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Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Prayer

From today's Office of Readings:

From a treatise on the Lord's Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and

When we pray, our words should be calm, modest and disciplined. Let us reflect that we are standing before God. We should please him both by our bodily posture and the manner of our speech. It is characteristic of the vulgar to shout and make a noise, not those who are modest. On the contrary, they should employ a quiet tone in their prayer.

Moreover, in the course of his teaching, the Lord instructed us
to pray in secret. Hidden and secluded places, even our own rooms, give witness to our believe that God is present everywhere; that he sees and hears all; that in the fullness of his majesty, he penetrates hidden and secret places.

...For God hears our heart not our voice. He sees our thoughts;
he is not to be shouted at.

A few years ago, subsequent to attending a Life in the Spirit seminar (about 4 months subsequent), I began to attend the Charismatic group's prayer meetings, which I continued to do for about six months or so, I think. Maybe a bit longer. I never felt it was truly "my place", but at the time, it felt like I needed to be there for some reason. But over time I just stopped going; a need, whatever it was, had been filled.

The people were wonderful, most attended Daily Mass and I would see them in our Adoration chapel from time to time. It was and remains a good group of faithful Catholics. God bless them!

However, I continued to have an extreme discomfort with their style of worship. Charismatic Masses made me cringe, even as I tried not to. I didn't like having a band performing at Mass, I felt it was an abuse for people to be praying in tongues at the Elevation, and I've NEVER been given to waving my hands in the air - except in law enforcement training when I was the suspect.

But I sincerely tried out this particular spirituality. At the time, I worked into the evening so usually missed the first half hour of the meeting, which was just fine...because it was "praise and worship", which meant..yup...hand-waving, singing in tongues, etc. It all seemed so "1970's" to me, and I preferred, if I had the time, to spend it in the chapel in silence. I NEEDED that silence, and it was in that silence that the Lord spoke to me and I to Him. After a stressful day at work in a job I hated, I needed silence, not more noise.

Yes, I enjoy Contemporary Christian music and listen to it all the time. But my form of "praise and worship" actually resembles the description given by St. Cyprian above, as opposed to the innovations of the CCR and Protestant forms of worship.

I am NOT slamming the Catholic Charismatic Renewal! I'm only saying that it wasn't for me; it wasn't my style of worship and never would be. And perhaps that's why I was drawn to the group; to reveal to me what I was and what I was NOT called to do.

I have had some people suggest to me that God pushes us out of our comfort zone and maybe I'm supposed to be a Charismatic. I disagree; God does force us outside of our boxes, but that doesn't mean we are to constantly experience spiritual discomfort. What was I doing in a loud prayer meeting when I desperately needed to be silent at the feet of Jesus in the Adoration chapel? I can't enter into true prayer after a bunch of songs. I have learned through experience that the only way for me to really encounter God and enter into a conversation with Him is through being quiet. Even in Adoration, often that conversation can't even begin until my hour is nearly up.

On one occasion, when one of the people in the prayer group asked me why I was always late, I explained that before I came, I was spending time in the chapel with Jesus. That person asked me, "Don't you think Jesus would want you to be here with us praising and worshiping him?"

I wish I'd had a copy of St. Cyprian's treatise to hand that individual. What I was doing WAS praising and worshiping Jesus. Every time we act in accordance with God's will for us, it is an act of praise and worship.

Somehow, people have gotten the idea that "Praise and Worship" means screaming (sometimes) bad music at the top of one's lungs while waving one's hands in the air and speaking in babble. And for some people...well, maybe that's what God wants them to do. But that doesn't apply to all of us. Clearly, the Church Fathers would have something to say about the true meaning of praise and worship, and how it originates from within, from that interior connection to God. And St. Cyprian did say that very thing, using David and his psalms as an example.

Prayer doesn't have to be noisy. It shouldn't be noisy, as far as I'm concerned. We're standing before guess is that if we TRULY realized what happens at the consecration, we'd all fall prone to the floor, in an awed silence.

Only a fool breaks the silence in the presence of a King. We are all fools...every one of us. We can't comprehend what is before us and Whose presence we are in. We have only a tenuous grasp on this mystery, even if we can argue and explain the theology. If we TRULY understood....

Please don't fill my combox with a defense of the CCR. I'm not attacking it. I'm only explaining my own spirituality, towards the silent, ordered, and contemplative versus the charismatic style of vocal prayer.

To each their own, and the Church is big enough to hold us all. But give me a few minutes in the chapel any day with Jesus and spare me from the contemporary definition of "praise and worship."


uncle jim said...

thanks for your sharing.

your remarks by st cyprian remind me of an experience we had this morning attending Mass at a church in a resort area on lake erie - the usual problem with the holding of hands during the Lord's Prayer as was directed by the priest who instructed everyone to join hands with one another ... to reach across the aisles and be sure everyone was included as "...we pray together our prayer of unity..." my wife and i were attacked [hyperbole] from both sides as our hands were grabbed and held aloft. the whole mass was so fluffy and touchy-feely i was not comfortable at all.
i, too, have great difficulty with a 'charismatic' mass.

it is, imho, a misuse of the gifts.

hst, in personal prayer and at specific charismatic prayer meetings, i find use of the charismatic gifts a comfort...but not at mass - i think it is an aberation there.

CCR was a wonderful movement of the Holy Spirit and a gift to the church. i think it may have outlived its usefulness at this time. i think God is doing many other things to draw His people unto Himself.

Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ Yeah, I've had that same experience. I can't stand the "touchy-feely" thing. I've had my hands forcefully grabbed by people who ought to know better. But there it is.

I don't think the CCR has really "outlived" itself, but rather, it needs to evolve from
70's style meetings. We have a parish locallly that incorporates the music I despise ("spirit-filled" band music, not Lifeteen, but similar as I understand it) and does the hand-holding thing and the like. But they don't do "charismatic prayer meetings". They are a Charismatic parish, but more on the lines of a lifestyle and a lived faith, and WONDERFUL things are happening there. Their teachings are orthodox, and that parish has brought many a soul back to the faith with their reverent yet entertainment-focused liturgies. (Never though I'd put those phrases together...but it's working for some people)

But I'm with you...God is doing MANY other things to draw people to Him. Like...Perpetual Adoration.

I'm sorry....hanging out with people in a back room of the school or sitting at Jesus' feet in the chapel just doesn't compare!

Melody said...

Adoro, Jim, I can relate to what both of you are saying. I am in a "mixed" marriage; I am more like what Adoro is saying, in that my spirituality is more contemplative, and my husband is charismatic. I should also add that he too is contemplative, I don't think that is a contradiction. Jim, I think you are right that there is a time and place for charismatic prayer, and Mass isn't it. The prayer group my husband is associated with don't do charismatic things at Mass, and they have a priest as a spiritual director. I think the movement (at least here) is evolving away from the "70's" thing. I don't feel that I have to take part, but I can be supportive of their gifts which are used to build up the Church.

Adoro te Devote said...

Most of the charismatic things in this area are limited to the prayer group. But there are charismatic masses, and it just makes me very uncomfortable. I hoep it does evolve away from the 1970's. They wonder why they don't get new members...they don't realize they're stuck in a rut. They think using contemporary music like "Shout to the Lord" ISN'T an update! It's just more of the same but with a modern flavor. And thank God music has improved in that regard since the 70's!

EVERY Mass is a charismatic Mass...every Mass is a healing Mass...every sacrament is FAR morme powerful than a thousand charismatcs praying over someone.

RJW said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Adoro, good to know I'm not the only one. We had a wonderful parish priest, one of the best, of the kind who preaches the hard as well as the "nice" stuff of Catholicism, as if his soul depended on it. He was a great supporter of the charismatic movement, but did not mingle it with the Mass. Try as I might, I could not get "into" it.

My husband, being a convert, feels extremely uncomfortable shaking hands at Holy Mass--he keeps his head down and eyes closed--and I must say I only do it as necessary. Touchy-feely things such as that and the hand-holding at the Our Father just seem to take my concentration away from Jesus. Since to me it seems that we should be building up to our great moment of union with Him, it feels somehow inconsistent.

I know the kiss of peace is used in the Tridentine high Mass, but more as a transmission of Christ's peace, rather than a person-centred thing. Just my two cents!

God Bless,


Lillian Marie said...

We have GOT to talk when you come to Cleveland! I find it amazing how others can have the same uneasiness with this group that I did.

adoro said...

OH yeah, we'll be chattin'! :-)

Anonymous said...

This has an Imprimatur and might confirm some of your queezy feelings:

Anonymous said...

If I'm in a hand-holding parish, I politely decline to hold hands. The world doesn't end, and I feel like defending my prayer/worship from disturbances from the disruptive expectations of others is a necessary discipline (as is charity while I decline). I've made exceptions when it might be a big deal to the other person for obvious reasons--I once found myself in a hand-holding Mass next to a man with no hands who held out his hook, which I took. And many folks with Down's Syndrome really like to hold hands (along with the sign of peace!), and that's fine. But otherwise, a polite "no thanks" has always worked for me.

uncle jim said...

regarding the material by Hardon referenced by anonymous, that material is over 35 years old.

there is a lot of more recent material avaialable, both from rome and elsewhere

Terry Nelson said...

Good post - I share your opinions - I was going to post on this too - but you did it well.

Vianney33 said...

I did the charismatic thing about 8 years ago at my former parish. Just as you stated, it served its purpose and I moved on. We never did the charismatic Mass thing, we just held meetings about twice a month and did the obligatory songs, such as "Shout to the Lord" and "Our God is an awesome God". I tuly think that some people get so into these songs that they think they are "slain in the spirit". Some of it though seemed valid such as laying on of hands and just plain prayer. I also believe that the praying for certain gifts were answered. I know in my case it was. But I really felt odd when people would pray in tongues. Doesn't the Bible say that this gift is the least one to be desired? There was also what seemed to be an unintended result, in that people would be so into this form of "worship" that the regular Mass just didn't do it for them. I could especially see this in teenagers where the Mass was too boring compared to their get togethers. In fact, there was a husband wife team that started a program to reach teens that incorporated a youth band and fun and games. Of course, when the Mass did not have these elements in it they found a non-Catholic church that did and left. This is the real danger of charismatic movements that do not conform to true Catholicism.

Adoro te Devote said...

Vianney33 ~ I've gone back and forth on the "tongues" thing. On one hand, I'm totally with you, but I've also seen scriptures that support the use of tongues in personal prayer. I've met priests and really solid Catholics who are NOT "Charismatics" per se who pray in tongues in specific situations, and scripture does back them up. It's a utility as opposed to show, directly to God, through God as opposed to something in need of an interpreter. One woman who joined a specific prayer group overseen by a priest and the bishop explained that she felt called to join the group and they asked her to pray in tongues as they had found it was effective, and asked permission to pray for her for that gift. She was open to it and received it...for the specific boundaries of her prayer ministry with the group. Otherwise, she doesn't do it and the gift isn' there. So...there's something to tongues.

But I'm still not comfortable with it. Maybe that speaks to my own lack of humility. God knows I need help in that regard!

I'd love to compare experiences with you and others who have passed through these groups.

I was drawn to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament thanks to the CCR, so I can't condem the brought me to my knees before God!

Hidden One said...

Honestly, the best thing I can say about the CCR is that it has a lot of good people with a lot of good intentions.

However, after reading a large portion of The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross, I have even more of a wariness of it than I had had.

James said...

I am a 'charismatic' in that I pray in tongues etc, and attend charismatic prayer meetings.
I'm not comfortable with the whole 'charismatic mass' thing that innovates, adds and takes away from what should be the universal true and approved Mass.

I have stood up against signing in tongues at the Elevation, but am now in a bit of a quandry.
I have been told that JPII, in a private Mass with members of the CCR (international) "told them off for not singning in tongues in the Mass" and said they "should sing in tongues in the Mass " as they are charismatics.
What to make of this??
If it's against the Church, surely JPII would have known that? Or was he himself just misguided...or was this a misinterpretation of what he really said at that Mass?

Does anyone else know of this?

Would really appreciate some help here! Personal opinions fine, but some facts would be even better ;o)

Maureen said...

I would say that rumors are just that, and not encyclicals. If JPII was really worried about it, he would have written about it. So I'm guessing this is an urban legend.

Charismatic stuff can be spiritually useful. But to insist on some kind of primacy of glossolalia as a form of prayer? To pretend as if ecstatic glossolalic prayer is the same thing as the Pentecost gift of tongues, which reversed Babel and which everyone could understand? To act as if everyone is supposed to have the same gifts, and that the showier gifts are better? All of that seems to show a total basic misunderstanding of what a charism is, and what any gift is given to us to do!