Charismatic movement prominent, controversial at Franciscan University

Photo by Melissa Longua Students raise their voices, hearts, and hands in praise at weekly the Praise and Worship held in CTK Tuesday night.

Photo by Melissa Longua
Students raise their voices, hearts, and hands in praise at weekly the Praise and Worship held in CTK Tuesday night.


The strum of the guitar echoes in the darkness; the smell of incense encircles the crowd; slow, soft mumblings transcend to singing; a wave a hands arises and sways to the rhythm of a song like “Oceans,” and then a priest walks through with a golden monstrance lifted in the midst of the waves of hands.

The hands turn to him, the wave bows to him, reaching out as boisterous crying, laughing and yelling surfaces for him. Suddenly, the song becomes drowned by the crashing waves of voices singing in weird gibberish, yet still holding the hands out as if praying and yearning for what lies in the monstrance.

This is what many at Franciscan University would remember as being a Steubenville Conference, and what some would call the striking image of the Catholic Charismatic Movement.

“This campus has always had an openness to charismatic expression,” said the Rev. Nathan Malavolti, TOR, vice president of pastoral care and evangelization.” It has been part of its history ever since Father Mike Scanlan came to the campus.”

Though Scanlan started the charismatic renewal of Franciscan in 1974, this movement actually started just a few miles out of Steubenville in Duchesne University.

Students of Duchesne attended a retreat a February weekend in 1967 where they felt that God had worked in their lives under what is known as baptism of the Holy Spirit. They started receiving gifts just like the Apostles did during Pentecost, and very soon this movement pushed forward to the University of Notre Dame.

“Some people will attribute it to Pope Leo as he wrote a prayer in the beginning of the 20th century to the Holy Spirit, and it was interesting,” Malavolti said. “Shortly after that there were people that were actually Protestants that were experiencing charismatics with the gifts of tongues and resting in the spirit.”


Photo by James Kuepper
FUS Students giving praise to The Lord at a very charismatic Festival of Praise on Saturday night.

Shaped after this Pentecostal renewal of the Holy Spirit in the church, the movement started taking a true shape and form in this foundation. Gifts of the Holy Spirit started becoming a true quality of this movement. However, that is not all that it is.

The movement not only consists of waving hands and speaking in tongues. It also holds a deeper meaning in the sense of the charisms as written by St. Paul in the New Testament.

“You have to understand that there is meaning in your actions, which is part of the understanding of worship,” said Cathryn Steele, Spirit and Truth sister. “One has to almost understand that the Holy Spirit is praying through you. You think of Princess Aurora out in the woods just singing, almost arising out of her spirit. She is joyful and it gives you the sense of nature is beautiful and God is good. That’s what I think praising is a part of, just simply praising God for being good.”

Christian songwriters today often write strong praise and worship songs in light of such a movement running universally in the Christian community. A common song is “Oceans” by Hillsong United, which when reading the lyrics closely, is a lyrical ballad on the fundamental faith of most Christians.

Recently, a blogger known as Annie F. Downs wrote an article explaining that if one is not willing to live out these charisms praised in the song, then one should simply stop singing the song. This is where some traditional viewers, as well as charismatic followers, see dangers in the movement itself.

“There are songs that are not proper for praise because they are very navel gazing,” Steele said. “There’s something in music and poetry that forms your character or soul. That’s why it is important to look at the songs you are using in praise because you’re opening yourself up to things, and allowing yourself to be formed by the music.”

Some people are open to the charismatic movement, but lean more toward the traditional Mass. Some households on campus may hold these values, such as Tantum Ergo Sacramentum where they “are open to anything new, as well as a mix of both charismatic and traditional,” as coordinator Frank Pusateri said.

“I do see dangers in the charismatic movement as it can pull people away from the Sacred Tradition of the Church,” said Andrew Pultorak, a member of Tantum Ergo Sacramentum. “’Praise and Worship,’ like any prayer, should be ordered toward contemplation, which doesn’t seem to happen here at Franciscan. When executed correctly, the charismatic movement can be fruitful; however, it is difficult to know what is proper since it lacks magisterial teaching.”

The charismatic renewal of the Catholic church is self evident on campus as the Office of Pastoral Care and Evangelization has started to hold more charismatic events, such as Festivals of Praise, retreats like Born in the Spirit and ministries throughout the year.

“I do believe that events like the Born in the Spirit retreat and FOPs are beneficial to those in the movement, as well as those unsure about it,” Julie McConnell said, a Born in the Spirit retreat attendee. “As we give glory at events like that, the Spirit falls down on us and meets every person in their own heart where they are at, so everyone gets blessed.”

Scanlan spread the movement to Franciscan University of Steubenville only seven years after it started, and now administrators of the Office of Pastoral Care and Evangelization hope to continue in his footsteps, as well as those involved in it on campus.

“Our university should be open to those of various types,” Malavolti said. “I think at times we wonder how more can be added to it. We don’t know what it may look like, but we are discerning how we can encourage people how those gifts work. So, I could see it increasing some. I mean it’s strong right now, but we discerning how we can do more to help the movement.”

1 comment for “Charismatic movement prominent, controversial at Franciscan University

  1. Sr.patricia Marie Landin
    April 14, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    The charismatic renewal is simply maturing in one’s life of faith with Jesus and the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. God in all his revelation in Scripture and tradition, call us to “do God’ s Will. The charismatic renewal opens us to receiving the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, that are ours because of our Baptism and Confirmation. God calls us to risk to be uncomfortable in our faith growth-as we are called to do. Latin hymns are not excluded from my life but other hymns songs touch my heart and mind differently. The Church in the renewal calls us to “share the Good News with all people. Not only keep it in a Latin framework. There is more, much more we need the outpouring of gifts as listed in scripture to do God ‘s work in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

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