A Reasoned Critique of the Gnostic Charismatic Movement
Part III: Emotions and Seeking Consolation
The following is part 3
of a 5-part series exposing some of the disorders of
the so-called “charismatic movement.” All the parts of
this series add up to one homily entitled The
Charismatic Gifts delivered by an anonymous priest
some years ago. The whole homily can be read and shared
on our parish’s web site.
The correct understanding of the proper place and
function of the charismatic gifts establishes the
grounds to legitimately call into question the purpose
of so-called charismatic revivals and, most importantly,
why we even see them in the Catholic Church.
Now the good will of the people involved in such
things is not being criticized here.
With that said, and as stated earlier, these
practices have a tremendous focus upon the emotions. It
is not that our emotions are bad, but they require our
reason in order to be governed or else they take on a
mind of their own.
The essence of the spiritual life consists in the
union of our wills with God’s, and since the path to
such union is often difficult and trying (it is
essentially the way of the Cross), God will from time to
time give the soul some sensible consolations, a certain
sweetness of His presence, in order to help the soul
along and encourage it, sort of like an oasis in the
desert. Our emotions tend to like this.
These consolations are more frequent when a soul
begins taking the spiritual life seriously, but as
progress is made, God will scale back on the frequency
of the consolations in order to enable to the soul to
begin taking more delight in Him rather than in the
gifts He gives; it tests the soul’s resolve and also
gives it more occasions to make acts of charity which
are far more pleasing to God.
Unfortunately, many souls do not get this far and
become alarmed when their initial fervor is lost and the
consolations disappear. Instead of continuing on the
straight path, and thinking God has abandoned them, they
may inadvertently turn to things that feed the emotions
in order to regain some sense of the consolations they
In fact, a certain expectation (and it can be very
subtle) begins to set in that this is the purpose and
function of divine worship: how often nowadays is Mass
attended with the intent to leave feeling personally
affirmed and good about oneself.
Since the manifestations of the charismatic gifts are
sensible to a large degree, it is easy to try seeking
consolations in them. This really is not any different
than when the crowd asked our Lord to show them a sign
and our Lord retorted saying Perverse generation that
seeks a sign.
The first thought of our spiritual life should always
be God’s glory, not our own consolation and progress,
and in so doing we actually serve our interests better
because God will not lead us astray.
For good reason, then, has the Church always
commanded great caution when it comes to the presence
and operation of the charismatic gifts because, in
general, they are often sought for the wrong reasons,
out of curiosity, or because their manifestations can
actually be false, either as a product of an emotional
or psychological frenzy or arising from the demonic.
(Part IV will be published in next week’s parish