I met one man who’s in seminary, and he’s not a charismatic, but he helped at one of their services and received an enormous windfall of the Spirit that drastically changed his life for the better. So I do believe they have real graces from the Lord at work amongst them and these can have an enormously positive influence in people’s lives.
That said, I’m also coming out of an environment that’s close to charismatic. I used to focus on the gifts of the Spirit and the Lord did perform a few marvels through me and among people around me. But the problem is that I wasted a lot of time focusing on how to develop deeper union with God’s consolations or marvels rather than on seeking surrender of my whole self to the God responsible for them. I didn’t learn that much about humility, submission or virtue during that period. I didn’t focus on love or self-surrender. People interested in the charismatic movement around me had a somewhat similar attitude.
I definitely won’t judge and say all charismatics are like that. I think lots of charismatics are great people with deep relationships with God. However, my concern is that there can be a great emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, miracles and such, at the expense of the fruits of the Spirit, which is by far the more important.
I feel like I’ve been the recipient of the Bible story where Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud of the spit and earth, and rubs it on a blind man’s eyes. Then he tells the blind man to go to the pool of Saloam and bathe. The blind man does and is healed.
When my life was completely without God, I was the blind man. When I was in a relationship with God but was wasting my time glamorized by the supernatural marvels and such, I was the blind man with Jesus’ spit in my eyes mixed with mud. The Lord was giving me what I could receive at that time- His spit mixed with mud in my eyes. Then when I washed, receiving last Lent a focus on how to develop that inward communion with God through submission, obedience, suffering, generosity, patience, etc., that was when I washed in the pool of Saloam and was enabled to see.
I can really, really understand why the saints spoke about how one should not seek after supernatural marvels. It’s not like the marvels are wrong. However, they can dazzle the eyes and turn the soul on what is much less valuable. Also, they can be a source of pride. The handful of marvels the Lord used to work through me were a source of pride to me for quite a while in my life. They can easily be unhealthy. It’s so easy to be extremely involved in supernatural gifts as they’re so exciting, all the while ignoring basics like going to help the poor or spending time with the sick. How many of the people that pray for the gift to supernaturally heal people give lots of money to Red Cross or charities that will heal? Do we want the person to be healed or do we want to feed our own egos?
What the soul really needs is humility, the development of love, the growth of virtue, the creation of true union with God. Then, as the soul does not seek the supernatural, the Lord gives the soul exactly what He pleases (both in virtues and, much later, possibly gifts), exactly when He pleases.
I know the Charismatic movement can truly develop deeper relationships with God for many people. I have both seen that in others and experienced it in my own life. I also have concerns about it, though. I think that what is really, really valuable is to read the writings of the saints and the Gospels which teach about becoming closer to God, and then abandon the self, abandon one’s own desires and throw oneself at God’s feet, surrendering all ideas of what would make oneself more powerful or popular or would give oneself the most thrills. One should abandon all that, all one’s own vanities and ambitions, and pray to become less in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of God, seeking out one’s sins and seeking purification, developing virtue in secret. God can give us whatever He wants, when He wants. St. Teresa of Avila wrote about the supernatural experiences of God and said they shouldn’t be sought, we shouldn’t try meditating our way into them or pulling them into ourselves, and St. John of the Cross and St. Faustina and others insisted they should not be sought. But St. Teresa of Avila said God can give them to people whenever He likes. When we seek Him and surrender ourselves to Him, He can give us whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases. It is often a greater grace to be allowed trials rather than consolations or marvels.
Anyway . . . just my thoughts. And I do want to reaffirm how I strongly believe God is working among many Charismatics, leading them and blessing their ministries. I don’t think the Charismatic Movement is wrong. God transforms many people’s lives through it. He did mine through that kind of experience, definitely for the better. But I don’t believe it’s at all a good idea to focus on the supernatural marvels.