By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful, Even in Unprecedented Disaster


Image from nytimes.com


That's the testimony of Haitian Catholics in the U.S. awash with grief over the destructive effects of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. And the power of their faith is manifestly charismatic:

[C]hurches like SS. Joachim and Anne [in New York City] can point to their response to this dark year: a redoubled commitment to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a 43-year-old movement, growing fastest in Latin America and among immigrants in the United States, that makes Haitian Catholicism distinctly vibrant even as some American Catholics complain of a church gone lukewarm.
Charismatics, both Catholic and Protestant, seek an ecstatic state open to unmediated communion with God. They dance, sing, speak in tongues, issue prophecies and even, they believe, heal the sick. They call these spontaneous acts gifts — charismata in Greek — from the Holy Spirit. Catholic charismatics holler and weep beneath their stained glass like Pentecostals in their storefronts, but they begin and end with rosaries and Hail Marys.
Haitians have long embraced charismatic worship. But never have they needed so much to warm themselves in its heat. To watch it carry a community through an unthinkable calamity, swaying and clapping and sending noisy thank-yous to God, is to see faith working to heal the hurts of the year, and to save itself.
As in any religious movement (and surely secular movements also), you must prudently avoid the "nutty" personalities; but there are also plenty of "nutty" personalities in more staid, less emotional, and more disciplined religious and secular movements.
In my view, the authentic charismatic power of Christianity, permeated with prudence and not divorced from reason and shrewd common sense, is a powerful answer to secular despair and to the aridity of harsh, aggressive, legalistic religious traditions.