I recently traveled to the Encounter Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan with my family and three priests and two seminarians. It was a time of immense blessing and healing. All of us in attendance wouldn’t consider ourselves charismatic per se. We are instead, seeking the full riches the Church offers to us through a life of discipleship in the Holy Spirit. We want all of the holy gifts God pours out upon His people and the wisdom of the different spiritualities that make up the Mystical Body. The Lord wants us to live a supernatural life in the Spirit, which means embracing all the graces and gifts He wants to give to us.
We are not meant to be sectioned off into factions or camps. Spiritualities are meant to complement one another, not exclude or wall off from one another. I personally tend towards a quieter and very interior—albeit rather intense—spiritual life that looks closer to Carmelite spirituality. This makes sense given that my middle name is a blend of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux.
There were aspects of the conference that were not as easy for me to be open to simply because of my personality and my own spiritual blocks, but that’s why it was so important to attend. The conference is worth attending regardless of one’s particular spirituality. We need to be pushed out of our comfort zone.
It is worth going to because too many of us have developed a fear or aversion to the supernatural working in our lives. The Church, especially in the West, tends towards a heightened reason that is often devoid of the spiritual. There is a lot of fear and suspicion of anything resembling the supernatural. Living discipleship in this overly scientific and reasoned way cuts us off from the supernatural life Christ has in mind for each one of us.
This is not to say that I am opposed to reason. Far from it. My own theological studies were focused primarily on the relationship between philosophy and theology. As a seminarian spiritual son of mine has noted on multiple occasions: “Faith is super-reason.” To live a life of faith is to have reason purified and heightened. Reason is able to reach supernatural heights through the power of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within our souls that it cannot reach alone.
Faith and reason work together, as St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Fides et Ratio:
“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth- in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
Through a life of faith and using our God-given reason, we are able to come to know God and who we are as a person made in the image and likeness of God. It also allows us to come to a deeper knowledge and love of our neighbor. An openness to a life surrendered to God helps us to see reality as it actually is, rather than from the confines of our own fear or egoistic understanding.
Part of living the life of faith, is being more and more open to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We cannot confine, control, or place the Holy Spirit in a box of our own making. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. This does not mean we should not carefully discern the spirits. I would say that I am much more cautious in discerning spirits than some of my brothers and sisters in the charismatic movement. The enemy mimics the workings of the Holy Spirit, our own egos create narratives that don’t align with reality, and God can even allow us to be wrong at times in order to help us grow in humility. We must discern the spirits with the help of spiritual direction and reliable confessors.
That being said, I have—and so have others in my life—experienced the charismatic gifts. They are very real and they are just that—gifts from God to build up the Mystical Body. They are not primarily for ourselves. They are meant to strengthen the faith of others. They do not come from us, so any tendencies towards egoisms are a lie. They also have periods of immense activity and other times when they lie dormant in order for the Lord to purify us through detachment.
The Lord called me to attend Encounter as a way of healing deep wounds within my heart that have been caused by the denial of the supernatural at work by those around me, including in the clergy. It was not coincidental that I traveled with my family, priests, and seminarians. The Lord was confirming both of my vocations as a wife and mother and as a spiritual mother. I was given the great privilege of walking with everyone in attendance towards a deeper openness to the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
I did not have an intense experience of the Holy Spirit at the conference. That happened to me back in 2018 during Mass as I was being called to spiritual motherhood. Instead, I spent the conference in prayer with Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Both pondered and lived lives of deep silence in prayer. I was at the conference to pray in union with Our Blessed Mother— who prayed with the Apostles at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit came upon them—that the Spirit would come upon my family and my spiritual sons, in all of His great power, peace, and joy.
As I drove home with my family, I experienced the slow burn of the Spirit healing wounds and opening my soul up to the charismatic gifts that He has already given to me, while also heightening and strengthening them for the battles ahead. The Lord desires that we live a supernatural life. This is not only reserved for a few holy saints. These are gifts given to the Mystical Body in order to strengthen one another in faith and to be able to make disciples of all nations. This includes you.
We live in dark days. The suffering is immense. I see it on an almost daily basis as I work in full-time ministry in a large parish. The world needs the flame of Pentecost to burn brightly within our hearts, families, and parishes. We are called to lead others to the answer and the hope for this tired world found in Christ Jesus. The Lord equips us for this mission through the Sacraments, reverent celebrations of the Mass, a deep life of prayer, sacrifice, and yes, the charismatic gifts. We need all that God wants to give to us, not just the parts we think we can control. There is no controlling the Holy Spirit. We are simply called to be open, docile, and follow where He leads. He will lead us to truly blessed places we never expected.
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