Charisms and the Charismatic Renewal
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
It was the Holy Spirit that inspired Pope John the XXIII in 1959, in the very first year of his Pontificate, to invite all the Catholic Faithful to pray with him to the Holy Spirit, in preparation for Vatican Council II, to 'Renew the Church', and more so as by a 'New Pentecost', and much more so through the 'Charisms' (signs and wonders). The Vatican Council II would endorse this by stating that the charisms are necessary for both Church Renewal and World Evangelization; and Pope Paul VI would then announce that the Charismatic Renewal, which was the only new ecclesial movement actively promoting the use of the Charisms in the Church, was truly a Gift of the Holy Spirit and a Chance for the Church. For all of us need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a Baptism in the Spirit, both to transform our lives by the seven fruits of his presence in order to renew the church and to empower our lives by the nine charisms of his power in order to evangelise the world.
Charisms of Knowledge
The Word of Knowledge: by which the Holy Spirit gives one a knowledge, e.g., of the root causes of the problems of a person one is ministering to, unknown till then, but which turns out to be so necessary to help or heal him. During the 3rd National Charismatic Convention in Mumbai, India, in 1978, the prayers and rituals, of all those in the ministry of deliverance, from India and abroad, made the whole day over a girl, who was so obviously possessed by some evil spirit, proved fruitless. When a month later the family brought this girl again for prayers, we made it clear to them that we would rather first ask the Holy Spirit for a word of knowledge directly to us or though the girl, so that we could know clearly and correctly what to pray for. As we were together in prayer, the girl suddenly cried out that she remembered something about herself and her family, which she felt she should share with us. This turned out to be the root cause of her oppression and the entry point of the evil spirit, proved by the fact that a short and simple prayer of inner healing and deliverance now acted instantly and completely.
The Word of Wisdom: by which the Holy Spirit inspires one to know how to deal with a problem which is beyond human wisdom. When our prayers of hours, made by me with the Sisters and the college girls, who had accompanied this young collegian, who had come under a violent demonic attack during the prayer for the Baptism of the Spirit at the end of another National Charismatic Convention, proved futile, we stopped praying for deliverance and instead asked the Holy Spirit for a Word of Wisdom, to enable us to know what we should do to help this girl to be set free. As if in quick and direct answer to our prayer, the Lord seem to tell us very clearly, both during our prayer and soon after through the girl, that we should do exactly what he did in the case of the young man, who was tormented by an unclean spirit, as related in Mark's Gospel (9:14-29). We did just as God's Word directed and inspired us to act and the girl was finally set free quickly in the same way.
Discernment of Spirits: to enable one to discern whether the person that one is helping is showing manifestations, which are of the Holy Spirit or just from his or her own spirit or even from the evil spirit. A young school teacher, whose life was dramatically changed ever since she had attended our retreat, where she had experienced a great deliverance, was now drawing crowds, including priests and nuns, with her prophetic words and healing prayers. But the Sister Principal of her School, very disturbed by all this, asked me when I was passing through that town to discern the authenticity of this ministry, saying that it is during the singing of the hymn to the Holy Spirit that she claims that the Spirit has now come upon her and she then prophesises and prays over people. This also happened when I was with her and she was now saying, "Rufus, my son…" etc. I looked straight into her eyes and said, "I know who you are". She at once replied in another voice, "I knew I could not fool you". That was the end of her crowd pulling but bizarre phenomenon, and a continuation of her former humble ministry of an evangelistic school teacher.
Charisms of the Word
Tongues: I was caught unawares and by surprise when a village woman, whose ancestors were supposedly devil worshippers, manifested such frightening signs of demonic possession, on just being prayed over in a convent, even somewhat reluctantly, by a simple and short prayer of deliverance, for the first time in my pastoral ministry. I just stood passively and safely at a distance, as the nuns kept pouring bottles of holy water on the woman, who was staring at me with devilish eyes, wanting to rush me down with her claw like hands, and screaming at me in perfect English to leave that town, - when suddenly I was inspired to pray in tongues over her. This was the first time I ever used this charism for a person in need. To my astonishment she was instantly delivered, with her face now looking like that of an angel and her hands raised gently in praise, even while still lying peacefully on the floor.
Interpretation of Tongues: There have not been many occasions when I have witnessed the operation of this charism, with some one 'speaking' in tongues and another immediately giving the so-called 'interpretation' in English, neither was I quite sure whether the interpretation was authentic. But in the very few cases when this charism was being manifested when praying over individuals, the interpretation given by one of my most trusted team members, that the person we were praying for was being affected by a charm, given by an enemy, which he always carried in his purse, unaware of the danger to himself, proved to be correct. The prayer that was then made for the person, on acting on this information, turned out to be effective.
Prophecy: While there are many persons in the Renewal constantly wanting messages and frequently claiming to see visions and to have dreams, which could be authentic and even helpful, the charism of prophecy is the more ordinary way in which God speaks to his people, in groups or as individuals, mainly to encourage, sometimes to direct and more rarely to correct them. I dismissed as imagination and just as a pious wish of a young girl who, while in a trance, gave me this prophetic message, "Rufus, I want you to bring all my priests into the Charismatic Renewal"; till the very next week I was invited for my first retreat to all the priests of a diocese with their Bishop. As if in confirmation of this prophecy, for many years since then my main ministry was preaching Clergy Retreats, sometimes week after week.
Charisms of power
Healing: This charism, the one most widespread today, after tongues and prophecy, generally refers to physical healing. I could never believe that such a spiritual power was available to ordinary Christians, till way back in 1976, my mother had a very bad fall crushing her left elbow into powder (to use the doctor's words), and then for the first time I really prayed with love and faith over a sick person, since she was my mother, and claimed the Lord's promise in Mk 16:18. When on my insistence the doctor took one last X-Ray before the due amputation, he himself was stunned to see that all the powdered bone fragments were somehow set in place. How many have been healed by using this Charism in cases where the doctors would confess their inability to heal the patient and even acknowledge their lack of a clear diagnosis. But the more striking healings are emotional, in setting a person free say from uncontrollable fears, and spiritual, when freeing a person often instantly from say alcoholism and drug addiction.
Miracles: This charism would rather refer to its use in cases which, unlike sicknesses or addictions or mental burdens, would normally be beyond the reach of our human capacity to help. How can I forget the woman who, when she could not perceive the slightest movement in her foetus, consulted six gynaecologists who all advised her to have an immediate abortion, because they too could not detect the slightest heart beat in her foetus, and her life would otherwise be in danger. She had now come for prayers crying out in anguish, "But I want my baby!" And how can I forget her cry of wonder and joy, "It is moving!" after we had prayed together for just a minute for a miracle, and then her bold statement, "I know my baby was dead. It has just now come back to life!"
Faith: This charism is not an intellectual belief but the expectant faith that, in the words of Jesus, can move mountains, that is problems or obstacles that are beyond human explanation and defy human solution. It would be needed especially in cases of demonic possession or oppression, where we are not dealing with germs or viruses nor struggling with human problems or enemies but are engaged in a spiritual warfare with the ruling powers of darkness in this world and the spirits of evil in the heavenlies. These forces make their presence and power felt in human beings, who will then exhibit an incredible strength and fury and even show a knowledge of languages and of secrets unknown to them. I was recently confronted head on with such a case in Latin America, where I was also witness to the power of the prayer of faith in the young woman's transformation from, so to say, a devil into an angel, reminding me even of the transfiguration of Jesus.
As one looks back at one's life and ministry in the Renewal, one cannot but boast of the great things God has done to us and through us, not through any merit of our own, but it was the Lord's doing, in spite of our often ministering with much annoyance and with little faith for, as the Bible says, nothing is impossible to God. Perhaps more things would have happened for, as the Word of God also says, "Everything is possible for one who has faith" (Mk 9:24). In fact Jesus promised them in his final discourse at the Last Supper, "Whoever believes in me will perform the same works that I do myself and will perform even greater works" (Jn 14:12). Finally we must constantly remember that, when the apostles boasted that even the devils were subject to them, Jesus admonished them to rejoice not over the power which they had received from him, but rather over his love for them and their love for him, as his disciples and evangelists.
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