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The local effects of Pentecost

For a dozen years, from 1979 to 1990, I celebrated a special Mass at 2 o’clock on Pentecost Sunday afternoon in the cathedral with members of all the charismatic prayer groups in the diocese. These were the most enthusiastic liturgies I ever led, the most enthusiastic congregations to which I ever preached. “Enthusiasts” is the name church historians and theologians give to believers like the modern charismatics and Pentecostals who pray to receive the spiritual gifts described in the Book of Acts and in the epistles of the New Testament.

Father Ronald Knox, biblical scholar at Oxford, author and convert, published Enthusiasm in 1950. In it he traced the history of the word and of the charismatic movement, noting that “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek en-theos, meaning “in God.” The movement comes in waves throughout church history, Knox found, and has at times numbered as many as 10 percent of believers. There must have been such a movement in 16th-century Protestantism, because Martin Luther was critical of them. “They act like they had swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all,” Luther said in his table talk.

A charismatic wave certainly had washed over the Diocese of Lansing by the mid-1970s. Led by lay leaders, the Word of God community in Ann Arbor and the Work of Christ community in East Lansing had inspired the formation of prayer groups in 25 parishes by the time I came into the diocese at the end of 1975. Bishop Zaleski had guided their beginnings, and Pope Paul VI (later also Pope John Paul II) had given his blessing and encouragement to the charismatic renewal. I did too.

Besides the annual Mass on Pentecost Sunday, I visited the larger communities, counseled the leaders, and defended the movement twice in Rome before prefects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While the movement has tapered off in recent years, Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor is a strong charismatic community. Though they have no designated parish in greater Lansing, charismatic Catholics are found in most parishes. The Mount Zion Pastoral Center in rural Flushing, St. Mary’s parish in Mount Morris, and St. Mary’s parish in Adrian are other centers of charismatic spirituality, the latter with a significant number of Hispanic members.

The effect of all this on the diocese as a whole is seen in the greater participation in song by our congregations and in the much greater use of spontaneous prayer by Catholic prayer leaders, including the clergy, including the retired bishop.