Saturday, July 22, 2006

I would rather speak five words with my mind instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Ten points if you can name chapter and verse!

A man spoke to me in tongues yesterday. I must confess a personal ambivalence toward this phenomenon, or at least towards the attitude of those who prize it. St. Paul's teaching on the topic is masterly in its pastoral approach: Certainly the Spirit can give the gift of tongues, but there are greater gifts, including such apparently mundane gifts as administration. In any case, how much better to love my brother truly than to speak in tongues!

I have heard a story told, possibly apocryphal, about a Nigerian nun attending a prayer meeting in the States. At the meeting some began to speak in tongues. Hearing them , the nun burst into tears and fled the room. When one of the prayer leaders caught up to her and asked what was wrong, she replied, "They are speaking my language. And they are cursing God!"

Discernment of spirits can get tricky when these sorts of extraordinary phenomena are involved. I would counsel with St. John of the Cross (whom no one would accuse of lacking the Spirit!) not to pay attention to them, but rather to continue focusing the mind and heart on faith in God. Whatever infused graces God intends to give the soul through tongues will happen whether we are consciously aware of it or not; but by focusing too intently on our passing experience, we take our minds away from God as God and are tempted to cling to God-as-I-like-Him-to-be-for-me.

The above quote is 1 Cor 14: 19

Pray always and do not lose heart!

1 comment:

José said...


I think one of the reasons for the interest in (and sometimes abuse of) tongues in the modern Church is that our theology has been increasing articulated in dry and pastoral/spritually disconnected terms.

While I love the intellecutal life (I'm a graduate student in Philosophy) I have to admit that in contrast to older, more ancient, forms of Catholic intellectual-ism, current practice lacks some of the beauty and vitality of even the more rationalistic theologians and philosophers. Could you imagine Thomas writing the Summas and Tantum Ergo today?!

I respect many in the tongues crowd (at least the people I've met) but I still have this feeling that some people have turned to tongues because there is something missing in other forms of sprituality. (which I guess is fine?)

Although spritiuality without strong theology seems to commit the same type of error.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page