In these times we need all the help we can get, not to be discouraged by the state of things. Jesus speaks of "men fainting for fear and for expectation of the things that are coming on the world" (Lk.21:26). In this country alone we are facing all at once severe drought, forest fires, changing weather patterns, overflowing rivers, and chaos in human affairs, in the economy, such as in the stock market. But fear is not for us, since we are merely passing through these things on our way to heaven. "When these things begin to come to pass," says Jesus, "look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand" (Lk.21:28). And St. Augustine notes in his City of God that the Church, "like a pilgrim in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God."
The "consolations of God" include the gifts, and fruits, and the abundant blessings of the Holy Ghost. Some of these gifts are given for our personal strengthening and sanctification, called in Latin, gratiae gratis datae. These are the Seven Gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord - as well as the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, usually numbered as twelve, although there are many more. Then there are gifts, gratiae gratum facientes, extraordinary gifts that are given to individuals not for their own personal use, but for the building up of the whole community of the Church. These are called charismata, or charisms, or the charismatic gifts. These are the gifts spoken of by St. Paul in the Epistle today: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, special faith, the grace of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues, interpretation of speeches, besides the gifts of apostles, prophets, doctors, helps, and governments (1Cor.12). This is not an exhaustive list, because we would have to include dreams, visions, apparitions, bi-location, and more.
Although not everyone is thrilled with the so-called Charismatic Renewal, the charismatic gifts themselves belong to the Church and are essential for her well-being and even her survival. They come into their own in difficult times.
In the matter of healing, for instance, we may not always be able to depend upon the usual medical services, but we will always be able to pray for healing. And some individuals are given the grace of healing by God. The saints in particular often had that gift. St. Augustine, who is not noted as a healer or miracle worker - his special gift was a brilliant intellect, which he used for the good of the Church - thought that some of the charismatic gifts mentioned in the Epistle today, like miracles and healing, were for the good of the Church at its beginning, but were no longer necessary for the Church in his time. He was to change his mind. Once, when he was suffering from a severe toothache, one of his fellow monks suggested that he pray for a cure. He did so reluctantly, and was healed, to his genuine surprise. At a certain time the relics of St. Stephen were brought to his cathedral in Hippo, and on two successive nights, while the people were at prayer in the presence of the relics, two people, a brother and sister, were marvelously healed of serious illnesses. St. Augustine changed his mind about the charismatic gifts, realizing that they were available to the Church in every age.
Unfortunately, the charismatic gifts are often given a bad name by bogus faith healers and miracle workers who line people up in rows to be "slain in the Spirit." Even St. Paul had to correct the Corinthians for the abuse of the charismatic gifts that were common in the early Church. One must beware of the sin of presumption, expecting God to work signs and wonders when they are not necessary.
Many things should be attributed to the spirit of the times rather than to the Holy Spirit. After Vatican II, nuns were called by the 'spirit' out of their convents into apartments, so they could join demonstrations and seek ordination. The same 'spirit' called priests to dress like clowns and just be called 'Joe,' and finally to leave the priesthood and get married. This 'spirit' called liturgists to hack up the Holy Mass, and liturgical committees to plan Rock Masses, Mariachi Masses, and Polka Masses. The 'spirit' called lay people to put on long robes and play priest.
Talk about the Holy Spirit getting the blame, consider the following two quotations from John Paul II:
"John XXIII, and after him Paul VI, were given by the Holy Spirit the charism of transforming the Church." Transforming? Do you think he could look you in the eye today and say that? Indeed, the "church of Vatican II" now conforms itself to the world and is doomed to perish with it. Even Paul VI admitted that the Catholic Church was in the process of dismantling itself.
Also from John Paul II:
"At the Council (Vatican II) the Holy Spirit provided an expansion of consciousness which allowed the Church to look at itself in a new light." What is an "expansion of consciousness"? And whose consciousness has been expanded? The Vatican II theologians perhaps?
We need the gifts of the Holy Ghost now more than ever, and we must not allow the Pentecostals and the Charismatics to corner the market on the charismatic gifts. They belong to the Church, and they belong to you, at least when you need them. When I was in the seventh grade, an old nun told us something about the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which I have never forgotten. They are like the sails on your boat, she told us. When there is no wind you have to pull hard on the oars to get where you are going. You can get very tired and lose courage. But when the breath of the Holy Ghost blows on your sails, i.e., the gifts, you move along with little effort. St. Paul advises: "…the Spirit also helps our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself pleads for us with unutterable groanings. And he who searches the hearts knows what the Spirit desires, that he pleads for the saints according to God" (Rom.8:26,27). Depend on the Holy Ghost, and pray with confidence. The breath of the Holy Spirit will blow on your sails. With the Church you will pass through the persecutions of this world on your way to the heavenly mansions, strengthened by the consolations of God. †