Sunday 28 May 2023

One Spirit, One Body

The whole Church was baptised with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrate today, and She manifests that baptism through a rich plurality of gifts, the charisms. The whole Church, and thus every member, is therefore both Pentecostal and Charismatic.

Every gift is a charism, and each is always given for the good of the whole body, in response to Her evangelistic activity, in the context of Her sacramental life, and subject to Her gift of discernment. She exercises that gift within Her institutional life, because the institutional Church and the charismatic Church are inseparable, being two aspects of a single reality.

It is wholly unscriptural to impose any requirement that anyone exercise any particular charism in order to be considered a full, believing member of the Church. There has never been the slightest doubt that the charisms include healing, exorcism, prophecy and words of knowledge, nor really even that they include speaking in tongues.

Furthermore, healing is here understood as even those of us not raised in the Charismatic Movement understand it: it is the restoration of the human person to wholeness, which might or might not take the form of healing as understood by medical science, depending on what is known best to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Wisdom of God. Similarly, the performance of exorcism is restricted to suitably qualified people, and it is only ever used against the power of that objective evil which we can but thank God that we do not fully understand.

Prophecy is recognised as the gift of being able to read the signs of the times and to communicate effectively what is thus read, so that there is always foretelling in the forthtelling, while words of knowledge are always relevant, always wise counsel and always independently verifiable. Speaking in tongues is never without the interpretation of tongues, and together they make it possible to understand where such would not otherwise be the case.

By contrast, glossolalia is not a Biblical word, but a twentieth-century running together of two such words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon associated with the denial that those who do not exercise it have been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, with the degeneration of worship into banality and incoherence, with the refusal of legitimate ecclesial authority, with the denial or minimisation of doctrine, and with the transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders.

For example, as well as having been miraculously healed, the great Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer was also blessed with the gift of tongues. Other than Ecclesiastical Latin and despite his English father, he had no language but Limousin, which was what they spoke in his native Valencia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yet he was a tireless itinerant missionary, preaching to tremendous effect in Aragon, Castile, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Whereas glossolalia is, it is worth repeating, a twentieth-century running together of two Biblical Greek words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon that does not occur in the Bible. Is it Saint Paul's “tongues of angels”? There is nothing in Scripture to support that view. The true gift of tongues is as manifested by Saint Vincent Ferrer OP, Biblical scholar, philosopher, thus doubly informed and doubly informing theologian, and thanks to that ongoing formation a gloriously successful preacher of the Gospel, not least to the Jews, precisely as an ordained priest and a solemnly professed Religious in perfect unity with the See of Peter.

These and the other charisms serve to re-root Theology in experience, and to call the whole Church to watch at all times for the Second Coming. They restore the integrity of the Liturgy by freeing it from over-formality and over-conventionality. And they release the ministries of women, young people, the poor, and others who experience marginalisation and oppression. Yet there is never any question of any one gift’s being used to decide whether or not someone has been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, because it is the whole Church that has been so baptised.

Nor need there be any degeneration into banal and incoherent services; indeed, any such degeneration, like any refusal of legitimate ecclesial authority, or any denial or minimisation of anything taught by the Magisterium, is a sign to the institutional Church, in Her exercise of Her charism of discernment, that the spirits being tested are not of God. And nor is there any transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders, because there is no parachurch. Rather, there is the Holy, Catholic and Roman Church.


  1. And you wonder why the 60s liberal/70s feminist mafia hate you.