Monday, July 14, 2008

Spirited Away

For those of you unfamiliar with what's known as "The Charismatic Renewal" let me explain something to you. It may sound odd, and it really is odd, even when you experience it.

Occasionally, when in deep prayer, the Holy Spirit may come upon you in such a manner as to render you incapable of controlling your physical body. Most often this results in a collapse to the ground, but most groups that pray for such experiences within their communion will ensure that one or two sturdy young men are situated behind you, to "catch" you and let you down slowly.

Sometimes spontaneous laughter or healing tears may occur, sometimes it's just a quiet period of rest. Having such an experience requires you to surrender to it; God never just "takes over." He requests permission to give you an experience of intimacy with him, and you are psychically free to deny it or snap yourself out of it at any time. The ancient Church knows this type of phenomenon as a form of ecstasy (not chemically induced!); today it's known as resting in the Spirit. In my Protestant days they called it "being slain in the Spirit." I never experienced it until a few years ago, well into my Catholic life.

Regardless of the term you use, it is a real experience. It's powerful, and yet tender; intimate, and yet frightening. I've never felt the love of God more strongly than in those moments.

Enter Matt Lincoln of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was in exactly this type of prayer meeting at Lakewind Church, and "was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head."

Because nobody was there to catch him, he is now suing the church for "$2.5 million for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering." James Taranto of the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today quips that the church is absolved of responsibility because it was an act of God.

Yes, we all know that Americans are sue-happy. But this is worse than normal.

Somebody from this type of faith community should be above such petty antics. Yes, he was hurt, and yes, he had to have surgery, and yes, he missed work, but I highly doubt it was all quite that expensive. It's that nasty "pain and suffering" clause.

He's a Christian. He should know better than to reject pain and suffering. I dare not judge him, but I can't help but wonder... was God's intent for him to sue the church?

Suffering is something else on which the ancient Church has much to say. For a heartier read, check out Pope John Paul II's encyclical Salvifici Doloris on the Christian meaning of human suffering.

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