(Spirit Daily) - Pentecostalism has between 250 million and 500 million adherents, most of them in developing nations such as Brazil, China, the Philippines and Nigeria. It is the fastest-growing Christian movement in the world. Thirty years ago, Pentecostals or similar charismatic groups represented six percent of all Christians; today that figure is 25 percent -- according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Speaking as an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church, I can testify there is a lot of truth to this article. Yes, the Catholic Church in America is hemorrhaging members, and has been for some time. It's easy to point fingers, but if we're going to be honest with ourselves, part of it is our own fault.
Long academic homilies and a lack of healing, deliverance, and miracle-preaching have shoved many to churches where the Spirit is invoked in a more "charismatic" fashion.
Of course, many of those who say they don't feel the Holy Spirit in Catholicism can be blamed for not doing their own part. The Church presents powerful, incomparable tools in the way of the sacraments (especially Adoration). That can invoke the Holy Spirit like nothing else. It is the True presence.
But it still behooves the Church to use that sacrament for actually healing and to bring in more direct charisms -- replacing theological homilies with ones that relate to the personal lives of those in the pews (or perhaps altogether abbreviating homilies).
Let's note that in Singapore, the local "mega-church" (surprise) is not evangelical (as in the States) but a Catholic one -- the Church of St. Alphonsus, which draws 25,000 to its ten half-hour novena services on Saturdays. (There is a devotion centered on the Blessed Mother -- who, when she has appeared at apparition sites, has at times held her hands upwards). Why do so many go there -- half non-Catholic?
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My analysis of the problem is based on personal observations and personal experience. Part of the problem can be found in the typical Catholic home. While the other part is in the typical Catholic parish.
I'll deal with the Catholic home first. When I was growing up as a Protestant, I lived in a heavily Catholic neighborhood. Just about every boyhood friend I had was Catholic. But in all that contact I had with these Catholic homes, I can't remember a single incident that caused me to think my friends were Catholic for any other reason than family obligation. The typical Catholic home in my childhood neighborhood featured a statue of Mary (or St. Francis) in the flower garden outside. Inside the house was a fairly large crucifix, usually near the front door. Occasionally, I would hear my friend's parents mention "Father so and so," and once in a while the family would go to mass. It was usually done very early on Sunday morning, not because they were that eager to get there, but because the earlier masses were shorter. Beyond that, there really was no evidence of Catholicism among my boyhood friends. They were just like all the other boys at my public school. They ran with the same crowds, smoked cigarettes behind the gym, stole liquor from their parent's wet bar, looked at dirty magazines, played pranks on their neighbors, and generally got into plenty of trouble. How do I know all this? Simple. I ran with them too.
Their parents where not always much better examples, but I won't get into that here. So besides all of this being a terrible example of what a Catholic home is supposed to look like, what exactly was the root of the problem here? I believe it all started with laziness. Yes, that's right - sloth - especially on matters relating to spiritual things. You see, somewhere in our nation's history, Catholic parents got the foolish idea that it was the sole responsibility of the Church to educate their children on religious matters. If they could afford the tuition, they sent their children to Catholic schools. If they could not, they sent them to catechism classes at least once a week. At home there was little to no reinforcement. As a result, Catholic Americans grew up with the idea that Catholicism was all about the local institution, and the message of the faith itself was essentially lost. My own Protestant home wasn't much better. But I knew a few boys who's parents did put a lot into their religious education. They were the local Pentecostal boys. Their parents read the Bible to them everyday, along with booklets explaining their Pentecostal religion. One of the boys' fathers had a guitar, and he led the family in praise and worship music every night. These parents were INVOLVED in their children's religious upbringing. They used their local Pentecostal church just for reinforcement purposes. The primary teachers of faith were mom and dad - and they took it seriously. Needless to say, those Pentecostal boys didn't run with the rest of us troublemakers nearly as often. They also had less problems when they got older. While my Catholic cohorts and I had to learn our lessons in life the hard way. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and please don't shoot the messenger, but the Evangelicals and Pentecostals are kicking our behinds on this one. It's nobody's fault but our own.
The moral to this story is that Catholic education MUST begin in the home. Catholic parents need to start thinking of themselves as their children's PRIMARY teachers on matters of religion. The Catholic Church is there to back you up, but that's all. It's not designed to be your child's sole source of religious education. Catholic parents need to remember that they cannot give to their children that which they do not have themselves. If you want your kids to grow up to be good Catholics, than guess what, your going to have to teach by example. Show me a Catholic home where this doesn't happen, and I'll show you some Catholic kids who are going to leave the Church eventually.
Having dealt with the typical Catholic home, I'll now move on to the problems associated with the typical Catholic parish. This is what the article above deals with. There has been a historical tendency in the American Church to go to opposite extremes. It's something the popes have reprimanded us on, and they continue to try to show us the reasonable middle path. Few pastors get it, but I think a growing number are starting to understand. Catholic parishes must seek to walk a fine line between liturgical orthodoxy and charismatic renewal. On the one hand we must recover our historic Catholic tradition, particularly as seen displayed in the Tridentine mass, and maintain strictly orthodox doctrine in our teaching and homilies. (Remember, watered-down Catholicism never accomplished anything. We're not going to experience a "Catholic" renewal by becoming more protestant.) At the same time however, we must reach out to those who are needing to experience God personally in ways that are both natural and supernatural. Believe it or not, the Charismatic Catholic Renewal (read more here) does have a place within every Catholic parish, but because of many parish priest's understandable reluctancy to embrace it, the renewal is often pushed aside to small groups who often meet apart from the main congregation. One of the problems historically seen in Charismatic Catholicism is the practice of “speaking in tongues” which quite frankly causes many Catholics to “freak out.” Honestly, who can blame them. The experience of hearing such a thing can be quite unnerving. Sadly, I believe this is the very thing that pushed the renewal to the side in most parishes.
In embracing the Charismatic Renewal, parish priests must take full control and ownership of it. That means steps should be taken to prevent abuse. For starters, every Charismatic Prayer Meeting should always open and close with eucharistic adoration. Next, every member of such a group should be properly catechized on what is the proper use of spiritual gifts, and what is not. In case you're wondering, the whole instruction manual can be found in 1st Corinthians chapters 13 and 14. If a parish priests INSISTS that these Biblical guidelines be followed scrupulously, and he puts himself, or a deacon, or even some trustworthy laymen in charge to monitor, he will never have a problem with the Charismatic Renewal in his parish. Personally, I think such Charismatic Prayer Meetings should be merged with eucharistic adoration, and the priest should coordinate with trustworthy helpers, to make sure everything is done in order, according to the writings of St. Paul in 1st Corinthians chapters 13 and 14.
Along with this, parish priests should offer special times weekly, when parishioners can come to the church for the sacrament of healing and times for prayer over those in need. Perhaps these can be coordinated just after eucharistic adoration and/or charismatic renewal meetings.
Homilies should be more focused on the mass readings for the day, and if parish priests would take the time to carefully explain each reading by itself, what it means, rather than using topical homilies, it would certainly do much to invoke a hunger for the Scriptures in the average congregation. All of this would go a long way to "stop the bleeding" so to speak, of Catholics making exodus to Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
The reason why Evangelicals and Pentecostals siphon so many Catholics away from the Church has more to do with the way they do things, and less to do with how much they badmouth Catholicism. Sure, that kind of stuff does go on in Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, but for the most part, it's used to keep former Catholics from going back to Catholicism. It is not usually the main thing that pulled these Catholics away from Catholicism in the first place. The reason why so many Catholics go into these churches is because they're looking for something they mistakenly don't think they can find in the Catholic Church. They're looking for a faith that transforms lives. They're looking for a church that makes them feel important and loved. They're looking for families where religion is taught in the home first and foremost above all things. They're looking for a place where they can feel “joy” in being a Christian. All of these things are attainable within the Catholic Church, but because parishes haven't been too responsive to parishioner needs, many Catholics mistakenly believe those things just aren't to be found within the Catholic Church.
Make no mistake about it, Catholics become Evangelicals and Pentecostals not because of anti-Catholic propaganda, but rather because they are drawn to the positive features of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. They don't get into the anti-Catholic rhetoric until later. The purpose of that rhetoric is to keep them from flirting with the idea of going back to the Catholic Church. Thankfully, we now have excellent apologetic resources for Catholics, on the radio and Internet, that are designed to counter the anti-Catholic rhetoric that keeps Catholics from returning home. Such apologetic resources have their place, but at the same time, it's our own sloth that drives most Catholics away from the Church to begin with.
Again, the Evangelicals and Pentecostals are kicking our behinds on this one, and it's mainly because we've failed to learn from them. Anything these religious organizations have to offer, the Catholic Church can provide in a much more Biblical way, if only we would take it upon ourselves to actually do it.
Don't think for a moment this problem is native only to Catholicism. I was raised in a Protestant home that had a lot in common with the Catholic homes of my childhood friends. Believe it or not, mainline Protestant churches are experiencing the exact same problem as the U.S. Catholic Church, except it's much worse for them. Right now, over a quarter of all people who used to attend mainline Protestant denominations, now go to some kind of Evangelical or Pentecostal church. In fact, the congregations of these Evangelical and Pentecostal churches consists mostly of former Catholics and former members of mainline Protestant denominations. I began attending such and Evangelical church in my early 20's, and by the grace of God I actually converted to Catholicism before my 30th birthday. I am indebted to my Evangelical experience, and I carry it with me into my Catholic faith. Trust me when I say the problem is fixable. Catholics can stop the hemorrhaging of members away from Catholicism. We can do it by returning to our Catholic roots, traditions and heritage. All the while embracing those things that made Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism so great without compromising our Catholic character. Yes, we can do it. Yes, it is possible. All we have to do is swallow our pride, learn from our opponents, and start working.
Do you want to make a difference? You can. Simply email this article to your parish priest, and then schedule some time to have a chat with him about it. Tell him your concerns, and how you would like to do what you can to "stop the bleeding" of Catholics in your parish to Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. Regardless of his response to the article, any good pastor would be pleased with your concern, and would be proud of your desire to make a difference. Just cut and paste the following link into your email: