“Power Evangelization”

A Catholic and Carmelite Perspective

I. Introduction

“Power evangelization” (hereafter, “PE”) is a rapidly growing trend in charismatic Catholic circles. It can be defined as “evangelizing through signs and wonders,” and promotes the practice of miracle-working by laity and religious. One PE practitioner defines it as “proclaiming Jesus . . . by demonstrating the very love he has for us in signs and wonders and prophetic words.”1 “Just as in the earthly life of Jesus, so in the life of the Church in every age, the spread of the Gospel is meant to be accompanied by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit that demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom.”2 Catholic “power evangelists” model themselves after and collaborate with pentecostal evangelists; the latter include figures such as Robby Dawkins, Todd White, and especially Randy Clark, individuals whom are considered by some Catholic “power evangelists” to be on the “cutting edge” of PE.3 It is claimed that the practice of PE is a return to authentic Christian or “biblical” living as described in the New Testament, and that every Christian should seek extraordinary powers. Catholic practitioners of PE attempt to adduce magisterial and theological justification for their practices, pointing to papal endorsements of the “new evangelization,” the “new Pentecost,” the charismatic movement generally, as well as the Church’s recognition of healing and healing charisms.4

Of course, it cannot be denied that miracles continue to occur in the world at the hands of Christians — “cessationism” is untenable both scientifically and doctrinally. Nor can it be denied that the gospel message has been communicated and confirmed via signs and wonders by Christ himself, his Apostles, and many Saints and holy individuals throughout the ages of the Church. This paper does not contest the real existence of miraculous healings or healing charisms. Healing Masses, for example, bring grace and personal restoration to many. Nor does this paper question that PE practitioners are well-intentioned, filled with fervor, and have much to offer the Church. However, do these facts warrant Catholic acceptance of PE?

In this article, I take issue with the practice of PE in the Catholic Church. Section II presents a case study of PE. The remaining sections evaluate the tenets and practices of PE from a Catholic and Carmelite perspective. Throughout, I employ Catholic magisterial teachings and the writings of St. John of the Cross, especially his Ascent of Mount Carmel.

II. A Case Study

Based in Columbus, OH, Encounter Ministries (hereafter, “EM”) is devoted to PE, and is facilitated by a network of Catholic priests and lay ministers. Students pay a tuition fee to attend talks, workshops, and classes intended to promote PE, in particular, to activate their extraordinary gifts (hereafter, “EGs”) and “impart” those gifts — gifts such as healing, prophecy, and “words of knowledge.”5 In fact, a financial partnership with EM guarantees the partner media access to training sessions in “identity,” “prophecy,” “healing,” “deliverance,” “inner healing,” “& more!”6

During an hour-long PE training session, facilitated by both lay and religious individuals, a lay minister states that he and the priest present with him are performing an “activation” of the audience’s EGs.7 A woman with chronic headaches, and a man are brought from the audience to the stage following the lay-facilitator’s call to “find someone who is in pain . . . testable pain!” The man puts his hands on the woman’s head and attempts, over several minutes, to rebuke her headache. During this time, the priest-facilitator whispers to the man the words that he should use. At one point, the lay-facilitator suggests that the audience break into pairs and practice giving “words of knowledge,” i.e., trying to guess what someone’s name is, his occupation, etc. When the “words of knowledge” exercise is met with limited success (based on a show of hands), it is followed by an exercise “that can’t go wrong” — i.e., “words of encouragement.” The lay-facilitator claims that if a prophecy is “right,” we can be confident that it is God speaking. A second priest assures the audience: “This is Catholic. This is genuine.”8 At these and other such PE events, there are many testimonies of physical healing.

III. Is “Power Evangelization” Necessary?

Power evangelists argue that postmodern society rejects rational discourse, and so most individuals will not be affected, or affected only slowly and insignificantly, by intellectual discussion regarding matters of faith. Explanations, catechesis, and deep doctrinal issues, they argue, are off-putting to potential converts: “An evangelization that seeks primarily to persuade intellectually postmodern culture about the truth of Christianity will face significant setbacks and have little success.”9 In fact, power evangelists sometimes suggest that miracle working is necessary for evangelization.10

However, the Catechism itself states repeatedly that evangelization occurs in two ways: first, “by word,” and second, “by the testimony of life.”11 It states nothing about laypersons or priests (other than the apostles and Christ himself) evangelizing through “signs and wonders.”

Many individuals, indeed, yearn for the “word” aspect of evangelization. Even individuals who could be classified as espousing a “postmodern” outlook which rejects (say) metaphysics or the search for objective truth, are open to intellectual engagement — broadly speaking, apologetics. Rational beings cannot ultimately escape the search for truth through discursive means. As St. John Paul II wrote in Fides et Ratio, philosophy is essential to the New Evangelization: “Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith.”12 Beyond philosophical discourse, there are many possible manifestations of “word” evangelization: meaningful and correct catechesis, a learned appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of traditional Catholic art, music and literature, proper sacramental preparation, education in the history of the Catholic faith and the lives of the saints, instruction in the use of sacramentals, devotion and consecration to the Blessed Mother (the “Star” of evangelization), “Ask a Priest” or Q&A–type events, training in interior prayer habits according to the many spiritual traditions of the Church, et cetera. All of these practices have speedily converted souls throughout the centuries.13 Nowhere does any pope, or the Catechism, stipulate that “signs and wonders” are a necessary component of evangelization.

The second aspect of evangelization mentioned in the Catechism — “witness of life” — refers, traditionally, to a profound life of Christian virtue and sacrifice that invites emulation. In a corporate way, the Church can offer a witness of “life” through adhering to authentic, consistent and coherent liturgical practices. For individual Catholics, the “witness of life” aspect of evangelization may include physical suffering, caregiving, parenting, living celibately, etc. Of course, such individual witness reaches its zenith in martyrdom: as it is said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Suffering and death of all kinds — moral, mystical, physical, etc. — witness to the power of Christ within us and are critical to evangelization. Defeating the monstrosity of self-love through self-denial is a stupendous attraction for unbelievers. Indeed, St. John of the Cross states that Jesus’s greatest “sign and wonder” was his death on the Cross: “This was the most extreme abandonment, sensitively, that He had suffered in His life. And by it He accomplished the most marvelous work of His whole life, surpassing all the works and deeds and miracles that He had ever performed on earth or in heaven. That is, He brought about the reconciliation and union of the human race with God through grace.”14 It is often in suffering and dying that we become witnesses of Christ to others. Thus, we cannot reduce the personal experience of God, the “sacramentality” and demonstrative aspect of the gospel message, to signs of healing or (say) prophecy. In fact, the “witness of life” is far more “sacramental” than any miraculous event.

Moreover, most atheists, even if they did witness some type of miraculous appearance, would refuse to think of it as a proof or demonstration of God’s existence, or even a sign from God. They would attribute it to a deception of the senses, unknown environmental factors, psychological expectation, the power of suggestion, adrenaline, or legerdemain on the part of the “wonder-worker.” The “faith” of the atheist is often so staunch that nothing in his experience can affect his commitment to the atheistic worldview. For example, when asked what he would say to God on Judgment Day, Bertrand Russell famously replied, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” Jesus himself, in his story of the rich man and Lazarus, suggests that some will not experience conversion even after witnessing a resurrection (Lk 16:31).

Even if we set aside these tenacious, epistemologically disingenuous atheists and focus just on those who might honestly take into account the implications of a miraculous appearance, conversion is by no means guaranteed. A person may legitimately question the provenance of something he truly takes to be “beyond the natural”: is it ultimately divine, or diabolical? From a viewpoint that accepts the possibility of spiritual influences in general, it cannot be affirmed that “It is God alone who performs signs and wonders.”15 It is for good reason, then, that Lumen Gentium 12 states (regarding EGs) that “the fruits of apostolic labor must not be presumptuously expected from their use.”

In fact, Saint John of the Cross teaches that “signs and wonders” are a last and undesirable means of evangelization, appropriate only when other, ordinary means have been exhausted.16 Thus, while it is tempting to conclude that ordinary means, such as the witness of a virtuous life or catechetical training, “don’t work,” don’t work “anymore,” or don’t work “effectively enough,” one also wonders whether the effort, patience and discipline required by these more ordinary means of evangelization are simply off-putting to Catholics who are increasingly influenced by a culture of sensationalism and immediate gratification.

IV. Is Power Evangelization for All Christians?

Power evangelists argue, also, that PE is meant for every Christian. In other words, they suggest that every Christian, by virtue of being a child of God, wields power and authority over sicknesses and other types of evil, possesses supernatural gifts (such as healing or prophecy), and should ask for “more” of these gifts. So these gifts are not in fact “extraordinary” but “ordinary” or typical. However, this democratization of EGs does not cohere with magisterial teaching. Lumen Gentium 12, for example, states that EGs are “outstanding” and, well, “extraordinary,” and they are not to be sought after rashly. It also implies that they are less widely diffused:

. . . charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.

Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Christifideles Laici teach that healing, prophecy, etc. are “extraordinary” and “exceptional” (CCC 2003, §§799-800; CL 24; LG 12). Even Cardinal Suenens, a supporter of the charismatic movement, took a rather moderate approach to the question of “signs and wonders,” and did not dispute the “extraordinary” nature of these gifts.17 Cardinal Ruffini, in his comments regarding LG 12 at the Second Vatican Council,

acknowledges that such charisms are mentioned in apostolic writings and were widespread at the beginning of the Church. He believes, however, that after the initial apostolic age these charisms ‘gradually decreased as to almost cease to be’ (postea paullatim ita decreverunt ut fere cessaverint). He finds support for this view in St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on the Acts of the Apostles where the Church Father notes that a farmer needs to give more care to a newly planted tree until the roots are more firm. Thus, these special charisms were needed at the start of the Church until the roots of faith became more established. Cardinal Ruffini also refers to St. Gregory the Great’s explanation of Mark 16 where the illustrious pope makes a similar point. Cardinal Ruffini does not believe we should place our confidence in the charismatic gifts of the laity ‘because the charisms — contrary to the opinion of many separated brethren who speak freely about the service of charisms in the Church — are today most rare and truly remarkable’ (hodie charismata—contra opinionem plurium fratrum separatorum qui de servitio charismaticorum in Ecclesia libenter loquuntur—hodie rarissima sint et prorsus singularia).18

V. Discernment of Cause?

An especially dubious facet of PE is its lack of proper discernment. In fact, PE seems to operate on various assumptions regarding the moral status of miracle-workers and the origins of their powers: namely, that apparent miracles occur because of a charism or faith on the part of the healer, and, ultimately, by God’s power.

First, it is assumed that extraordinary phenomena, such as healings, imply the presence of a charism for healing in a human “healer” or group of healers. However, according to the magisterium, the manifestation of extraordinary phenomena does not necessarily imply such a charism:

There is abundant witness throughout the Church’s history to healings connected with places of prayer (sanctuaries, in the presence of the relics of martyrs or other saints, etc.). . . . The same also happens today at Lourdes, as it has for more than a century. Such healings, however, do not imply a «charism of healing,» because they are not connected with a person who has such a charism, but they need to be taken into account when we evaluate the above-mentioned prayer meetings from a doctrinal perspective.19

Second, the practice of PE seems to assume that miracle-workers are in a positive state of grace, that they are “anointed” or faith-filled — that their moral aptitude is somehow the source of their miracles. However, extraordinary phenomena do not in any way imply the holiness of the miracle-worker. EGs, even if they are of divine origin, are gratiae gratis datae, given for the good of others (they are unrelated to personal devotion or sanctity). Like priestly faculties, they remain intact even if the subject of the gifts is in mortal sin.20

In fact, extraordinary phenomena seem often to be associated with those who are not at all of the Christian faith. The Egyptian prophets, for example, performed signs and wonders in competition with Moses; Jesus mentions wonder-workers who are decidedly not in his favor (Mt 7:22–23), that “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Mt 24:11), and again, that “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24). St. John mentions cases of extraordinary knowledge given “naturally” to “idolatrous prophets and many sybils” who were neither holy prophets, apostles nor saints (II.26.12). The phenomenon of glossolalia, for example, is found in many religions other than Christianity — in paganism, shamanism, and various forms of the occult. Given these facts, PE’s very strong emphasis on wonder-working as a sign of faith or (as in the case of “tongues”) an aid to personal prayer is misleading.21

Third, PE seems to assume that miracles, in general, have a divine origin. One Catholic priest and “power evangelist” was advised by a another priest to “pay attention to any words or images that come to your mind” and “if you don’t know whether it’s from you or not,” not to worry, “just share it. There’s no risk.”22 PE disregards the possibilities of (a) auto-suggestion, (b) deception, and (c) diabolical intervention. (a) Auto-suggestion, of course, becomes more likely in situations that are emotionally charged, and where there is a high expectation already (e.g., a healing team bringing a sick person on a stage or otherwise putting him “on the spot”). (b) Deception or exaggeration on the part of the “healer” is also an obvious concern, and could be rationalized by not wanting to disappoint onlookers or drive them away from the faith. (c) Most concerningly, the devil may produce true prophecies and apparent healings in order, later, to deceive. Thus, even if a prophecy or a “word of knowledge” turns out to be true, this truth is not evidence of its divine origin. In an extensive but often overlooked section of AMC, St. John of the Cross evaluates the phenomenon of prophecy, noting the extent of devil’s knowledge of psychology and nature (his ability to know when, e.g., a storm, eclipse, physical recovery, mental collapse, sickness, etc. will occur). The devil could certainly tell a person what a stranger’s name is; but this is precisely an example of the “word of knowledge” exercise sometimes promoted by PE as a kind of “warm-up” before prophecy.23 Regarding even seemingly “benign” prophecies — those that do not purport to “add” anything to revelation — St. John of the Cross writes: “how much more necessary will it be neither to receive nor to give credit” to them, for therein “the devil habitually meddles so freely that I believe it impossible for a man not to be deceived in many of them unless he strive to reject them, such an appearance of truth and security does the devil give them.”24 Diabolical causation is especially likely, he cautions, where miracles are “esteemed” or when one “rejoices” in them. The saint quotes Luke 10:20: “Do not rejoice that the devils are subject to you.” For, “when the devil sees [one] affectioned to these things, he opens a wide field to them, gives them abundant material and interferes with them in many ways; whereupon they spread their sails and become shamelessly audacious in the freedom wherewith they work these marvels.”25 Likewise, Francisco Suárez (1548–1617) argues that healings can be accomplished by demons, who attempt to simulate a miracle by leaving a person’s body, and then later returning.26 Suárez follows St. Thomas’s thinking on the matter (see Thomas’s Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 178, a. 1, ad 2).27

In general, one wonders whether the “miracles” of the power evangelist would stand under the scrutinous investigations such as those conducted by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Most of the the millions of purported PE miracles will never fall under any such official investigation.

Fourth, even on the very rare chance that we might know a prophecy to be divinely inspired, St. John continually tells us to “reject” it. Since Jesus is the final word of God, he cautions, looking for prophecies offends Him, as if we think He is inadequate (Heb 1:2).28 Moreover, we can be very mistaken about how to interpret prophecies (even Jeremiah the prophet, St. John notes, was deceived by his own prophecy!29). St. John adduces dozens of Old Testament examples to support this point.30 Furthermore, God’s prophecies might actually not come to pass since they are sometimes contingent upon the continuance or discontinuance of certain human behaviors.31 Moreover, even if God does answer a request for supernatural “information,” the Saint writes, He is oftentimes “greatly offended and wroth.”32 Like a father who sadly feeds candy to a toddler who will eat nothing else, God grants such requests, unwilling that a soul should leave his care completely.33 Or again, like a father who lets his child eat candy until the child is sickened in order to teach him a lesson, God justly answers the spiritually greedy with the objects of their greed.34

The passages of St. John’s Ascent wherein he mentions spiritual caution and safety are too numerous to cite. I reproduce only one brief passage here: “One of the means by which the devil lays hold on incautious souls, with great ease, and obstructs the way of spiritual truth for them, is the use of extraordinary and supernatural happenings” (III.37.1). Thus, receptivity to EGs (“boldness,” “fearlessness,” and “power evangelization”) is dangerously exaggerated by PE practitioners.

VI. PE and the Theological Virtues35

Certainly, PE is meant to “shock and awe” unbelievers, suddenly to bring them to an encounter with God’s power and authority, in order that they might have faith. PE, then, is intended to be a reawakening of the evangelistic methods of Jesus himself and the early Christians. Certainly, healing, prophecy and other miraculous events have facilitated many conversions; and lack of faith in God’s power and ability to work miracles is surely blameworthy. However, could the practice of PE, which takes these supernatural tactics to an extreme, actually endanger the virtues that it seeks to promote?

As St. John of the Cross points out, faith is “dark,” and is solidified in what he calls the dark night of “sense” and “spirit.”36 In fact, faith, hope and love are continuously described as “dark” according to the Saint. When we seek the “palpable” to support faith (exclamations, expressions, gestures, supernatural phenomena, locutions, feelings, consolations) we actually show a weakness of faith or what might be called “spiritual positivism” — the idea that the supernatural is not real unless it can be shown or evidenced. Thus, St. John writes: “If a man make much account of these miracles, he ceases to lean upon the substantial practice of faith, which is an obscure habit; and thus, where signs and witnesses abound, there is less merit in believing” (III.31.8); “the more God is believed without testimonies and signs, the more He is exalted by the soul, for it believes more concerning God than signs and miracles can demonstrate . . . [and] it is exalted in purest faith” (III.32.4).37 St. John describes how Christ himself exhausted natural and ordinary ways of encouraging faith in his disciples before simply revealing his resurrected form to them. In other words, he tried everything besides the extraordinary first, not wanting to damage his disciples’ faith.38

Moreover, the unchurched will certainly be off-put if a “sign or wonder” is promised or expected and fails to occur, or if a potential recipient is blamed for not having “enough faith.”39 There is a lack of documentation regarding the negative consequences of PE, but this author has heard testimonies regarding “healings” that vanish following the actual healing event (e.g., eyesight that is miraculously “restored,” and later returns to its imperfect state). Healings that “expire” following a healing event would surely cause much distress, and require difficult and sensitive pastoral guidance. It is up to the reader critically to investigate this phenomenon.

PE may also endanger hope. St. John describes hope, like faith, as a “darkness,” centered on what we do not yet possess. The power evangelist may easily over-emphasize temporal goods (health, joy, etc.) in a way that dulls hope. PE practitioners, of course, attempt to focus on spiritual goods attained, but again, spiritual healing, especially through suffering in imitation of Christ (see 2 Cor 12:9 and Col 1:24), is deemphasized in practice. And yet, the temporal benefits of miracles (e.g., healing, restoring sight, casting out devils, etc.), St. John teaches, “merit little or no rejoicing on the part of the soul . . . since they are not in themselves a means for uniting the soul with God, as charity is” (III.30.4).

Most significantly, PE may damage charity. To see this, it is important to understand how exactly St. John of the Cross understands charity. Too often, we tend to interpret charity as a positive feeling needed to validate our behaviors (“of course, this must be done in charity”), and which is rather easily mustered. St. John, however, sees charity as a conformity of the will with God’s will, and so an orientation towards God’s honor and glory. Charity, in his estimation, is radically altruistic and developed through an ever-increasing process of self-denial. Thus, charity is compatible with and even shown most intensely in perseverance through aridity; the soul cares not whether it experiences any enjoyment.40 Commenting on Mark 8:34–35, St. John famously states that “to seek oneself in God is to seek the favours and refreshments of God; but to seek God in oneself is not only to desire to be without both of these for God’s sake, but to be disposed to choose, for Christ’s sake, all that is most distasteful, whether in relation to God or to the world; and this is love of God. Oh, that one could tell us how far Our Lord desires this self-denial to be carried!”41

Charity, therefore, treats God and others as ends, and everything else as only as means to be used.42 It is enormously tempting, when employing “signs and wonders,” to draw attention and glory to the means (charisms, miracles, the miracle-worker, etc.) rather than the ends, thereby drawing glory and attention from God and from the true spiritual good of others. To see this, we must note how incredibly easy it is to “use” others in this way even in the most ordinary moral acts, such as holding a door or preparing a meal for someone. In fact, St. John mentions seven “principal evils” that result from “vain rejoicing” in otherwise morally good acts.43 Here, we note only some of those evils: (1) “vanity, pride, vainglory, and presumption” (III.28.2); (2) comparing one’s acts to those of others, going “so far as to be angry and envious when . . . see[ing] that others are praised, or do more, or are of greater use” (III.28.3); and (3) deprivation of eternal reward (III.28.5; see Mt 6:2). “I myself believe that the greater number of works which they perform in public are either vicious or will be of no value to them, or are imperfect in the sight of God, because they are not detached from these human intentions and interests” (III.28.5). St. John explains that, while a person cannot always literally “hide” these works from others (especially in the case of miracles), he must try to hide them from himself (III.28.6). “That is to say, [he] must find no satisfaction in them, nor esteem them as if they were of some worth, nor derive pleasure from them at all. It is this that is spiritually indicated in those words of Our Lord: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’” Again, St. John teaches: do not “find satisfaction in oneself,” rejoicing secretly in those works, since this “is a great iniquity against God and a denial of Him.” Such rejoicing is the “sounding of the trumpet” (III.28.5) in the inner self. He states that, even regarding ordinary good works, “hardly anyone is to be found who is moved to do such works simply for God’s sake, without the attraction of some advantage of consolation or pleasure, or some other consideration” (III.28.8).44

The rule of a fortiori applies here: if vanity so plagues even ordinary moral acts, it is supremely likely to be a problem, causing spiritual damage to both the “worker” and the “recipient,” in the practice of extraordinary acts. Thus, charity, detachment and humility must be marvellously strong in a person before he dare perform miracles without fear of actually harming charity. It is no wonder that, without detachment, we find souls being brought onto a stage and used as guinea pigs for a tyro’s miracle-working “practicum.”

Far from abhorring attention, any but the most holy person would secretly or not so secretly thrive upon the idea that he is a miracle-worker, festering in “vainglory.”45 Unlike Ss. Paul and Barnabas, who “tore their clothing in dismay” and “could scarcely restrain” the crowds from offering sacrifices to them, we surely would accept an admiring comment, deference, attention, being singled out, dwelling on what others think of us, etc.

Thus, proper use of these gifts requires extraordinary spiritual advancement. The PE practitioner will object: “We are advanced, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and washed in the ocean of God’s power.” It seems, according to the power evangelist, that by a prayer of “surrender” to the Spirit one is immediately washed and “ready to go” as a miracle-working evangelizer. If this is not the “teaching,” it is most certainly the impression.46 This approach is contrary to Catholic moral theology which teaches that the virtues are developed by repeated, patient acts of sacrifice and self-denial.47

VII. Conclusion: Abusus Non Tollit Usum?

Fr. Mathias Thelen has claimed that abuses and excesses of EGs do not “take away their use.”48 Likewise, Ralph Martin states that St. John of the Cross does not “condemn” the use of EGs.49 But the claims of both Fr. Thelen and Martin are trivial. While neither the Church nor St. John of the Cross “condemn” such gifts or claim that they cannot be used, they do suggest that it is extraordinarily difficult for them to be used without abuse. The conditions of “proper use” regarding EGs are stringent. (1) On the part of the miracle-worker, a supreme degree of charity is requisite, that is, (a) a detachment from those gifts and (b) an ability truly to treat them as means and not ends. (2) EGs should be exercised only if other methods have been exhausted. Unless these conditions are met, the wonder-worker risks Jesus’s final disavowal: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Mt 7:22–23; AMC III.30.4).50

  1. See a talk given by Fr. Mathias Thelen at youtube.com/watch?v=0QvfzLzkpTw, minute 27 ff. See also The Spiritual Gifts Handbook: Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom (2018), co-authored by Randy Clark and Mary Healy. Part of the difficulty of a scholarly evaluation of PE is that its beliefs are often embedded in its practices: lex orandi, lex credendi. Thus, what power evangelists truly believe is more often evidenced in parish conferences, healing events, and popular interviews than in scholarly literature. Internet recordings of such events, however — such as those of Encounter Ministries — abound (see part II of this article as well as encounterministries.us).
  2. Mary Healy and Randy Clark, The Spiritual Gifts Handbook (Chosen Books, 2018), 15.
  3. See Fr. Thelen’s talk, minute 21ff. Many of the books cited by Fr. Mathias Thelen, in his Biblical Foundations for the Role of Healing in the New Evangelization (hereafter, “BF”), are authored by pentecostal Protestants.
  4. For example, Fr. Thelen (BF, 90, n. 32) cites §1508 of the Catechism as supporting his thesis. Indeed, this paragraph mentions that “some” have the charism of healing. But §1509 makes clear that the meaning of the Church’s healing mission is much broader: “‘Heal the sick!’ The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health (CCC, §1509).”
  5. “Impartation” is allegedly the practice of passing on EGs from one person to another, and is based on Romans 1:11: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” The interpretation of this passage as referring to EGs is strained, since Paul does not specify the nature of the “spiritual gift” that is to be imparted; in other places, Paul clearly emphasizes the priority of faith, hope, and love, not to mention the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  6. encounterministries.us/partner/
  7. International House of Prayer, 2016.
  8. As participants are called onto the stage during this session, there is whooping and clapping. Synthesized music, effect lighting, and guitar strumming accompany the healing attempts. As the priest-facilitator first appears on stage, he twitches and his right hand shakes. Compare this practice with section II.5.3 of the CDF’s Instruction on Prayers for Healing (Sep. 14, 2000): “Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, above all on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place.”
  9. BF, 77.
  10. Fr. Thelen, for example, argues that the preaching of the gospel must be experiential or “sacramental,” that is, accompanied by palpable manifestations. This is unarguably correct. One who preaches, but does not in some way manifest, in his person, the truths that he preaches cannot hope to be too effective. However, Fr. Thelen goes on to argue, in the last chapter of Biblical Foundations, that the most sacramental, and therefore the most effective, way of preaching the gospel is through miraculous healings or other “signs and wonders:” “the surest way for the church to maximize the intended response of repentance and faith is for the preaching of the gospel to retain its sacramental form and include deeds of healing” (BF, 84). Likewise, he states that “healings are perhaps the most sacramental of all of the signs that can accompany the preaching of the gospel” (BF, 85). Later in the chapter, he makes the yet stronger suggestion that miracle-working is not an “optional” spirituality: “Unfortunately, many Christians for various reasons have reduced the working of miracles to an optional spirituality that one is free to accept or reject. As a result, the utilization of the Spirit’s power for healing is left to a few specialists in renewal movements . . . leaders in the church need to set aside an outdated biblical theology and reawaken their faith that the miracle power of the Spirit is still available today and is therefore not optional in evangelization.” (88–89).
  11. See, e.g., §§905 and 929.
  12. My emphases. See paragraphs 103–104 of FetR for this quote in context (my emphases are in bold): “I have unstintingly recalled the pressing need for a new evangelization; and I appeal now to philosophers to explore more comprehensively the dimensions of the true, the good and the beautiful to which the word of God gives access. This task becomes all the more urgent if we consider the challenges which the new millennium seems to entail, and which affect in a particular way regions and cultures which have a long-standing Christian tradition. This attention to philosophy too should be seen as a fundamental and original contribution in service of the new evangelization. Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith. . . . Christian philosophers can develop a reflection which will be both comprehensible and appealing to those who do not yet grasp the full truth which divine Revelation declares.
  13. Regarding the desire to know things “by supernatural means,” St. John of the Cross remarks: “there is no necessity for any of this kind of knowledge, since a person can get sufficient guidance from natural reason, and the law and doctrine of the Gospel. There is no difficulty or necessity unsolvable or irremediable by these means, which are very pleasing to God and profitable to souls” (AMC, II.21.4).
  14. Kavanaugh, Kieran, et al., trans., The Ascent of Mount Carmel, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (ICS Publications: Washington, D.C., 1973), II.7.11, my emphasis (hereafter, AMC).
  15. Thelen, BF, 42. In section V of this article, I address the question of discernment further.
  16. I address the reasons why St. John thinks of PE as a “last resort” in the remaining sections of this article (ironically, he thinks that seeking extraordinary phenomena can be damaging to faith).
  17. See, for example, Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, A New Pentecost? (Seabury Press, 1975), 39.
  18. This excerpt is from an unpublished manuscript of Dr. Robert Fastiggi. For Ruffini’s text, see n. 5 of Ruffini’s intervention found in the Acta Synodolia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II Vol. II Periodus Secunda Pars II (Vatican City, 1972), 629–30. The comments were made in General Congregation XLIX. Note that Cardinal Ruffini does not claim that the charismatic gifts have ceased — only that they are “rare.” The supposed “dispute” between Ruffini and Suenens regarding the extraordinary gifts is overblown. Similarly, in his Retractions (I.12.7), Augustine states: “In another place {On the Advantage of Believing, 16.34}, after I had mentioned the miracles which the Lord Jesus performed when He was here in the flesh, I added the words: ‘“Why,” you will say, “do not things of this kind happen now?” and I replied: “Because they would not move us if they were not extraordinary; but if they were ordinary, they would not be extraordinary”’ {my emphasis}. I meant, however, that such great and numerous miracles no longer take place, not that no miracles occur in our times.”
  19. CDF, Instruction on Prayers for Healing (Sept. 14, 2000), section 5.
  20. See New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Gift of Miracles.” Also: “As the object of these {extraordinary} graces is, according to their nature, the spread of the Kingdom of God on earth and the sanctification of men, their possession in itself does not exclude personal unholiness. The will of God, however, is that personal righteousness and holiness should also distinguish the possessor” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Actual Grace”).
  21. “. . . the exercise of these supernatural works does not require grace and charity” (AMC III.30.4).
  22. See EM, 2016.
  23. See EM, 2016.
  24. The saint continues: “For {the devil} brings together so many appearances and probabilities, in order that they may be believed, and plants them so firmly in the sense and the imagination, that it seems to the person affected that what he says will certainly happen; and in such a way does he cause the soul to grasp and hold them, that, if it have not humility, it will hardly be persuaded to reject them and made to believe the contrary. Wherefore, the soul that is pure, cautious, simple and humble must resist revelations and other visions with as much effort and care as if they were very perilous temptations. For there is no need to desire them; on the contrary, there is need not to desire them, if we are to reach the union of love” (II.27.6, my emphases). St. John also states that “to desire to commune with God by such means is a most perilous thing, more so than I can express, and that one who is affectioned to such methods will not fail to err greatly and will often find himself in confusion. . . . For over and above the difficulty that there is in being sure that one is not going astray in respect of locutions and visions which are of God, there are ordinarily many of these locutions and visions which are of the devil . . . he says many things that are true, and in conformity with reason, and things that come to pass as he describes them” (II.21.7). In fact, St. John simply states that if all visions, for example, are rejected, the soul is better off: “there is neither imperfection nor attachment in renouncing these things with humility and misgiving” (II.17.7).
  25. III.31.4, my emphasis. “Vain rejoicing” and the dangers of joy in anything but God himself is a ubiquitous theme in the Ascent. See, e.g., III.31.2: “Joy blunts and obscures the judgement,” and so, “It is a very easy thing to deceive others, and to deceive oneself, by rejoicing in this kind of operation. And the reason is that, in order to know which of these operations are false and which are true, and how and at what time they should be practised, much counsel and much light from God are needful, both of which are greatly impeded by joy in these operations and esteem for them.” At III.31.3 he writes, “It was for this reason that God complained of certain prophets, through Jeremias, saying: ‘I sent not the prophets, and they ran; I spake not to them, and they prophesied (Jer 23:21).’ And later He says: ‘They deceived my people by their lying and their miracles, when I had not commanded them, neither had I sent them (Jer 23:32).’ And in that place He says of them likewise: ‘They see the visions of their heart, and speak of them (Jer 23:26);’ which would not happen if they had not this abominable attachment to these works” (III.31.3). These are they who “prophesied their own fancies and published the visions which they invented or which the devil represented to them” (III.31.4). See also III.28 for the deceptions caused by joy in good works. At III.26.8 and III.27.5 St. John writes that the soul must aspire to a darkness or “night” of rejoicing, that is, an absence of joy in anything created.
  26. Suárez, De gratia, proleg. III, cap. 5, n. 15 (ed. Vìves, vol. 7, 154). See Victor Salas’s article, “Francisco Suarez and His Sources on the Gift of Tongues,” New Blackfriars (March 2018).
  27. Compare Pseudo-Chrysostom: “for they prophesy in the name of Christ, but with the spirit of the Devil; such are the diviners. . . . it is permitted to the Devil sometimes to speak the truth, that he may commend his lying by this his rare truth. Yet they cast out daemons in the name of Christ, though they have the spirit of his enemy; or rather, they do not cast them out, but seem only to cast them out, the daemons acting in concert with them. Also they do mighty works, that is, miracles, not such as are useful and necessary, but useless and fruitless” (Catena Aurea, commentary on Mt 7:21–23).
  28. “Any who would enquire of me after than manner, and desire Me to speak to him or reveal aught to him, would in a sense be asking Me for Christ again, and asking Me for more faith, and be lacking in faith, which has already been given in Christ; and therefore he would be committing a great offense against my Beloved Son, for not only would he be lacking in faith, but he would be obliging Him again first of all to become incarnate and pass through life and death” (II.22.5).
  29. See II.19.7.
  30. See II.19-22.
  31. See II.20.3-4.
  32. II.21.1 and ff.; cf. II.18.9.
  33. II.21.2-3.
  34. See II.21.11-12. The devil then “insinuates falsehoods, from which a soul cannot free itself save by fleeing from all revelations and visions and locutions that are supernatural. Wherefore God is justly angered with those that receive them, for he sees that it is temerity on their part to expose themselves to such great peril and presumption and curiosity, and things that spring from pride, and are the root and foundation of vainglory, and of disdain for the things of God, and the beginning of many evils to which many have come. Such people have succeeded in angering God so greatly that He has of set purpose allowed them to go astray and be deceived and to blind their own spirits and to leave the ordered paths of life and give reign to their vanities and fancies, according to the word of Isaiah: ‘The Lord mingled in the midst of them of them a spirit of confusion’ . . . {since} they desired to meddle with that to which by nature they could not attain. Angered by this, God allowed them to act foolishly, giving them no light as to that wherewith He desired not that they should concern themselves (II.21.11).” If God does answer a request for supernatural phenomena, “it is neither his will nor his pleasure” (II.18.8; cf. II.21.1). “And in this way God gives leave to the devil to blind and deceive many, when their sins and audacities merit it . . . and they give {the devil} credence and believe him to be a good spirit; to such a point that, although they may be quite persuaded that he is not so, they cannot undeceive themselves” (II.21.12).
  35. Mention might also be made, here, of a possible endangerment of the virtue of fortitude — an inordinate desire to be free of suffering in this life. But fortitude is precisely what conforms us to Christ Crucified. In the CDF’s Instructions on Prayers for Healing, for example, we find a clear affirmation of the redemptive value of suffering: “‘In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church’ (Col 1:24). Precisely in arriving at this realization, the Apostle is raised up in joy: ‘I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake’ (Col 1:24). (6)» It is a paschal joy, fruit of the Holy Spirit, and, like Saint Paul, «in the same way many of the sick can become bearers of the ‘joy inspired by the Holy Spirit in much affliction’ (1 Thess 1:6) and be witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection» (7).”
  36. “The soul must be voided of all such things as can enter its capacity, so that, however many supernatural experiences it may have, it will ever remain as it were detached from them and in darkness . . . leaning upon none of the things that he understands, experiences, feels and imagines. For all these are darkness, which will cause him to stray” (II.4.2). The soul must not “lean upon experience or feeling or imagination” (II.4.4). “The highest that can be felt and experienced concerning God is infinitely remote from God and from the pure possession of Him” (II.4.4). He is “beyond the highest thing that can be known or experienced” (II.4.4). “Leaving behind all that it experiences and feels, both temporally and spiritually, and all that it is able to experience and feel in this life, it will desire with all desire to come to that which surpasses all feeling and experience . . . it must in no wise lay hold upon that which it receives, either spiritually or sensually, within itself” (II.4.6).
  37. Compare St. John of the Cross’s words (the saint writes as if God were speaking): “If you desire Me to answer with a word of comfort, behold my Son, subject to Me and to others out of love for Me, and you will see how much He answers. If you desire Me to declare some secret truths or events to you, fix your eyes on Him, and you will discern hidden in Him the most secret mysteries, and wisdom, and the wonders of God, as My Apostle proclaims. . . . And if you should seek other divine or corporeal visions and revelations, behold Him, become human, and you will encounter more than you imagine, because the Apostle also says: In ipso habitat omnis plenitudo Divinitatis corporaliter (In Christ all the fullness of the divinity dwells bodily). {Col 2:9}” (AMC, II.22.6).
  38. “He did many things before he showed himself to them, so that they should believe Him without seeing Him. To Mary Magdalene . . . he showed the empty tomb, and afterwards bade the angels speak to her (Lk 24:6; Jn 20:2) (for, as Saint Paul says, faith comes through hearing); so that, having heard, she should believe before she saw. And, although she saw him, it was as an ordinary man, that, by the warmth of His presence, He might completely instruct her in the belief which she lacked. And He first sent to tell His disciples, with the women, and afterwards they went to see the tomb. And, as to those who went to Emmaus, He first of all enkindled their hearts in faith so that they might see Him, dissembling with them as He walked. And finally he reproved them all because they had not believed those who had announced to them His resurrection. And he reproved St. Thomas because he desired to have the witness of His wounds, by telling him that they who saw Him not and yet believed Him were blessed. And thus it is not the will of God that miracles should be wrought: When He works them, he does so, as it were, because He cannot do otherwise. And for this cause he reproved the Pharisees because they believed not save through signs, saying ‘Unless ye see marvels and signs, ye believe not’ (Jn 4:48). Those, then, that love to rejoice in supernatural works lose much in the matter of faith” (III.31.8-9, my emphases).
  39. The man who performs miracles with attachment to them both tempts God, “which is a great sin,” but also runs the risk of not succeeding, and so will “engender in the hearts of men discredit and contempt for the faith” (AMC, III.31.8).
  40. Seeking emotional experiences, according to the Saint, amounts to “spiritual gluttony”: “they prefer feeding and clothing their natural selves with spiritual feelings and consolations, to stripping themselves of all things, and denying themselves all things, for God’s sake. For they think that it suffices to deny themselves worldly things without annihilating and purifying themselves of spiritual attachment. Wherefore it comes to pass that, when there presents itself to them any of this solid and perfect spirituality, consisting of the annihilation of all sweetness in God, in aridity, distaste and trial, which is the true spiritual cross, and the detachment of the spiritual poverty of Christ, the flee from it as from death, and seek only sweetness and delectable communion with God. This is not self-denial and detachment of spirit, but spiritual gluttony. Herein, spiritually, they become enemies of the Cross of Christ; for true spirituality seeks for God’s sake that which is distasteful rather than that which is delectable; and inclines itself rather to suffering than to consolation; and desires to go without all blessings for God’s sake rather than to possess them; and to endure aridities and afflictions rather than to enjoy sweet communications, knowing that this is to follow Christ and to deny oneself, and that the other is perchance to seek oneself in God, which is clean contrary to love” (AMC II.7.5).
  41. AMC, II.7.5–6. Compare this to Michael Sullivan’s claim that we need “pink spoon” Catholicism, i.e., we need to offer “samples” of Catholicism like Baskin Robbins offers samples of ice cream (Sullivan is the director of the Fearless documentary, promoted by Encounter Ministries). If religion tastes great, he suggests, a person will want more (Ave Maria Radio broadcast, July 30, 2017, 2–3 PM).
  42. Within his discussion of the use of images (III.35), the saint warns against focusing on the images themselves instead of what they represent and, in general, warns against emphasizing instruments or means over ends.
  43. See III.28.
  44. The other “evils” mentioned in III.28 include: (1) a tendency to perform works only when “some pleasure and praise” will result from them, and not from pure love of God (28.4), (2) lack of spiritual perseverance and therefore progress (i.e., reluctance to perform good works in seasons of aridity) (28.7), (3) an overestimation of or prioritization of certain works because they satisfy the self, and (4) an inability to consider the counsel of others (28.9).
  45. Ch. 31.3. See Bruce Yokum’s claim that he has been prophesying longer than the prophet Jeremiah (youtube.com/watch?v=WlvwOBA98OI; within the first minute of the video).
  46. See this language at work in the Ave Maria Radio broadcast of Encounter Ministries, July 30, 2017, 2–3 PM.
  47. Adding to what seems to be an issue of inflated self-perception, here, is likely a de-emphasis on sustained interiority (wherein one is led into a true, and inevitably disappointing, self-knowledge). For St. John, the state of the “beginner” (vs. that of the “proficient”) is not a state of simplicity and humility. It describes a soul mired in concupiscence, an “embarrassed” soul that is a veritable marionette to temptations, easily mistaking sensory states for spiritual realities (e.g., aridity for God’s absence or disfavor), with many attachments to both the natural objects of the exterior and interior senses (sweet foods, worldly images, meditation), but also to the supernatural objects of those senses (infused smells, imaginary visions, consolations, etc.).
  48. Personal conversation.
  49. In his essay “Charismatic and Contemplative: What Would St. John of the Cross Say?” (found at the Renewal Ministries website), Ralph Martin makes the commendable point that St. John of the Cross’s teachings can be helpful as a way of reforming charismatic communities. Unfortunately, however, his main thesis in that article — that St. John does not “condemn” EGs — is negligible, since St. John rarely condemns any creaturely medium as a means to God. The pertinent question is whether or not the EGs are extraordinarily difficult to “handle” spiritually — much more so than other gifts — and whether they are truly necessary for evangelization.
  50. What follows is a lengthy quote that summarizes well St. John’s perspective on extraordinary phenomena: “It will not be superfluous . . . to give more enlightenment as to the harm which can ensue, either to spiritual souls or to the masters who direct them, if they are over-credulous about {visions}, although they be of God. The reason which has now moved me to write at length about this is the lack of discretion, as I understand it, which I have observed in certain spiritual masters. Trusting to these supernatural apprehensions, and believing that they are good and come from God, both masters and disciples have fallen into great error. . . . There are some whose way and method with souls that experience these visions cause them to stray, or embarrass them with respect to their visions . . . and edify them not in faith, but lead them to speak highly of those things. By doing this they make them realize that they themselves set some value upon them, or make great account of them, and, consequently, their disciples do the same. Thus their souls have been set upon these apprehensions, instead of being edified in faith, so that they may be empty and detached, and freed from those things and can soar to the heights of dark faith. All this arises from the terms and language which the soul observes its master to employ with respect to these apprehensions; somehow it very easily develops a satisfaction and an esteem for them, which is not in its own control, and averts its eyes from the abyss of faith. And the reason why this is so easy must be that the soul is so greatly occupied with these things of sense that, as it is inclined to them by nature, and is likewise disposed to enjoy the apprehension of distinct and sensible things, it has only to observe in its confessor, or in some other person, a certain esteem and appreciation for them, and not merely will it at once conceive the same itself, but also, without its realizing the fact, its desire will become lured away by them, so that it will feed upon them and be ever more inclined toward them and will set a certain value upon them. And hence arise many imperfections, at the very least; for the soul is no longer as humble as before, but things that all this is of some importance and productive of good, and that it is itself esteemed by God, and that He is pleased and somewhat satisfied with it, which is contrary to humility. And thereupon the devil secretly sets about increasing this, without the soul’s realizing it, and begins to suggest ideas to it about others, as to whether they have these things or have them not, or are this or are that; which is contrary to holy simplicity and spiritual solitude. There is much more to be said about these evils, and of how such souls, unless they withdraw themselves, grow not in faith, and also of how there are other evils of the same kind which, although they be not so palpable and recognizable as these, are subtler and more hateful in the Divine eyes” (II.18.3-4).
Dr. Elizabeth Salas About Dr. Elizabeth Salas

Dr. Elizabeth Salas is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. She earned her PhD from Saint Louis University in 2006, and has special interests in personalism and the Carmelite mystical tradition. Dr. Salas is a convert to Catholicism.

Comments

  1. Avatar David Mayer says:

    Well, lets not forget Scripture then along with all your research, and repetitive quoting and doubling and tripling down on your assertions. I completely agree with the caution you appeal to here, but you end up with not being in keeping with the times and the move of the Holy Spirit now. Ahead of any past Church leaders thoughts on rejection of PG, is the fact that our entire faith is founded on what happened at Pentecost, the writings of Paul, who spoke in tongues, and the promise that on the time just prior to Christ’s return of a move the Holy Spirit where old men would dream dreams, and the youth would prophesy. I have never read anyone so determined to use reason alone, to stamp out any such move of the Holy Spirit. To deny that God today wished to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, in works of His wonders, and for you to assert there is no way to know if these are or aren’t of God, completely denies that IF they are of Him, that others will be granted the grace to discern what is legit and what is not. You near one, would put God in a box, of reason, and call it faithfulness.

    • Avatar Richard W. Jones says:

      I discovered long ago that one cannot argue with an experience. No matter how biblical, logical, faithful to magisterial teaching the argument is, in the end, it will be rejected by someone who has had an experience that is being challenged. Frankly, I think that is what is happening in your comment, Mr. Meyers.

      Dr. Salas has nowhere denied that the Spirit is at work today, nor does she claim that the extraordindary gifts are not meant for the Church today. Too read her words in that light is quite uncharitable, I think. The point she makes is that the extraordinary gifts are just that: extraordinary. Not unreal, not invalid, and certainly not pedestrian.

      I consider her insights to be spot on. They are necessary cautions rooted in Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium, and the writings of Catholic mystics.

      Somehow, I think those sources do not make light of the power of the Holy Spirit, and neither does Dr. Salas. They also recognize the power of Satan, the frailties of human psychology, and the very real potential for self-deception at work in those who seek to become the Spirit’s power-workers.

      • You certainly can and should argue against someone’s experience. The idea that experience is the end of knowledge is how children think. This is simplistic, sensationalistic, self-centered, revealing a natural immaturity at best and at worst is intellectually dishonest.

        How does one account for imagination and the ability to experience in the mind and in the body something that is not happening? Athletes visualize, experience, to aid in their performance. PTSD flashbacks replay a real event that actually is not happening. Isn’t the fact that the Earth is hurtling through space, rotating at an unbelievable speed contrary to our daily experience? Finally what of hope? Does the experience of hope belie our experience?

        To disengage from those that trumpet experience is the sum of knowledge is a disservice to them and ourselves. It could be even irresponsible. Persuasion takes time and effort for all involved. Directing the attention to the fallacies of their/our positions is of vital importance to working out our own salvation as well as an aid to other’s.

        If we ask better questions of ourselves’ and others we will receive better answers.

        AK

  2. Thank you, Dr. Salas, for a heroic defense of Catholic spirituality against one of the many distortions, abuses, and counterfeits of it these days. It seems to me that the enemy of souls has grown adept at appealing to disordered self-love in turning souls away from both divine revelation and natural human reason, in preference for self-glorification, resulting in the deadening of more and more of even the natural goodness in humanity. He seeks death! His is the culture of death; the ways of death are his tools.

    It is the disordered seeking of self that can be spiritually fatal, as John of the Cross warned us, as you also point out, in the premature seeking for charisms – while in wholesale disregard for those abiding Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are infused at Baptism (Isaiah 11:2-3) and that are given to sanctify the soul, to perfect the theological virtues, even (and especially) holy charity. And without holy, supernatural charity the soul is dead! Paul warned of the inadequacy of the charisms in themselves, so clearly and concisely:

    1Cor 13:1  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    1Cor 13:2  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

    There is widespread confusion in the Church in this matter of the radical difference separating the graces gratis datae (charisms) and the infused Gifts of the Spirit. I think part of the blame must be laid at the feet of the teachers and catechists who have failed to pass on the fundamentals and foundations of life in Christ — beginning with the saving baptismal reality of supernatural infused faith, radically different from acquired natural faith. And this holds as well for all of the three virtues: infused supernatural faith, infused supernatural hope, infused supernatural charity are GIFTS of God, and are NOT the same as, but are radically different from natural and acquired faith, hope and love. Again, as St Paul pointed out:

    Eph 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—
    Eph 2:9  not because of works, lest any man should boast.

    But man wants to boast! He wants his works! He prefers to hold on to his natural acquired faith (and hope, and love), he prefers his own “spiritual” works, the works of his reason and discernment, and any “mighty works” that seem to flow from his own hands. He prefers the praise and glory he thereby receives from his fellows, rather than the secret and hidden fellowship of communion with the living God, and indeed His praise, that is the treasure of the poor in spirit.

    I attempted to write of this matter in a much more limited way, in an HPR essay, “Natural and Supernatural Faith” a few months ago here: https://www.hprweb.com/2018/11/natural-and-supernatural-faith/.

    So thank you very much, Dr. Salas. I pray you can pass on this crucially important understanding, which the Lord has entrusted to you, to the seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

  3. Avatar Elizabeth Salas says:

    Thank you, Mr. Jones and Mr. Richard. I hope that our seminaries will do more to promote the solid food of faith, hope and love.

  4. Avatar Rev. Deacon Lawrence Hendricks says:

    Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
    I was treated for Plantar Fasciitis for several years. In fact, in 2016 I spent approximately $800 for therapy at a clinic .6 miles from St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Brighton, MI. I was treated for several months at the clinic. I frequently felt over the years that there was a nail in my left foot behind my ankle.
    I have attended and participated in two Encounter Conferences that were led by Rev. Father Matthias Thelen. I spoke with Fr. Matthias about my Plantar Fasciitis at the Encounter 2018 Conference. Fr. Matthias invited me to contact him to meet for prayer at his office. I met with Fr. Matthias and he prayed over me. Fr. Matthias encouraged me to walk to see how my foot felt. I walked and did not feel any pain. I expected that the pain would come back in a day or two. I have not felt the pain in nearly a year and a half.
    I find it interesting that view in St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on the Acts of the Apostles where the Church Father notes that a farmer needs to give more care to a newly planted tree until the roots are more firm is used to discredit the use of prayer for healing.
    Please note that in St. John Chrysotom’s Paschal Homily that those who came last are treated as the first, “for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
    And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.”

    Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople – The Paschal Sermon
    Pascha – The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read during Matins of Pascha.
    If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
    And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
    Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
    O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
    Rev. Fr. Matthias Thelen is doing the work of the Lord in prayer for healing for those who need healing. I visited a former parishioner of a parish I served who was prayed for by Fr. Matthias and many other clergy and lay people. The parishioner at 13 years old received a heart transplant within 24 hours after being put on a list for needing a new heart.
    As we prepare for the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost, let us heed the words of the Troparion and Kontakion for the Feast let the Lover of Man, draw the world into His Net. May the Most High who came down and confused the tongues, / He divided the nations; / But when he distributed the tongues of fire / He called all to UNITY. / Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-holy Spirit!
    Holy Pentecost – Troparion & Kontakion
    Troparion — Tone 8
    Blessed art You O Christ Our God / You have revealed the fishermen as most wise / By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit / Through them You drew the world into Your net / O Lover of Man, Glory to You!
    Kontakion — Tone 8
    When the most High came down and confused the tongues, / He divided the nations; / But when he distributed the tongues of fire / He called all to unity. / Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-holy Spirit!

    May Paradise Consume Us!!!

  5. Let me begin by confessing that I am a convert to the most holy Catholic Faith. I spent 27 years as an Assemblies of God pastor. One of the four cardinal doctrines of the Assemblies of God is divine healing. I have prayed for people and they were healed, I have experienced this my self. Would these “miracles” stand the scrutiny of Rome? Probably not. Many forget that there are primary causes and secondary causes.

    The premise that Dr. Salas is responding to, power evangelism, is not a new phenomena. The Church Growth Movement that sprang from Fuller Theological Seminary was pulled in to the direction of “signs and wonders” as a primary means of evangelization. John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard church movement and Dr. C. Peter Wagner were principal proponents of this school of thought. In 1986, Wimber co-authored a book titled “Power Evangelism” (Chosen books). Christianity Today has named this book one of the 50 books that have shaped Evangelicals. In his writing, Wimber argues that the apostolic method of evangelization centered around authenticating signs and wonders. Unfortunately, without wise guidance and grounding such insistence leads to much error and confusion. I can attest to dealing with people who believed that God would work a miracle of healing, only to have such deep questions about what they had been led to believe that they left the faith when no miracle was forthcoming. A key leader in the “signs and wonders” movement in the 1990’s left the Vineyard and converted to Greek Orthodoxy simply to submit the the wise guidance of the Church, rather than the ecstatic experiences that passed as encounters with God. I do not deny God’s ability and prerogative to interrupt the natural laws of our existence with inexplicable workings. I am grateful that the Catholic faith recognizes the miracle-working power of God. I am more grateful that the Catholic faith offers sure and sound doctrinal guidance so that our faith is much more than an exercise in experience, no matter how God-centered that experience may seem.

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