Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Very Charismatic Bear

They're... dancing.
In the latter half of the 70s, a young couple moved to a city in which they were strangers: San Angelo, Texas. The only people they knew were a small number of students at a top-secret crypto school at Goodfellow AFB, and a few people in the Catholic church.

They were quickly made welcome by the small, but active group of Charismatic Catholics. These presented a "Life in the Spirit" seminar and passed out copies of a red-covered paperback by Cardinal Suenens. There was a whole program, the Life in the Spirit Seminar.

And that was the Bear's introduction to the Catholic charismatic movement.

It was a strange collection of people, ranging from a traditionalist Catholic who dragged his 1962 missal with him to Mass (and lived in a house furnished almost entirely with stacks of The Wanderer) to guitar-strumming Irish nuns. There may have been an ecumenical element to it, but if there was, the Bear does not remember. We were Charismatic Catholics. That's how we identified.

The Bear does not remember anything untoward going on during Mass, but decades called "the 70s" tend to blend together for a 1300-year-old Bear. What he does remember is Thursday night meetings in the activities hall of the Cathedral, which featured a circle of chairs and a microphone. People would testify about the good things in their lives God had done, and sometimes one of them would burst into an unintelligible language, or announce a rather bland prophecy. God is saying, children, that He loves you very much.

The Bear does not mean to be disparaging. He had a hard time speaking in tongues, though. Finally he was advised to "fake it," in order to break the psychological barrier. The Spirit would be sure to come whenever the Bear was ready. Finally, he spoke in tongues. He never made it a habit, though, and always half-wondered if he was still faking it.

Bears are surprisingly analytic and not given to emotional outbursts.

The experience lasted until we moved away from San Angelo to a place where there were no Charismatic Catholics. What remained was a rather un-Catholic love of Holy Scripture (don't protest; stereotypes don't get to be stereotypes by being wrong). The Bear supposes there are worse things that he could have been doing in the 1970s, and it was certainly not the strangest sojourn in his spiritual quest. (Someday, once the appropriate releases are executed, the Bear may, with sufficient wheedling and gin, tell you about that.)

To this day he maintains an uncharacteristic benevolence toward arm-waving Catholics. As long as they don't grab his paws and try make him wave along. That's a quick way to lose a hand, pilgrim. He's not a Polar Bear, but they don't call him ursus arctos for nothing. (Ditto for hand-holding during the Our Father, which some Catholics seem to feel should be called the Our Neighbor.)

As the Church changes from the foundation of Christendom to a Third-World curiosity, the Bear supposes we Northern European Ice People are going to have to get used to excitable Latins and Africans dancing in the aisles and what-not.

Oh, yes. Now the Bear remembers. There was dancing. Suddenly the Bear feels less benign.


  1. I decided long ago (back in my Protestant days) that it will be a cold day in Hell before I relinquish my right to be one of the Frozen Chosen :-)

  2. Nibbling on bacon, chewin' on cheese
    Sammy says to Susie "Honey, would you please be my missus?"
    And she say yes
    With her kisses

    The only lyrics I know from the 70s about dancing animals.

  3. Oh, there's Pink Floyd's great Animals album, but if there are any dancing animals I don't recall.


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