Author: Deacon Chuck Matzker
During the Liturgical Year between Easter and Pentecost, we read the Acts of the Apostles as a reading in the Mass. As we prepare for Pentecost, one cannot go through this book of Acts without coming face to face with the fact that praying in tongues was a reality in the early church.
The questions that can arise from these texts are – what about now? – is this a valid gift of prayer for TODAY? If so, what is its purpose? Is it Catholic? Why would I want it?
My intent here is to try to briefly answer some of these questions, and in so doing, to bring us to a deeper appreciation of the marvelous ways of God, who confounds the wisdom of the wise and asks us to become like little children in accepting the Kingdom. I will use a simple question and answer format...
Q. Is Praying in Tongues real and valid?
A. Without a doubt – YES! It is scriptural (See Acts of the Apostles and 1 Corinthians 12-14 as a start). It is the lived experience of the Christian Church today. It is experienced by millions of Catholics and Christians of other denominations in this parish, diocese, city, country and around the world. Many priests and Bishops pray in tongues. I also have this gift, and use it daily. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the gift of tongues is one of the special graces or “charisms” of the Holy Spirit: “Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church.” (CCC paragraph 2003) Showing his support for Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Pope Francis in May 2014 knelt down in front of nearly 52,000 charismatic Catholics in Rome’s Olympic Stadium as they prayed for him in tongues.
Q. What is it? Is it forced out of you by the Holy Spirit? Is it under your control?
A. It is totally under the person’s control. When we pray in tongues, we leave our known language behind – and begin to praise and pray to God in sounds (syllables) that have no rational meaning. We cooperate with the Spirit by providing our lips and vocal cords, by making some sound, and then allowing the Spirit to form the rest of the sounds (articulations). It may sound to some like a foreign language, but it is an articulation of the heart, a “babbling” like a baby, so to speak, like the bubbling of “living water.” In tongues we yield our mind and voice to God, in humility.
Q. Why would anybody want to pray this way?
Q. Where can I find out more about this gift?
A. See the excellent write-up at the Archdiocese of San Antonio website: http://cccrsa.net/charismaticcenter/what-is-the-gift-of-tongues/
The National Service Committee (NSC) of the Charismatic Renewal offers a pamphlet on the topic. See https://www.comcenter.com/product/NSCC-GOT/The-Gift-Charism-of-Tongues/
Also, come to the Wednesday night Praise Gathering at Holy Apostles Church, and check out the resources.