. I have a very special aversion to groups/speakers who identify (or don't, because they don't want to be called on it) as anything "charismatic".

swissmiss said...

I agree. I can get the gift of tears by doing a good Examination of Conscience. The other gifts leave me wondering as to the source or the impetus. For me, I believe God works, for the most part, gently. I think a saint or theologian or priest said He doesn't make grand sweeping gestures, so I am left wondering why the Charismatics are such an outlier. After reading some of the articles, I am thankful my participation was reasonably short and far in my past.

swissmiss said...

I can certainly understand your comment about confusing and negative. In hindsight, that's how I feel. At the time, I was young and it was kind of a cool thing. The youth group was attractive because I thought it was a bunch of like-minded kids. Danger Will Robinson, they weren't!