COLUMBIA — The faithful can live a fuller spiritual life by focusing on the rich history and transforming power of the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit instead of petty differences.
That was the overall message at the annual S.C. Catholic Charismatic Conference held at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia Oct. 23-25. The event featured group praise and worship, Mass, workshops and chances to pray the rosary, attend adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and receive the sacrament of reconciliation. This year’s theme was “Take Courage; Jesus is Calling You.”
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone opened the conference by celebrating Mass on the night of Oct. 23. His homily focused on the need for Catholics to overcome a tendency toward tribalism and instead focus on what brings them together.
The bishop said controversy between different groups of Catholics who hold differing political views or favor certain styles of worship echoes an overall lack of civility in the world at large.
“In society we’ve lost a sense that people should be able to work out conflict, and that has affected Catholics,” he said. “People judge others so quickly. We do that on the local level. You as charismatics should know that. I’m sure you’ve heard people calling you heretics and saying things like ‘Oh my goodness, you wave your hands in prayer!’ There are people who say it’s wrong if they’re not praying the Mass in Latin, although the fact Jesus spoke Aramaic doesn’t seem to bother them. Just because people like or desire to approach the Lord in a certain way we might not like doesn’t make the approach evil,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
He said Catholics and Christians in general need to stop wasting time, talent and resources on arguments among themselves, and instead focus on overcoming evil and spreading the positive message of the Gospel.
“Jesus says to receive the Holy Spirit, and that the task of bringing the kingdom of God to fulfillment is yours,” he said. “What God wants is for the world to be a reflection of the kingdom of heaven.”
Two keynote speakers were featured on Oct. 24. Redemptorist Father Tom Forrest spoke about harnessing the powers of the Holy Spirit and using the gifts the spirit provides to make a difference in the world.
Father Forrest has been involved in the charismatic renewal since 1971, has traveled to more than 100 countries as a speaker and evangelist, and is currently the international director of Evangelization 2000, an effort to promote renewal in the church through prayer.
“We have two great callings from God — the universal call to holiness is linked with the universal call to mission,” he said. “When God planned the personality and the talents he gave you, he intended to give you a mission. Go out into the world doing the impossible. We need a new Pentecost. Why can we be fearless? Because it doesn’t depend on you. Your work is God doing it through you, and Jesus putting his own Holy Spirit into you. There’s a world out there that needs conversion.”
Elizabeth Crow, a member of Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg, was one of the estimated 200 people who attended the conference.
She said Father Forrest’s message inspired her to further develop the prayer skills and attention to Scripture that she’s worked on since becoming involved with the charismatic renewal 27 years ago.
“We’ve lost the sense of outreach to others in the world, and we really need to be reaching out to our brothers and sisters,” Crow said. “The Holy Spirit has made the Bible come alive for me, and we need to share that. America has forgotten that God is king.”
Catholic lay evangelist Michael Cumbie offered two sessions. Cumbie was raised a Southern Baptist in his native Alabama and later became a pastor in Protestant charismatic churches. He told the story of how he converted to Catholicism after studying and realizing that the fullness of Christian worship can only come through union with Christ in the holy Eucharist. Cumbie, his wife and three children all became Catholics in 2001.
He urged the crowd to focus on the importance of the Eucharist and its meaning in their daily lives. He told them to look to the Holy Spirit for greater understanding and gifts to spread the word of the Gospel in today’s increasingly secular world.
Cumbie said that much of the dissension among Protestant denominations and groups comes because the idea of a common heritage in the early history of the church has been lost.
“There are something like 30,000 Protestant offshoots from the one holy church, and they’re all so busy fussing and fighting,” he said. “Something inside of us needs order and authority and priests and sacraments, all offered by the Catholic Church.”