Bebop Catholicism and the Charismatic Renewal

flame, fire, candle

Bebop Catholicism. Never heard of it? I just coined the phrase. I was watching the YouTube video of “Jazz on a Summers Day 1958”. It was beautiful. The filmography, the sound, the artists, the diversity of people racially and age wise was pleasantly surprising. It is a snapshot of an idyllic America and it was all about the beat and bebop.

Many Rites  But One Spirit

There are dozens of different Rites in the Catholic Church; ergo, many ways to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth, but all the same beat so to speak. Recently, Popes like St. John Paul the Great and even Pope Francis have embraced and encouraged the Charismatic renewal within the Church. I use the word “renewal” not in the context of a recent renewal but in its most ancient context because the Holy Roman Catholic Church started off as a Pentecostal Church (meaning alive in the Holy Spirit) beginning at the first Pentecost. Those gathered in the upper room, locked away in fear were now imbued with the courage given them by the Holy Spirit and they spoke, prayed, prophesied and sang in tongues.

While watching that YouTube video I thought of Catholic Charismatics and Pentecost. Praying in tongues is the Bebop of the Holy Spirit.

Conservative Should Not Mean Closed Minded

I was always conservative. Even as a child in the early 1970’s, the changes to the Mass didn’t sit well with me, especially the folk music. As I matured in the faith, I believe the Lord allowed me to experience Him in many different beautiful ways and to be open to the variety of ways we can express our love and worship for Him. Being conservative does not mean closed-mindedness. I have a great appreciation for the Tridentine Rite Mass, the Novus Ordo and the Russian Catholic Liturgy and over the past 18 years or so, the Catholic Charismatic Praise and Worship. I enjoy many different ways to worship and connect with the Lord as long as they are theologically sound and comport with Roman Catholic teaching. I marvel at how the diverse people on our planet worship and I know even if they don’t that all forms of “Creator” centered worship gives glory to the one true God. Don’t misunderstand me, not all forms of worship are equal or theologically sound. But as Saint Paul noted in Athens, the people were religious, they had temples to all kinds of god’s, but their spirits were searching to worship the unknown God, the true God, the God of Abraham. Through their faith, he was able to preach to them Christ crucified and won many converts. If through mean-spiritedness and rigidity we close other people out, ignore or marginalize them, ultimately we lose because we may be called to account as to why we turned this person or that person away. The best way to turn hearts and minds to God is first through joy, then through listening, and then by love. Too many Catholics lack that joy of the Holy Spirit. They seem to want His vengeance and not His Mercy, love and forgiveness. God understands us, we need to try and understand others.

Catholic Charismatics Are Misunderstood

Many Christians dislike or even hate Charismatics. The term Charismaniacs has been bandied about. There are always fanatical people around in every form of worship, however, most of the people I have been blessed to encounter who enjoy Catholic Charismatic worship are very conservative and very much in tune with obeying Roman Catholic doctrine in its entirety. I have yet to meet a Catholic Charismatic apostate. When I first embraced this way to experience God back in 2000 at my home parish in New Jersey, my very conservative church buddies in Manhattan were shocked that I, a conservative, would embrace this craziness. One friend of mine who is a religious brother and ran a Catholic bookstore in NYC was appalled when I asked him for books on the subject. He told me that he was not even remotely sympathetic to the movement and actually just walked away from me. It was at that point that I knew this movement is truly from God. Anyone who is a person of faith, who loves God and is not at least intrigued by the notion that Pentecost is not a one-time occurrence but should be an ongoing experience in every Christian’s life, is dead in the faith. I love the Lord with my whole being and I want to know, love and serve Him. Growing in knowledge of the Lord never ends but we must be open to Him.

Many people don’t appreciate Charismatic forms of worship. That is OK, but a hatred for it and the people who are joyfully worshiping the Lord is something they should examine within themselves.  Many priests don’t like the way Charismatic’s worship. My home parish was Charismatic, led by many Charismatic priests. The Bishop appointed a new pastor recently who is definitely not charismatic. He was adamant about his dislike for Charismatics and called us crazy. His homilies suggest that his charism is one of a post-Pentecostal Church where miracles don’t happen anymore. That is truly sad because if he had taken the time to find out about what was happening at our once thriving parish,  he would have heard of the numerous miracles that occurred on a weekly basis. I personally witnessed physical healings, emotional healings and even people freed from the oppression of the devil. Bishops need to use discernment before assigning priests to parishes that have particular charisms. I understand that the business end of things is a serious reality and sometimes a parish that is floundering financially needs a business man with a collar. However, more times than not, the spiritual health of the parish should trump other considerations. This scenario of faithful Charismatic Catholics being shunned, called names and shut down within the Church is unfortunate and has led to many people leaving the Church. Stifling the Holy Spirit is not of God.

As with all things, fear, distrust, misunderstanding and not personally getting to know people who look different and in this case express worship of God differently creates the kind of animosity I’ve seen and experienced. I pray in tongues from time to time. It is not mysterious and is an act of the will. I don’t become possessed (although I certainly wouldn’t mind being totally possessed by the Holy Spirit; He doesn’t destroy or consume or replace the faithful with Himself. He enflames, communes, melds, becomes one with and completes us without annihilating us).

Holy Bebop

Praying in tongues is a form of Holy Bebop. As I watched that YouTube video of a young woman be-bopping to the music, it reminded me of praying in tongues. She had a great big smile on her face. She listened to the music and then audibly began singing out unintelligible words while the audience bopped along with her.  The audience appreciated the sound and allowed the whole experience to fill them with music, joy and peace. The Lord spoke to my heart. I felt Him say to me, “this is exactly what you allow Me to do with you.” Just like that be-bopping woman who took a moment to listen to the musician, before I start praying in tongues, I listen to the Lord in silence. I turn my whole being over to the Holy Spirit. I surrender my vocal cords to the One who created them and gave them to me and then I Bebop to the Lord. The joy and peace is indescribable. I listen to the music of the Holy Spirit and then my soul, my spirit rises in praise, worship, thanksgiving and adoration in a language which only God can understand. It is a language of love on a level that is indescribable.

Yes It Looks And Sounds Silly…Laugh It Is OK

Now I know it looks silly to people who are just experiencing a Charismatic Catholic praying and many times as I prayed over people in tongues they looked as if they were stifling a laugh. I smile and encourage them to laugh. It does sound silly. Laughter and joy are from the Holy Spirit. The same reactions happened at the first Pentecost. I’m sure there was misunderstanding that day too and it is OK. I laugh right along with them. I assure them that God is pleased with their amusement and I never take offense. Then there are the other people, suffering from one thing or another physically, emotionally or spiritually. When I pray over them in tongues they report the warm sensation, the feeling of peace and in some cases healing which only the Holy Spirit can provide. We are His instruments.

The famous cheesy line from the movie Dirty dancing is “Nobody puts baby in a corner”. I think that applies to God. He is too big to be put in a corner. We need to allow ourselves to experience Him in many ways. We can experience God in many miraculous ways. We are blessed to have Him in the Eucharist. He is present in our parish priests, in our parents, in our siblings and friends, in our enemies, in a baby, in nature, and I would like to proffer, He is also very present in a little Holy Spirit Bepop. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ now and forever. Nobody puts the Holy Spirit in the corner! Laugh. It is so good for you and it is a gift from God.

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15 thoughts on “Bebop Catholicism and the Charismatic Renewal”

  1. I am not comfortable with this sort of thing as it seems too close to protestant pentecostal stuff. I really don’t need lay people praying over me…..Catholics have the Blessed Mother and the saints praying over us.

  2. Leave off “the Great” from St. John Paul. Yes, he is a saint, and he was a good pope, but he was not in the same league as St. Leo the Great or St. Gregory the Great, neither of whom, to take one noteworthy example, would have kissed the “sacred book” of a false religion, particularly one that is forcing Christians to choose between forced conversion and martyrdom. Kissing the Koran was not a way to “strengthen thy brethren”, it was kicking the support out from underneath brethren who are facing very real persecution. Yes, he is a saint, but that one action is enough to deny him the title “the Great”.

    As for where the impulse to call him “the Great” comes from, I suspect the problem at the root of it is pride. The idea would be something like this, “I am obviously a person of extraordinary importance and greatness. God must therefore have preordained that I would be sent to take part in some great struggle, the greatest yet since Pentecost, and this struggle will have nothing mediocre about it, with the villains being the most evil of all time and the heroes being the most saintly of all time. Anything less would be unworthy of my greatness.” This attitude is everywhere — and yes, I see it in myself. In Protestants it tends to manifest in things like the Left Behind series; in Catholics it often manifests in the pursuit of dubious apparitions and locutions promising miracles that would fit nicely into a Cecil B. DeMille movie; in politics it manifests itself in the belief, renewed each election, that whoever wins THIS ELECTION will unquestionably change America into either a new Valinor or a new Mordor.

  3. retiredconservative

    Thank you for this article. I neither hate nor despise the charismatic movement. My entire experience with charismatics has been through personal encounters with a few Catholics who embraced the charismatic movement wholly. Their zeal and their passion, however, fed into a rather exclusive understanding of living one’s Catholic faith. They were adamant and vehement in their conviction that my faith was lacking until I had embraced their particular understanding of accepting the Holy Spirit into my life. I found that rather off-putting–they same way that some Protestant Evangelicalss convictions regarding the necessity of their exclusive path to God is off-putting.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I too have encountered some charismatics like you describe. I ignore people like that because they are demonstrating a very immature faith. I focus on God and me. You would do well to do the same. No one, be it a pope, priest or layperson defines my spirituality. God is my all in all. God bless you. I relate to your experiences too, they would be charismaniacs. I put them on the pay no mind list. That attitude is offensive and pushes people away, that is not of the Holy Spirit. You are on point.

  4. Christ’s first disciples were chosen by Him in order that they might disperse throughout the whole world, and preach His faith everywhere, according to Matthew 28:19, “Going . . . teach ye all nations.” Now it was not fitting that they who were being sent to teach others should need to be taught by others, either as to how they should speak to other people, or as to how they were to understand those who spoke to them; and all the more seeing that those who were being sent were of one nation, that of Judea, according to Isaiah 27:6, “When they shall rush out from Jacob [Vulgate: ‘When they shall rush in unto Jacob,’ etc.] . . . they shall fill the face of the world with seed.” Moreover those who were being sent were poor and powerless; nor at the outset could they have easily found someone to interpret their words faithfully to others, or to explain what others said to them, especially as they were sent to unbelievers. Consequently it was necessary, in this respect, that God should provide them with the gift of tongues; in order that, as the diversity of tongues was brought upon the nations when they fell away to idolatry, according to Genesis 11, so when the nations were to be recalled to the worship of one God a remedy to this diversity might be applied by the gift of tongues.

    St. Thomas (Summa Theologica II-II Q. 176 a. 1)

    1. Thank you for your beautiful and enlightening comment by the great doctor of the Church, St. Thomas. The Church really needs the Holy Spirit now as much as ever. The gift of tongues is the least of all the gifts and yet a very powerful way to praise the Lord. The remedy to recall us all to God in communion of faith and single mindedness is truly the gift of tongues. I was elated and edified by your quote. God bless you.

    2. Hi Eddie,

      Thanks for the reply. I had another comment but it failed to come through. I think there need to be distinctions made with the charisms in general, and especially with this one… St. Paul had a lot of concerns – the purported use of this charism was a scandal in Corinth… thus the need for prudence, the charism of interpretation (if it is a tongue that will “mean something”), and the emphasis on “the higher gifts.” Paul, I suggest, would disagree regarding laughing at the use of this charism, as you suggest in the article. See 1 Cor. 14: 23… We can see a great difference between “babble-prayer tongues” – which could legitimately be an inspired relaxation of the faculties of the body and soul to humble a person in the midst of prayer (though Thomas has no notion of this, which might be due to various factors) – and “Pentecost tongues,” which were human languages. (Sometimes people say “tongues” are “speaking an angelic language” but this has no grounds in Scriptural or patristic or scholastic teaching as far as I can tell, and since angels don’t have bodies and thus don’t have a spoken language, that would make sense.) It is only the human language kind of tongues which Thomas says, of all the charisms, can really be “used at will,” because knowledge of a language is properly called a habit, whereas the other charisms are basically totally “like the wind.” St. Dominic, for example, knew German for a few days one time, that he might preach to a German he was traveling with – after that, the habitual knowledge was removed. It seems this understanding of charisms coming and going is lost in a lot of charismatic groups, as the very idea of a “charismatic group” seems to imply… The charisms are everywhere in the Church… The baptized are the “charismatics.” Come one, come all.


    3. Thanks for your well thought out comment. I don’t know how Paul would feel about people laughing at someone praying in tongues, however, I am pretty sure Jesus would enjoy a good laugh. It is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit. Laughter is great for the soul. Having someone laugh as I pray over them in tongues is quite humbling and quite honestly I enjoy people getting a good belly laugh, I don’t take myself that seriously. God bless you.

  5. To plagiarize a homily from Abp. Sheen, Paul’s sermon in Athens was a serious failure precisely because he DID NOT preach Christ crucified. He DID NOT win many converts. There WAS NOT much faith. Etc.

    Unfortunately, this is not the only serious error present in this article. It is not grounded in sound Biblical exegesis, patristics, or scholastic theology. (See St. Thomas on “tongues,” for example – he has no notion of “babble prayer,” and while perhaps he did not see some nuances of the text of 1 Corinthians for various reasons, this should give us pause.) Paul was VERY concerned about “babble prayer” – it was a scandal in Corinth: people were LAUGHING AT IT. If outsiders think you are crazy, that is not helpful and is antithetical to the notion of a charism. To dump on people who critique this practice is to dump on St. Paul!

    There are many distinctions one can make among this charism, based on 1 Cor. To speak a new human language is the main positive use of it in Scripture, and only in that sense can it really be called a habit be used “at will” (see St. Thomas again – usually charisms are NOT at one’s will, which is a larger problem present among self-described “charismatics”). There is not much need for that anymore, though it does happen, because now the Church speaks every language anyway. Babble prayer might be an inspired relaxation of the faculties of the soul to allow one to humble himself in his prayerful utterances, but if there is a thought that it might actually “mean something,” then you need an interpreter – a charism all its own, once again, not widely diffused as it is not widely needed. (And no, speaking in tongues is definitely not speaking “angel,” as angels do not have a spoken language – they don’t have bodies.)

    The whole idea that there is a group of “Charismatics” is itself divisive. The Spirit is like the wind… He moves as He wills, and you know not where He goes.


  7. Suellen Ann Brewster

    Praise, Jesus! Yes, it most certainly is possible to be conservative and charismatic. I LOVE this idea of Holy Be Bop! I had never thought of it that way, but the Lord dropped a good one on you with that. Thank you, Lord. I believe this time we are living in is a time of three very important movements: Divine Mercy, Marian Consecration and the Charismatic Renewal. This being the 50th Jubilee year of the Charismatic Renewal and the 100th anniversary of Fatima (and the year following the Jubilee Year of Mercy) I think if we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit in prayer we are in for a boatload (or perhaps an ark load?) of graces. Conservative indeed does not mean close minded. Thank you for being firm in certain ways and wide open in others. Beautiful article!

    1. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and very kind comment, you made me smile. God bless you. There is so much more to God than what we have learned, so much depth that we will have eternity to plum if we just love Him. This is truly a holy year. We have so much richness in our faith.

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