The Touch: Receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

 

Father Bye-Torre

Bishop George asked me to write an article for The Call when he visited St. Stephen ANCC during my ordination. His intention was to help me sort out the emotional, spiritual, and mental changes I was about to experience following my ordination. Like any good shepherd, he knew this goofy sheep well. He knew I would withdraw into myself and would be overwhelmed with questions, thoughts, and emotions. He was correct. I was not at all thrilled to have to write another article. I had just written one and wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. You see, I had no idea what the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit would do to and for me.

The Holy Spirit has several names: Holy Breath, Spirit of God, Spirit of Yahweh, Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit is the very breath of God that descended on Jesus like a dove during his baptism and the tongues of fire that descended on the disciples. We recognize that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, or as St Paul tells the church at Corinth, the “manifestations of the Spirit,” are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ. This is his gift to us! We receive it when we are complete with sanctifying grace. We first received this incredible gift at Baptism and then these gifts are fortified at Confirmation. When I was ordained, these gifts were offered to me renewed.

These gifts, indeed the Holy Spirit herself, “completes and perfects the virtues of those who receive them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1831). In his “The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Scott P. Richert adds, “thus infused we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct, the way Christ himself would.” The first four of these gifts; wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and fortitude, direct us towards our own intellect. The remaining three gifts; counsel, piety, and fear of the Lord, direct us towards the will of God. To know and experience these gifts I had to first name them. I had to make receipt of them a conscious reality in my life.

Once these graces were named and acknowledged, I was ready to be transformed. I half expected the angel Gabriel to visit me. Initially disappointed that I didn’t get the bright lights and thunder, I still waited for something to happen to me. I often heard my mother’s voice telling me to just be thankful for receiving these gifts. What I felt was akin to that smile you get when you’re running late driving to work and all the lights are green. The feeling wasn’t thunderous, it was small and pleasant. I call this feeling the ‘touch.’ For me, the touch is an ever so slight and warm feeling, a barely conscious acknowledgement that something just happened but I don’t have the words to describe it. I get it, but now what?

There is no “now what?” There is only here, now…no need to look further. A good friend likes to tell me that she is ever evolving and she will never be finished growing and learning. This sentiment makes sense to me, but at some point you must say “I have all that I need.” I have been given all the tools. They have been given to me as these special gifts, to be as complete and perfect as my Creator has intended me to be. Sure, I will never stop learning, growing, or changing; however, I need not wait for the other shoe to fall; this is it. The question now becomes “who am I to become?” What an exciting question! What an exciting prospect!

It is not enough for me to simply and solely worship Jesus. It is not enough for me to ask myself, “what would Jesus do?” or to be Jesus-like. Metaphorically, I must BE Jesus. The promise of using these gifts is that we will “respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct, the way Christ himself would.” What better way to be, to act, to pray, to serve like our Lord than by using the very gifts He gave me to accomplish just that. I no longer need to use my all-purpose Leatherman as my only tool! I feel like the home of my heart has been given an extensive renovation! It is enough for me though, both to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be a good steward of the gifts and graces given.

Let us pray:

PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven, did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me:

  • the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal;
  • the Spirit of Understanding, to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth;
  • the Spirit of Counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven;
  • the Spirit of Fortitude, that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation;
  • the Spirit of Knowledge, that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints;
  • the ​Spirit of Piety, that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable;
  • the Spirit of Fear, that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him.

Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit.

Amen.

Rev. John Bye-Torre, FCM

St. Stephen ANCC (Seattle, WA)

Is Diversity One of the Gifts of the Spirit?

Father McTighe

Rev. Alvin Allison Carmines, Jr. was a character: an eccentric, a minister, a professor, an award-winning playwright, a director, an actor, a composer and lyricist, and maybe a prophet for our own times. To put him in context, he pastored a church and wrote and staged plays and musicals in Greenwich Village, New York (when he wasn’t teaching at Union Theological Seminary), beginning in the 1960s until his death in 2005.

 

God of many colors, God of many signs,

You have made us different, blessing many kinds.

As the old ways disappear, let your love cast out our fear.

 

I wasn’t very familiar with “Al” (as he liked to be called) until only recently when I came across the lyrics of his hymn “Many Gifts, One Spirit” – a hymn written in 1974 on commission from the United Methodist Women for their General Assembly. Immediately his words struck me as inspired and needed more than ever in our present world of discord and divisions. When so many (even Christians) see only differences, distinctions, and disunity as a good thing (!), how important to be reminded of who we all are in God’s eyes. When people fear the “other,” the “stranger,” the “immigrant,” the “enemy,” the “sexually different,” the “foreigner,” the “colored,” the “those people,” and changes…so many changes…in our world, we need to sing:

 

God of change and glory, God of time and space,

When we fear the future, give to us your grace.

In the midst of changing ways give us still the grace to praise.

 

I guess one of my attractions to Al is that he had a love of both church and theater, as I do. He saw both of them as a means of encountering spiritual meaning. He is quoted in a New York Times interview as saying, “If you want to know how to live, go to church. If you want to know how your life is in its deepest roots, go to the theater.”

 

Freshness of the morning, newness of each night,

You are still creating endless love and light.

This we see, as shadows part, many gifts from one great heart.

In fact, I believe in a real way that our liturgy is divine theater, but not as many think. Probably because most of our churches are set up like theaters with rows of seats (pews) facing the stage (sanctuary), it looks like the congregation is audience to the performing liturgical ministers. But look at the whole action from above—from God’s viewpoint, as it were. Then all of us, ministers and people, are on the stage together with an audience of One. And we actors are not performing some fictional script, but we—all of us in our wonderful diversity—are re-enacting the great divine mystery of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection using his words, telling his story, and singing songs of praise and thanksgiving about the abundant life received.

And to equip us for this great action—in church and in the world—we have each been given the gifts of the Spirit to celebrate, with all our differences and diversity, our common life in God who is love.

 

Refrain: Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.

In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise

One Giver, one Lord, one Spirit, One Word

Known in many ways, hallowing our days.

For the Giver, for the gifts, praise, praise, praise!

All lyrics are from “Many Gifts, One Spirit” © 1974 Al Carmines

 

Rev. Vincent McTighe

(Fr. McTighe recently retired from ministry at Sacred Heart of Jesus ANCC, Kearney, NJ)

The Independent Catholic Movement, ANCC, and Succession Planning

Father Lehman

I have been part of the Independent Catholic Movement (ICM) for 20+ years. In the ANCC as well as in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, my previous jurisdiction, my job as Vicar for Ecumenism was to get to know the many ICM jurisdictions and look for those who might be legitimate: open and inclusive in attitude, appropriate screening and education of clergy, having more laity than clergy, and a variety of ministries.

What I found was there were very few jurisdictions who met these benchmarks and with whom we could talk. For the ICM and the ANCC to survive into the next generation, there has to be adequate training and a clarity of identity. When jurisdictions are too small, have too many bishops, or have no real ministries, they often fracture or cease to exist after 5-10 years. This also can happen when they transition power to the next generation of bishops.

The Independent Catholic Movement

How did the ICM come about, and how did it reach the point where it now is?

It began in the 1800’s. The atmosphere in Europe at the time was very volatile. The French Revolution had espoused the principles of Freedom and Equality. Many of the kings in Europe had been driven from their thrones.

Pius IX

Rome had to respond to protect its own authority and in 1864 Pope Pius IX issued a Syllabus of Errors which listed those modern concepts condemned by the Church and prepared the way for the Vatican’s consolidation of power six years later. Some of the ideas condemned by the Syllabus included:

(15) Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. (55) The church ought not to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church. (63) It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them. (77) In this age of ours it is not any longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be regarded as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of any other religions. (78) Hence it has been wisely decided by Law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. 

We accept these ideas as normal and are surprised to see them condemned as heretical, but they were.

In 1870, the bishops of the world gathered in Rome for the First Vatican Council convened by Pius IX. The steady consolidation of Vatican power that had been building was capped when the Council considered the proposition, endorsed by the pope, of papal infallibility:

The Roman Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra…is…infallible… therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church. [emphasis added]

The first Council vote on infallibility occurred on July 13 and had the following results: 451 yes, 62 with reservations, 88 no, and 80-90 abstentions. This meant that almost one third of the voting bishops initially had reservations or abstained. The final vote was on July 18, with 533 yes and 2 no. By that time, over 140 bishops had left Rome before the vote so as not to embarrass the Pope with their negative votes. Although the majority of the bishops voted for papal infallibility, there was an imbalance in representation; for example, 700,000 Italians were represented by 62 bishops, and 1,700,000 Poles by a single bishop. In addition, Archbishop Henricus Loos of Utrecht had not even been invited to the First Vatican Council because of continued disagreements about the way bishops were elected in Utrecht. An ancient tradition of the church was the involvement of diocesan clergy in the election of their bishop. The Diocese of Utrecht in Belgium was one of the last Roman Catholic ones to elect its bishop, and Rome wanted to end this process as a further consolidation of its power.

Many Christians in Europe and around the world saw the new dogma of papal infallibility as an abuse of power. By 1889, opposition to both it and the Vatican’s consolidation of power had led to the formation of the independent-from-Rome Old Catholic Church and the Union of Utrecht under the Archbishop of Utrecht. The movement led to the formation of national Catholic churches in a number of European countries, and a concordat with the Church of England. By 1914, what became known as the Independent Catholic Movement had arrived on the shores of this country.

Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa

In addition to Archbishop Loos, the other individual who influenced the ICM was Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa of Brazil. In the 1930s, he began to stand up for the poor in Brazil and against the institutional church which had aligned itself first with the repressive secular government and then, in the 1940’s, with the Nazis of Germany. Eventually Duarte Costa was excommunicated by Rome, whereupon he founded the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. ANCC Bishop George’s succession as a bishop comes through the Duarte Costa line.

The Roman Catholic Church views ICM bishops in both lines as “valid,” because their apostolic succession can be traced back to Roman Catholic lines, but “illicit,” because Rome did not give permission for the consecrations. (As Independent Catholics, we view valid apostolic succession essential for our celebration of the sacraments and the Sacred Orders of Deacons, Priests and Bishops.)

Because of a lack of organization and oversight by the Archbishop of Utrecht, too many men were consecrated abroad and in the United States as Old Catholic bishops, and the movement, predictably, became fragmented. The same is also somewhat true of the Duarte Costa line. Today there are hundreds of Independent Catholic bishops in this country that trace their apostolic succession to these two lines. Together, the two lines incorporate roughly 1 million Catholics.

This has resulted in a sometimes confusing degree to which ICM bishops vary in their theology and understanding of what it means to be church. Similarly, the jurisdictions they lead also vary in their requirements for the education and formation of their clergy. As a consequence, the term “Catholic” in the ICM has unfortunately taken on too many different connotations, and liturgies across jurisdictions often lack uniformity. Additionally, many of these new jurisdictions attracted angry former Roman priests and parishioners who tended to define themselves in terms of their dislike of Rome rather than their fidelity to Catholicism. These new jurisdictions tended to fracture over identity issues and power struggles.

The ANCC within the ICM

The American National Catholic Church was formed in 2009 with a desire to live out the vision of John XXIII and Vatican II. It is the ANCC’s conviction, in fact, that if the changes brought about by Vatican II had continued, Rome would be where the ANCC is now. The ANCC is a “national” Catholic church, led by bishops elected by their people, as was the custom in many jurisdictions before Vatican I’s consolidation of papal power.

The ANCC is approaching the important moment of passing on succession to the next generation. The above history has made clear that within the broader ICM, this can be a difficult and complicated process. It’s additionally complicated for us because our parishes are so scattered geographically. As we proceed, it will be important for parishes to affirm a clear understanding of what it means to be Vatican II Catholics, to attract new clergy who possess Catholic identities and are open to the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ persons, to continue to discern how to form clergy who are hundreds of miles apart rather than localized in a single seminary, and to sustain our small parishes staffed by worker priests. All of these issues impact our succession planning, for the issues are both local, looking at the survival of the parish, and national, looking at transitioning to new leadership/bishops.

Both as a jurisdiction and as individual parishes, we need to begin to look at issues of succession planning and we are left with a number of challenges. If a parish has one priest, what will happen when that person retires or can no longer perform ministry? Where will we get new clergy? Will they have the skills needed to continue to lead our parishes? At some point, we will look at the election of our next bishop, but if we have not addressed these and other questions of succession planning in our parishes, the election of a new bishop will be almost meaningless, as the ANCC will be shrinking.

I believe as Vicar for Ecumenism we need to reach out and make friends with others in the ICM as we begin this important discussion of succession planning. We will all be stronger when we work together, but we must work together with those who are like us in our understanding of Church and what it means to be Catholic.

 

Rev. James Lehman

Holy Family ANCC (Las Cruces, NM)