“I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me.” That may have been one of the most important moments of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
There’s a lot of lip service given to prayer in our country. But I’ve noticed something going on lately since I whined to a priest friend of mine who is a powerhouse kind of pray-er. I’m beginning to suspect that God lifts tremendous oppressions from the people that this priest prays for, because he prays with such confidence.
This priest pointed out that his inbox is filled lately with novenas and rosary chains and all kinds of calls to pray in a dedicated way such that he hasn’t seen before. Some of it is surely coronavirus-inspired. But there is no doubt some of it also has to do with the civil discord on our streets and the precariousness of the future of the country’s political stability.
Whatever those causes are, they seem to be leading people to pray more. Lately, I’ve been going frequently to St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village for daily Mass, and it seems most days the Mass intention is offered for next month’s election and for a “culture of life” in America. That’s not a prayer for a particular candidate, so much as for a real change in America, change that can’t be brought about by one election.
There is so much work to be done on many fronts. But, goodness, that intention for a culture of life and civilization of love is critical — we are so far away from it in so many ways.
From my vantage point in lower Manhattan these days, my native New York City is a very dark place. I pass by an active abortion clinic constantly. Men are passed out on the streets. I see well-dressed, otherwise healthy-looking men going through the garbage. And the screaming. Just because, sometimes. Or because I’ve run out of money or anything to offer. Or because a woman is quietly standing outside the abortion clinic with a “Pray for an end to abortion" sign.
Amid this grim backdrop and the ongoing toll of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Senate is considering the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court justice, a nomination that I consider a tremendous blessing.
Beyond her professional qualifications, America has gotten a glimpse of someone trying to live her faith genuinely, someone who lives a fully integrated kind of life. It is precisely because of this life that this Catholic 48-year-old mother of seven has been the subject of accusations, improper comments, and even ridicule.
But at the end of the day, it seems that the only thing approaching a scandal her opponents have uncovered is that she takes her faith seriously and surrounds herself with people who do likewise.
Reading accounts of people who have been in or around the People of Praise, the charismatic Christian community she belongs to, it is hard not to think of the Acts of the Apostles. Here are people who focus on sharing one thing: Christ. They share him and strengthen their faith in him by prayer, fellowship, and mutual service.
To understand the blessing of a charismatic community rooted in the heart of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a helpful guide (as it always is):
“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.” “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.” The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God.” (CC 797)
Coincidentally, these days have coincided with a number of later-than-planned confirmations (the sacrament, not politics). We Catholics shouldn’t miss the opportunity to get with that confirmand or other Catholics to reflect on what a blessing the Holy Spirit and its gifts are in our lives. Pope Francis has called confirmation the “sacrament of farewell,” lamenting the fact that so many never really set foot in church with any regularity after.
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., in fact, a few years ago, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, presented himself as a once-confirmed Catholic, although he has since left the Church. He seemed a poster boy for what the Holy Father has talked about.
In Amy Coney Barrett, we have an example of someone who not only didn’t make that commonplace “farewell,” but someone whose radiance comes from life lived in a Christian community, someone who surrounds herself with people united and led by the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism goes on to explain that charisms are special graces and that, “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” (CC 799)
“Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.” It later adds that “all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.’” (CC 800)
Is that not a reason to be ecumenically grateful for realities like People of Praise, and Christians like Amy Coney Barrett? Their seeking to live the Christian life in community, guided by the Holy Spirit, has benefits for all. If charismatic Christianity isn’t your cup of tea, that’s part of the point: There are different charisms, different graces — but enough to go around for everybody.
Embrace them, celebrate them, ask for them, be grateful for them in all their varied flavors.
If you’re worried about what’s going on around us — in politics, in your own family, in your community — there is something to learn from this woman and her faith community now under a microscope. At the end of the day, the biggest scandal is that the cross of Jesus Christ means something to them.