Can You Speak in Tongues?

Have you ever spoken in tongues? I am always impressed when I read the scriptural account of Pentecost. (Acts 2) There’s wind, there’s unprecedented courage, there’s speaking in tongues, and there’s conversion. It’s surreal. Is this the same Spirit I received in confirmation? If every mature Catholic has received the unction of the Holy Spirit, where are more of these incredible phenomena? Why do so few appear to have the gift of healing? Why can I not just decide to have faith now and start speaking in tongues?

Two words already mentioned: faith and gift.

I’ve often wondered what I would do if a young mother came up to me and said, “The Bible says you can heal if you have faith. Please, here is my paralyzed son. Make him walk.” First of all, I don’t know if I have faith the size of a mustard seed. Faith is a gift. I can’t force it, and I don’t always respond when it is given. Second, I know God could heal this little boy through me; he’s all-powerful. I witness an infinitely greater miracle every day in Mass. It would cost God nothing. What I don’t know is if God wants to make her son walk. What if his paralysis is a greater gift? Only God knows.

My older brother lives with me as a fellow seminarian here in Rome. He’s got a lot of good home-grown wisdom in him—as hard as that is for a little brother to admit. I asked him: How do I know if God wants to cure that little boy, and if so, how do I know if I have the gift of healing? His answer was simple, but I don’t think it could have been wiser: if God gave you the gift, he would make sure you knew. He gives for a reason.

Everyone has their gift, but not everyone has every gift. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (Cor 12:12)” Just before this line St Paul writes:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. […] To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:4-11)

St Paul leaves no need for comment.

We don’t all have all the gifts, but we all have ours. What is your gift? It’s not cheap. God doesn’t give cheap gifts. Nor is your gift unknowable. He’s not trying to hide it from you. Pray about it. You’ll see.

So two words: faith and gift. On the one hand, maybe we don’t see such spectacular phenomena because we lack faith. On the other hand, all these are his gifts. Maybe God is giving different gifts because we have different needs. Maybe we are looking for an old palm pilot when he wants to give the latest ipad. He always chooses the best gift. May he grant us the grace to believe with a strong faith and the light to discern his gift in us. This is my prayer for Pentecost, and I know he has heard it.

Pentecost is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago. It is the same Spirit and the same Mystical Body. So can I speak in tongues? Yes. Have I ever? No. Will I ever? That is for God to chose, but may he give me the gift of faith in the power of His Spirit to work through me as he sees best.

This article was written by Br. Dain Scherber, LC.