Speaking in Tongues

Last Wednesday, I attended ‘Breaking Open the Word’ at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. (Visiting parish young adult community events is part of my new commitment to stay in tune with the young adults with which I minister. Many of my upcoming posts will illustrate these visits.) This is a weekly study group of young adults who get together each week to read the upcoming Mass readings and discuss how they relate to our lives today.

As I entered the room cautiously and asked “Is this Breaking Open the Word?” I was warmly greeted by a young woman who sympathized, “This is my first time too!” Beside the two of us, there were four others who seemed to have known each other for a while. They shared the latest news (an engagement, a trip abroad, and a rehabilitation from an injury), and then we focused our hearts and minds by reading the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The upcoming Sunday was Pentecost which made recitation this prayer a meaningful. The name Pentecost is taken the Hebrew tradition marking the 50th day after Passover when the harvest was brought to the temple (the feast of First Fruits) and is celebrated as the day that Moses was given of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is celebrated as the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

This reading sparked a conversation about speaking in tongues, called glossolalia. While we had heard of people speaking in tongues and some of us had been present at charismatic prayer services where participants spoke in tongues, we were unsure of Catholic teaching on glossolalia.

To answer our question, one of the young adults whipped out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Though glossolalia was not specifically mentioned in the index, this was as close as we got:

799 Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.

800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.

801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,” so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”

This seemed to be a sufficient answer for the young adults in the room, that an authentic gift of glossolalia will work together in charity for the common good. We ended the evening by praying together the Psalm for the upcoming Sunday: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!

All in all, it was a rich evening of prayer, scripture, questions, and answers that reminded me that even in this simple setting, on a Wednesday evening in this church basement, Christ keeps His promise: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

The Following Video shows a choir of Young Adults Singing a song by Thomas Tallis called Loquebantur Variis Linguis The translation of the text is from Acts: The Apostles were speaking in Various tongues of the great works of God. Alleluia The frenetic quality of the song tries to capture the ecstatic moment when the apostles received the Holy Spirit! It is written in dance time.