Thursday, June 13, 2013

Speaking in Tongues

Zachary crosses a stream near Maple Grove campsite along Baker Lake.

The longer the hike, the more I pray along the way.  How else could I possibly keep up with a group of teenage boys and grown men?  Some of the prayers are formal; others are spontaneous.  My little prayer at each stream crossing on our recent trek was a simple, "Come Holy Spirit," as the flowing water inspired me to recall the waters of baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we hiked along, a Protestant friend and I were discussing prayer and I asked him if he prayed to the Holy Spirit.  "No," he replied, explaining, "I try to base all of my praying on the Lord's Prayer.  Not so much word for word, but in the general meaning of my prayers."

In another discussion about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, my friend revealed a great curiosity about what the benefit of praying in tongues might be in today's world.  He reasoned that on the day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues would have been beneficial for preaching to the people assembled from many lands and many tongues.  But to hear someone speaking in tongues today, he said, just sounds like a made-up language and many speak in tongues without an interpretation of tongues to validate or translate their tongues legitimately.

St. Anthony of Padua, whom we remember in a special way today, discussed speaking in tongues in one of his many notable sermons:
The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.
But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.
We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.  ~From a sermon by Saint Anthony of Padua, priest (1231+)

Looking back with fond memories on our pilgrimage to visit St. Anthony's grave in Padua, Italy and on our little backpacking trek in the mountains, I am grateful for virtuous Christian friends who speak in tongues every day, even if they don't realize it.

St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

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