Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Do Catholics Believe in Miracles?

After our appearance on the Journey Home in December we received an e-mail from a non-Catholic Christian who encouraged us to believe in the healing power of prayer. The person explained that God was still performing miracles and had personally witnessed them.

By discussing the Catholic theology of suffering during our testimony perhaps we gave the impression that as Catholic Christians we no longer believed in the miraculous power of God to heal, convert, deliver etc. Just to set the record straight, there has never been a time in the history of Catholicism that miracles were limited to just the apostolic era. As a matter of fact, one of the ways in which a saint becomes canonized is through the careful documentation of at least two supernatural events that can be traced to the intercession of that saint.

The Church has a two thousand year history of documented miracles. A visit to any of the major Catholic shrines will reveal the eye patches, canes, crutches, walkers, braces and wheelchairs that are cast aside after the pilgrim received their healing. You would almost think you were at a Benny Hinn Tent Revival! (Well, not exactly)

In the early 1600's one of St. Francis de Sale's major arguments against the reformers was that their new church had no miracles occurring. He proved his arguments with the historic evidence of miracles that occurred since the birth of the Church and had not stopped. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that our charismatic friends share with us have always been in the Catholic Church. The more recent charismatic renewal of the 1970's in Protestantism has been influenced by the Catholic charismatic movement.
The Catholic Church is full of miracles. A partial list includes:
  • physical healings (requiring careful medical documentation)
  • Eucharistic miracles
  • levitation(several saints began floating during prayer)
  • bi-location(a person being in two places at once)
  • bodies of saints that never decay (incorruptibles)
  • apparitions
  • exorcisms
  • stigmata
  • More than 100 thousand people watched the sun dance in the sky over Fatima in Portugal during one of the Marian apparitions of the early 20th century.

So, yes! Catholics do believe in miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in Scripture. These are all alive and active in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict's and John Paul 2's household preacher is Father Cantalamessa , a charismatic priest who travels the world preaching about the power of God manifested through the charismatic renewal.

The beauty of the Catholic Church is that we have the fullness of Truth. Our Church has always held that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and supernatural workings of God continue to this present day for the edifying of the Body. But at the same time we embrace a theology of suffering(Col 1:24) that allows for the trials of our life (when we are not miraculously healed) to be offered to Christ and used for His purposes. The Catechism states: The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church."

As Catholics we pray for miracles and supernatural intervention but we trust that God will ultimately give us the grace to endure the trials that we experience if the physical miracle doesn't occur. We know that He can use our suffering united to His for the sake of His body, the Church, as St. Paul so eloquently wrote above.

Finally, Catholics experience the most amazing miracle every day in every single parish throughout the world. God becomes real and present to us in the Mass through the sacrifice of the altar. We experience God's miraculous power to change our hearts through the grace that is poured out in this Most Blessed Sacrament when the God of the Universe humbles himself to become present under the appearances of bread and wine. A miracle that Einstein himself was fascinated by.

To hear how our exposure to the theology of suffering was one of the ways God lead us back to the Church, here is our testimony.


Blogger Timothy said...

Well said!

>" The more recent charismatic renewal of the 1970's in Protestantism can trace its roots to the Catholic charismatic movement."

Please consider devoting a post or two to expanding on the roots of the chrismatic movement. Your statement is news to me and likely to many other Catholics.

January 07, 2008 9:18 PM  
Anonymous theo said...

"The more recent charismatic renewal of the 1970's in Protestantism can trace its roots to the Catholic charismatic movement."

If I can trust memory of the edumication I got back in my day... I think this statement could be looked at in many different lights.

The rapid growth in both Catholic and Protestant Charismatic worship indeed may be traced doctrinally to the non-dispensational belief in miracles and the active intervention of the Holy Spirit as espoused by the Church throughout her history.

However, those who believe and practice Charismatic worship as a norm (sort of as the "default" type of worship encouraged for all Christians whenever possible)--especially those who believe that manifestation of the gift of tongues is a strong indicator (if not an outright hallmark) of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, usually trace their doctrinal history to the Los Angeles, Azusa Street revivals of the very early 20th century, the nearly simultaneous Welsh revivals in England and many smaller revivals in primarily English-speaking regions also of that same era.

These beliefs were often (but not always) common in Protestant circles:
--That Charismatic manifestations are the supernatural spiritual gifts described in 1 Cor 12.
--That these gifts are making their "re-appearance" after centuries of relative dormancy in specific fulfillment of the Prophet Joel's "outpouring" narrative
--Sola fide for salvation
--That spiritual gifts are a sign of either salvation or of subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit.
--This baptism is described in Acts Chapter 2 and is conferred by the answer of the recipients’ petition to God along with the laying on of hands.
--That the powerful exercise of gifts often indicated a superior level of spiritual integrity of the people displaying them.

We can trace much of the modern Protestant Charismatic movement through tent revival preaching and publication ministries (such as Gordon Lindsey's).

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in America seems to have been grounded in the Grand Rapids / Notre Dame community which was influenced by those same movements, but filtered through the lens of apostolic teaching and (usually, but not always) moderated by non-Charismatic worship as well--especially in the form of the Mass.

These beliefs were often (but not always) common:
--That Charismatic manifestations are not necessarily limited to the supernatural spiritual gifts described in 1 Cor 12, but also include the fruit of the spirit and any other talent or attribute the believer is endowed with for the benefit of the kingdom.
--That these gifts never left the Church, but their individual gifting and practice waxed and waned over time depending on the needs of the Church.
--That they are made manifest as God deems they are needed and are not a sign of Baptism in the Holy Spirit
--That Baptism in the Holy Spirit is normally conferred by the laying on of hands and petition of an ordained Bishop.
--That Charismatic manifestations are a renewal of ordinary operation of the apostolic church.

If we look at these contrasting views, we can perhaps see how it is that the personal-based faith and prosperity teachings caught on in much of the Protestant Charismatic world (but by no means all), yet mostly missed the Catholic movement, where more emphasis was on the purpose of the gifts rather than their specific exercise as a sign of divine action.
--That the powerful exercise of gifts often indicated a need for spiritual oversight of the communities displaying them, to avoid abuse or doctrinal drift.

This is an "off the top of my head" summary. I'm sure that many others have written about this in greater detail and with much greater scholarship and accuracy. I offer this simply to help avoid anyone misunderstanding TJ as advancing the notion that modern Charismania is a direct result of Catholic doctrine.

By grace, I remain your humble servant and brother in Christ,

January 08, 2008 12:35 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Your knowledge base never ceases to amaze me. Plus I know you were growing up in those times as I was.

Thanks for shining the light of clarity! Maybe I was too exuberant in my statement. To be sure, there was the start of the early renewal in the Episcopal church by the Bennett's who left the Anglican Church to promote the charismatic movement everywhere. Their book became the blueprint and white paper for charismatic activity in many of the fellowships.That was in the mid 60's. But my recollection was that in the late 60's at Notre Dame as well as Duquesne University, there was an "outbreak" of charismatic gifts among Catholic prayer groups that spread outside the Church to 4-7 million, non Catholics.
I had the impression that this was the igniter of a lot of the movement in the early 70's when I became involved. I still remember as a young teenager that there was charismatic nuns and phenomenon occurring at St. Elizabeth's Convent in Madison NJ and many charismatics were flocking to their group for awhile.
It seems the charismatic movement was much more ecumenical back then, and crossed denomination lines, as one would hope the Holy Spirit would. At 'Jesus 75' in a farmer's field in Pennsylvania, a priest said Mass for the many charismatic christians who were both Catholic as well as part of the early Jesus Movement. I remember the priest said he came with only 300 hosts and well over 300 came forward to receive the Eucharist, which amazed everyone there.
Also, I recently read that Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN had a charismatic renewal among her monastery in Alabama and for many years she was a part of the American Catholic charismatic movement, being featured on Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker's programs. Back then it seemed to me, the charismatic community was more accepting of Catholics.

However, my charismatic group unfortunately drank the purple Koolaid supplied by Jack Chick and others like him and we were not so ecumenical. In no time at all, I had dis-avowed myself of any vestige of Catholicism left in me as a young teenager. So sad, but I trust God to make up for the years the locusts has taken and He surely has been doing that!

Thanks for your comments!

January 08, 2008 1:38 PM  
Blogger teresa_anawim2 said...

Surfed on in.
Great Blog you have here! I also am one of those who crossed the Tiber.

January 08, 2008 6:21 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Teresa! The waters' just fine isn't it!
I checked you blog,
Very nice!
God bless

January 08, 2008 6:32 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I have had to go back and research that. I edited my original statement because it turns out that the charismatic renewal was breaking out across denominations(not just in Catholic settings), but my personal recollection was that it all got started at Duquesne and Notre Dame, which is not the case, as Theo has said.
Thanks for the comment.

January 09, 2008 9:02 AM  

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