Speaking (praying) in tongues is one of the most contentious issues among Christians. What follows is my testimony of how I went from hating tongues to speaking in tongues.
I was baptized a Roman Catholic when I was two months and I remained a Catholic until March of 2015. With the exception of one or two people, everyone in my immediate family was a practicing Catholic. My aunt, Agnes, was the staunchest of them all. This was the woman who adopted me and raised me from when I was seven. She was well versed in Catholic doctrine and we knew her to be a relentless defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I followed her footsteps.
With delight I read the several Catholic books, magazines and tracts Agnes brought home. By the age of fifteen, I had a strong foundation in Catholic history, doctrine and apologetics.
While I enjoyed my growth in Catholicism, there was a phenomenon in my beloved parish which disturbed my soul. It was the Charismatic Renewal. I despised them (I don’t think they knew it). Within me, I believed they were from the devil, sent to infiltrate the Catholic faith and corrupt it with Protestant/Pentecostal practices. I observed them carefully and noticed that they didn’t care about the things that were dear to a true Catholic: devotion to Mary, the Rosary, Confession, the Mass and the Pope, to name a few.
I disliked the Charismatics for their obsession with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Not once did I find them pray a ‘Catholic prayer’ at their prayer meetings. They always prayed spontaneously. They sang and danced to Protestant/Pentecostal songs. I hated their practice of praying in tongues and delivering people from evil spirits. I believed all of that was of the devil. At best, it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do, and any religious practice that wasn’t Catholic was, in my opinion, not worth imitating. Every chance I got I debated the Charismatics with one goal in mind: to prove them wrong and win them over to the true spirit of Catholicism.
But God was about to open my eyes. I didn’t see it coming; but it did happen. From my childhood years, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. The opportunity came in 2000 when I entered the seminary (St. Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Accra, Ghana). I thought it was a ‘safe place.’ But, lo and behold, the Charismatic Renewal was in the seminary, too! Second year seminarians were required to join at least one of the on-campus societies. Initially, I joined the Pax Romana group. A few months later, I joined the Charismatic Renewal also (sounds unbelievable!).
Here is how it happened.
One day, I visited a friend of mine in the seminary. On his desk, there was a book whose title drew my attention: Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt, a former Catholic priest. I borrowed the book and read it. In the book, MacNutt often referred to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Holy Spirit) and how it equips people with the power of God. After this, I found another book in the seminary library which talked about how some Catholic saints practiced exorcisms in ancient times. The content of these two books made me curious.
Moreover, I knew that the Charismatic Renewal was present in nearly every parish. If I was going to be a priest, I needed to understand the beliefs and inner workings of the Charismatic Renewal. I knew priests who had bitter confrontations with the Charismatics and who harbored deep disliking for the group. I didn’t want to be in that situation. Therefore, I decided I would join the group on campus. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything “Charismatic” was so foreign to me. However, I expected to get to know them enough to be able (at least) to live with them in peace.
To be continued in my next post.