A Journey of Faith

by Fr. Kilian McDonnell

          What began as my own quest for truth and a Charismatic prayer group for my own sake became an influence in the whole country. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, was drawing people together, so we could come to terms with who we were as Catholics called to renewal by the Vatican Council II.

             The charismatic renewal is a spiritual movement that made its debut in the Church in 1967, shortly after the Vatican Council ended. It is a movement that helps people accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in baptism and confirmation. It also helps people to open themselves to other gifts that St. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians. The charismatic renewal finds its roots in the very first Pentecost and in the powerful witness of the apostolic Church.  
           Since 1967, it has swept through the Church, embraced enthusiastically by some and rejected just as enthusiastically by others. Some people do not understand this renewal movement, or have had bad experiences because of a few people who have given it a bad name. Many do not realize that the charismatic renewal movement was approved by Pope Paul VI, and has received the support of bishops from around the world. In 1975 the pope attended an international gathering of the charismatic renewal in Rome. On that occasion, in comments to the thousand of Catholics from throughout the world, he thanked the renewal for "coming to Rome to teach us how to praise."

          Yes, I was and am a part of this Spirit-filled movement. But I am also a traditional Catholic who embraces all the traditional devotions and disciplines of our Holy Church. And I hope, dear reader, regardless of what you think about Charismatics or traditionalists, that what follows in this article will convince you of God's love for you and his desire to transform you and to use you to build up his kingdom.

          One year and one month after this first gathering at the seminary of Charismatics, a priest from the Madonna House Apostolate, Father James Duffy, came to sit in at our meeting one night. The night he came, my sister also came to the meeting. She is a very good Catholic, very confident of her Catholic faith. She had always had precarious health. Hers was a life of prayer. She had a dependence on God and the ability to say, "Thy will be done." That night, she was violently ill, having just gone through surgery. We had picked her up and carried her to the prayer meeting!

          I was leading the meeting because our regular leader, Harcourt, wasn’t there. After an hour, with Father saying nothing, my sister said she was in a lot of pain and had to go home. After she left, Father Duffy asked who she was, and I said, "My sister." He said, "God wanted to heal her but you didn’t pray for her healing." We didn’t know about praying for healing. Father said, "There is a beautiful gift of prayer in this room, and a lot of other gifts besides; if you don’t recognize them and use them they will dry up." He asked me, "Would you allow me to use you as proxy to pray for your sister?" I said, "Father, you can do anything you want," and I immediately knelt down. He gathered all the people around. He said, "The united faith in this room will heal that woman. God wants to heal her. Let us pray. Never mind what I am doing, you pray for all you’re worth, keeping your mind on the fact that we are praying for her healing."

          He laid hands on me and told everyone to touch one another. He began to pray and that night we most surely experienced praying in tongues and the gift of prophecy. It was a most amazing experience. I mention these events because the Holy Spirit does indeed have gifts for us, and he wants us to use them to build up the Church.

           That night, Father Duffy spoke a prophetic word over me: “ I have loved you with an everlasting love and I am constant in my affection for you. When you were conceived in your mother’s womb I beheld you. And I have loved you with an infinite love. I have selected you and set you apart for a work that you must do for me. For this purpose have I continually defended you against lying tongues and against tigers' teeth that would have destroyed you. Have I not constantly defended you and protected you and brought you to this hour?”

           As Father was speaking these words over me, I saw my whole life pass before me. I realized that all my life, from the age of six I had been surrounded with contentions. People had told lies about me many, many times and I could never understand that. So when God asked me, through Father Duffy's prophetic word, "Have I not continually defended you against lying tongues and against tigers' teeth?" the whole thing came back. I began to weep, to sob and sob. My heart cried out, "Lord, you saw all of it. You knew they were lying about me and in the midst of all this you loved me still! Then what have I got to fear? If you know me and you love me, I have nothing to fear." A whole sense of tremendous liberation came over me as I wept and wept. I couldn’t stop weeping.

          Then Father Duffy put his hand on me and began to pray a prayer of peace. I can still hear him, ''I impart the peace of Christ to you, my daughter. Peace that surpasses understanding. I bring you peace that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away. Peace be with you. Receive the peace." He took my hand and lifted me up. He said that God had chosen me for a special work but I had to fast and pray much.  
          The next morning, I woke up with a sense of tremendous joy and an assurance that everything would be all right. I went immediately to see my sister and found her completely well. God had healed her! After three months of severe illness in which she couldn't do anything, she was able to resume work. After reflection, I realized that the night before I had seen the gifts of the Spirit in full operation. It was an answer to the prayer we had prayed with John XXIII during the council: “Renew your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost…”

          I had wondered whether God would answer that prayer, and if he did, what it would be like. I had not realized that in Vatican II, the answer to the prayer was inherent. I had been resisting all the changes of Vatican II, not realizing that they were preparatory for the new Pentecost for which we had prayed. I realized that in me, in this new life in the Spirit, his gifts had been stirred up. And the fruits of the Spirit were evident in my life.

Babsie Bleasdell is an author and internationally acclaimed speaker and storyteller. Her gift for communicating the gospel is well-known. She makes her home in her native Trinidad.   Enjoy her latest book, Refresh Your Life in the Spirit, from which this article is condensed.  $8.79 (Soft cover)  Purchases support the renewal.


 Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the May 2000 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.