The first reading tells how people who had baptized only in the baptism of John came to Paul. So Paul went on to baptize them “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The reading goes on to say, “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
In my seminary days back in 1950 our priests told us that those special gifts of the Holy Spirit were only conferred in the time of the Apostles. They were paying little attention to the Pentecostal movement which from 1900 on had special preachers who were laying hands on people causing them to swoon or speak in tongues.
Up to 1960 Catholics had uncharitably referred to such Pentecostals as Holy Rollers, but after 1960 Pentecostalism began finding a home among Catholics who we referred to as Charismatics.
In 1979 I was assigned to a parish with a strong Charismatic group of very fine people. I was wary of them because they had regular joint services with Pentecostal Christians who were not Catholics. Those people won our Catholics over to denying the teachings of Vatican II. As biblical fundamentalists they insisted that ever story in the Bible was factual.
Two priest friends of mine were intrigued by a very popular healing priest who was laying hands on people, slaying them in the Sprit. Father Bud and Father Roy went to witness that phenomenon in a packed church. And, when the charismatic priest spotted them dressed in priest cloths, he called them up to help him in laying hands on the hundreds of people packing the church.
Bud and Roy said they didn’t have the gift, but the priest said that didn’t matter, so they helped him out. He had fifty men in suits standing back from the Communion rail to catch any people who swooned when the hands were laid on them. My friends asked what they were to say when they laid on hands, but he said it didn’t matter.
So the three priests moved back and forth just inside the Communion rail, and Bud and Roy slew as many people as the healer did. But was at first stunned by the way people totally collapsed when he laid hands on them. He went back to the rectory where he tried collapsing back against the couch the way hose who were slain had, but he couldn’t do it.
Without knowing anything certain about the phenomenon of people swooning, my surmise is that it is quite real, but perhaps it is not a spiritual reality. It may be only a psychical thing like hypnosis.
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