Friday, September 6, 2013

Is Charismatic Renewal for Real? part 14

Letter to Kerry Zmatick, (as if anyone is still reading this nonsense.)

Once again, the best definition of a prayer meeting: "A gathering of the people of God for the free exercise of the gifts of God."

We have already dumped the microphones and, more importantly, the teaching and the teachers. There is still a problem. Prayer meetings have always attracted a group of people whom I call the “Sacred Screwballs,” or the “Loons of the Lord.” They have a tendency to see the prayer groups as their own private therapy group. Shouldn’t there be leaders to pounce on them when they begin to dominate the prayer group? This question is related to the wider problem which I call “the Church oughta do something about this...”   

People come up to me all the time and say, “Father, you need to tell that lady in the eighth pew on the left who wears enough perfume to gag a goat that she should tone it down.”  

To which I respond, “Have you told her that?” 

To which the complainer usually responds, “Oh no, Father. That would be impolite. I would never dare to do that. What would she think? You’re the pastor. Isn’t it your job?” 

No, it is not my job. It’s your job. My job as pastor is still two steps away.   

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.  If they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matt: 18:15-18) 

That means you talk to them, then if they don’t listen, go to them with a couple other people in the group and then if they still don’t listen. Discuss it publicly in the group. Right there in the prayer meeting. Right out loud. In front of everybody!!! But isn’t that impolite? No, it’s honest, and it’s what Jesus tells us to do. No one person should be able to foist his agenda on a group of people. That’s not what a prayer meeting is for. 
Let us consider some scenarios.  One of God’s little helpers comes to the prayer meeting with the express purpose of getting everyone into the "Eighteen Hail Mary Every Leap Year Devotion" that
St. Baldric received during an ecstatic vision and which he explains for us in his third locution for
St. Swiven’s Day. It becomes evident our devotee of St. Baldric is going into a rant of more than two or three minutes. 

If you ("Who me?" "Yes, you.") are uncomfortable with the direction of the rant, take authority. Raise your hand and say, “We don’t have teachings at our meeting. Perhaps you can share this with us over coffee.”  Say it with a smile. Pretend to be open-minded and tolerant. If they refuse to shut up at that point, then a couple of you can ask to see the Locutor outside, and explain the situation. If the Locutor is still intent on taking over your prayer group, bring it up in front of the whole group. This is the Biblical “One, Two, Three or More Ecclesial Heave Ho” approach. 

Pretty soon people will stop using your little prayer and praise group as private therapy. It’s hard at first, but it really works. When someone wants to take over the group let him know right away, that is not what we are here for. You have no teaching. Maybe a brief testimony, two or three minutes, a prophetic word, but never more than two or three of those. That’s what St. Paul says. (1Cor. 14:29) 

I get the biggest kick out of those conventions where five or ten prophets line up at the microphone with their prophetic note books in hand and start off with “My little children....” Haven’t these people read the Bible? If someone writes a prophecy down, you can pretty much count on it not being a prophecy, unless of course it’s Isaiah or Habakkuk or one of that crowd. 

What about prayer for the sick? 

I would suggest that if someone asks for prayer, let the group pray for them. If a lot of people ask for prayer, pray for the sick and the needy at the end of the meeting. But by no means allow a collection to be taken up at any prayer meeting. Any money collected must be accounted for by the parish office. That’s the law. 
“But how will we meet expenses?” 

What expenses? 

"There’s always cake and coffee at the end of the meeting. How does that get paid for?"

Have people bring a coffee cake. Don’t take up any kind of collection. Few things corrupt a group faster than petty cash. If you have to have any committees, make it a cleanup committee. Remember?  Jesus said that true leadership is about being a busboy or busgirl. (Is that a word?) If some representative of the group needs to be sent on a mission, it should be a member of the clean up committee. 

Speaking as pastor, I can tell you these are our favorite committees. If somebody does clean up, I tend to listen to them. If someone comes in and says, “Roving Avars have stolen everything we own,” and asks to take up a collection. Don’t do it. It is against diocesan and IRS rules and 99.999% of the time it is a scam. 

I remember a poor fellow who would come to a prayer group with his desperately ill son in a wheel chair and weep as he explained his plight. Outside, after the meeting his kid would get out of the wheel chair, pack it in the car’s trunk and move on to the next prayer group. You are on for charity in your private lives, but not at the prayer group. You are not a church. You are a prayer group. Nothing more, nothing less. Remember what the Lord said, “Where you find the corpse, the vultures will gather.” (Matt. 24:28) Believe me I’ve known a lot of vultures who never missed a prayer meeting.

How will we make decisions? 

What decisions? Decisions on theology are the responsibility of the church, not the prayer group. Decisions such as what time should we start the meeting -- the meeting starts when the church hall is opened and someone starts praying. 

How will we decide when the meeting is over? 

It’s over when people have prayed long enough. If you want to pray for an hour and a half, pray for an hour and a half. If someone else want to stay praying until midnight, what harm is there in that? Go home. Get some rest. Do what the Spirit prompts you to do, not what everyone else is doing. ( I would, however suggest that those who want to pray through the night be automatically made members of the clean up committee.) If there is a decision to be made, ask the Holy Spirit. If that fails, ask the pastor. That will surprise him.  

How do you ask the Holy Spirit? 

It’s easy. Someone in the group asks the question: “Lord, should we have blueberry muffins or walnut muffins after the meeting?" Then pray. If a consensus forms, you’ve got a decision, a consensus being two thirds plus one. If it’s good enough to elect a pope, it’s good enough to decide on pastry. If there is a majority, that’s not good enough. Don’t do anything until you’ve got a consensus. Remember what the disciples said in the Acts of the Apostles. “It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit...”  (Acts 15:28)

Also, smaller is better. All you need for a prayer meeting is two or three people. Small can be a good thing. Remember, you’ve got no microphones, so if the group gets too big, start a second group. Meet in your homes until there is no more room, then meet in the church hall or in a classroom. DON”T MEET IN A CHURCH!!! (unless you are going to behave yourself.) 

In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament there is no conversation, no shouting, no prophecy. You are in the Great Presence. Everything should be directed at the Lord, present in the Eucharist. Prophecy is directed to the hearers, not to the Lord. We are in the presence of the Lord in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Our prophesying is imperfect. Let the perfect Presence speak in its silence without you kibitzing. 

A prayer meeting is not to be confused with Eucharistic Adoration. They are two different things. If you are going to have a prayer meeting, meet downstairs where you can swing from the chandeliers, shout at the top of your lungs, jump up and down, share testimonies about the Lord’s wonders and have coffee in Styrofoam cups along with your blueberry (or walnut) muffins. I love that kind of prayer meeting. It is abhorrent, however, to do all that, especially the Styrofoam cups, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

“But the prayer meeting is so wonderful with the Blessed Sacrament present! There are so many blessings!” 

Fine, go upstairs and be blessed, just mind your  manners, because when you are in the presence of the Sacrament, you are not at a prayer meeting. You are in the presence of the Great King. Behave that way!

So let’s get this straight: dump the teaching, dump the microphone, dump the leadership, dump the collections, dump guest lecturers invited and uninvited, dump the time schedule, dump meetings in the church. (I suppose meetings in the church are okay if they really are prayer and praise.) 

What will this bozo want us to dump next?   

I’ll tell you what this bozo really wants! Dump the music ministry.

Next week: “Be still and know that I am God.”


  1. "What will this bozo want us to dump next?"
    I suggest dumping the hugging. Too much. Not needed. And please no clowns (bozo) .... I'm afraid of clowns.

  2. Father why havent you written a book on the proper way to form and conduct a charismatic prayer group? I remember when you used to go to St.Damians prayer group, that is the one I used to go to. You and Father Chris Crotty need to get together and start an apostolate. Father Crotty believes the same way you do. I listened to a teaching by Fr. Crotty it is called "Holy Spirit Boot Camp" Early Desert Fathers the Missing Link to the Renewal. The church needs this, we have to break some incorrect habits. Personally I get tired of the heavy Protestantism coming through, King James Version bible, Protestant Our Father, even the verbiage of intercessory prayer. I want to stop attending but I like the gathering of intercessory prayer we do. I befriended a catholic prayer group member
    from a new group I started attending over a year ago. We fell apart from each other a few weeks ago because she kept texting me scripture from the prosperity gospel doctrine. I didnt realize it until I saw a article on prosperity gospel from a social media site Im connected to. And all the books she suggests to me are all protestant books. How can someone be Catholic and mix our doctrines with Protestant ones? Any way this is what is happening to many groups. The Catholic Charismatic needs more Catholic structure. Please dont leave us out to dry after these blog posts about the renewal. What are we going to do about this? God Bless

  3. Oh, Fr. Simon, thank you! I have been laughing & laughing. What you describe has so much truth to it; I have known many of God's 'little helpers'. I love your sense of humor ~ you are hilarious!! God bless you, and again, thanks so much!!