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. 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.

  2. Sr. Landin, forgive me, but you could not be more wrong. The charismaniac movement is heretical. It’s origins are heretical (founded by protestants). It’s very belief is heretical. It’s in our creeds that we believe in “ONE” Baptism. Yet the charismaniacs go on and one about their “baptism” of the Holy Spirit and how it brings them to a deeper spiritual level or brings out a deeper meaning of their baptism. That is literally what the Sacrament of Confirmation/Chrismation does. It strengthens us with the Holy Spirit. To suggest, as charismaniacs do, that one must be “slain in the spirit” in order to have a deeper and loving faith with God is arrogant, erroneous and downright dangerous. I don’t doubt for one minute they are being slain in a spirit. It’s just not the Holy Spirit. The “gifts” used in the charismaniac movement are not found at any other point in Christian history. They try to defend their existence cherry picking Scriptures and giving their own interpretation, out of context, to justify their actions and beliefs (literally like how the protestants, who created the charismaniac movement) justify their false man made religion.

    The “retreat” the young Catholics went to was a protestant one. They were “prayed over” and had “hands put on them” (mocking ordination from a validly ordained and consecrated priest) in order to be given these gifts by “God” through protestant ministers. That implies that the Catholic priesthood is not necessary, that protestant “pastors” can give us God as well. That is heresy.

    The whole movement is diabolical.

    1. I would like a dis-claimer. Please know i did not write this. I am charismatic and find the Holy Spirit to have thought me to surrender my life to Jesus, and walk more fully in his ways. I am fully Catholic and love all the things about my Faith. Conversion is a daily walk with the Lord, and knowing his great love for me. Sr. Patricia Marie Landin

  3. It must also be pointed out that there is no such thing as a “Charismatic Mass;” it is just “Mass.” There is a real danger in many parishes that insert elements of the “Charismatic Movement” into the Mass itself, particularly with so-called “praise and worship” music, as well as “Christian rock.” The Church instead has special liturgical music for the Mass and it it clearly specified in the documents from the Vatican.

    As for charismatic-style Adoration, I find it difficult to see how many people, especially the youth, cannot help but yearn for more of this type of thing in other areas of worship, and when that doesn’t happen it must be kind of a letdown. I also think that one must develop an interior quiet so as to truly hear God speaking to them. In today’s fast-paced, often noisy world, I should think we would all benefit from some much needed “sacred silence.”

  4. These are all really good points friends. Colin, I will say that you bring up good points, although extreme… Catholics must ensure they are truly in prayer with Jesus, otherwise it is dangerous and stupid. However, what you said “They try to defend their existence cherry picking Scriptures and giving their own interpretation”—is in my opinion just incorrect. It’s clearly evident that the charisma are manifested in Jesus’s name in all Christian churches. I’d conclude that that means Jesus still works miracles through the faithful (it’s not just for the apostles). So to point to acts of the apostles and model our lifestyle off of those things is not crazy, especially when considering Jesus said that those who believe in His name will do the works He does and greater still… Also, please don’t use the phrase charismaniacs. I assume you’ve had some poor experience with the individuals who you believe deserve that phrase, but Jesus ate with sinners, He didn’t ridicule them, so even if someone is far out, Jesus would chase them down… I suggest you do the same by being kind. You also said, “To suggest, as charismaniacs do, that one must be “slain in the spirit” in order to have a deeper and loving faith with God is arrogant, erroneous and downright dangerous.” I’m pretty sure few charismatic Catholics believe that, and if they do they’re misguided. No one has to rest in the spirit to know God deeper. But based on the drunkiness the apostles felt after the spirit rested on them, it’s not that far fetched to believe that God could allow the Holy Spirit to rest on His children in a more full way, such that they would experience a similar thing. Overall bro, I’d like to say I understand your frustration, but I probably don’t. I would probably share your sympathy more fully if I hadn’t seen my catholic friends perform miracles in Jesus’s name and bring more people into the church because of it. I think a great measurement of the spirituality is ‘does it edify the church’? Candidly, some parts do and some parts are changing the mass which can be frustrating for people who aren’t enjoying it. I don’t know where I’m going with all of this, but two more things. I just want to say I’m sorry to you Colin because I feel pretty bad that this ‘movement’ is hurting your faith and I also just want to encourage you to be open-minded and know that largely, the ‘movement’ is not diabolical, it’s Jesus in the Holy Spirit.

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