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Holy Spirit at Work

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Fred Wight’s story is a wonderful example of serendipity; how the answer to a mundane question like how are you can lead you down a road you had no idea existed.  But it’s much more than that.  It’s a testimony of how the Holy Spirit mingles in our lives to accomplish His Will.


Fred Wight was an older colleague of mine in the Dept. of Social Services in Albany, NY.  He had been a veteran of WWII, was married to Maxine and had 3 grown children.  He was Dutch Reformed Protestant.  One Thursday morning in the spring of 1979, I went to his desk to say hello.  He greeted me and asked me how I was.  I said, “Great!!”  “Wow!  What brought that on?”  “I had my spiritual batteries charged last night at a Charismatic Mass at St. Vincent’s.”  “Charismatic?  You folks believe in healing and stuff like that?”  “Yes, we do.”  “Interesting.  Can I come to one of those Masses?”  “Sure.” 


Fred came to the next Charismatic Mass.  I think it was June.  He liked it, but wasn’t sure that all of what he saw was genuine; however, he kept coming.  In the fall, the Charismatic Renewal in Albany put on a 3 day retreat which Fred also attended.  I remember the priest saying that normal Christianity is to think of Jesus regularly during the day like very 15 minutes.  We talked about that.

Later that fall, a Pentecostal group came into Albany and did a 3 day revival, Tuesday to Thursday.  It was held in Bishop Maginn Catholic High School.  Fred went the first night and thought it was great.  He encouraged me to go on Wednesday which I did, but it really didn’t draw me.  Fred went again on Thursday.


On Friday morning, he came to my desk all excited.  “I got it!  I got it!  “Whoa, Fred, what did you get?”  “I got the Holy Spirit.”  “Tell me about it.”  “After the service, a few of the men came over to me and asked me if I wanted to receive the Holy Spirit.  I said yes.  I was sitting on a chair as they were praying over me, and I remember that I had to make a decision, either I was going to stay in control or I was going to let God.  I decided to let go and let God.  When I did that, I found myself on the floor, and I started praying in tongues.” 


The rest is history.  Fred became a new man in Christ.  He started an ecumenical pray group which met in the First Reformed Church of Albany.  Ironically, it was composed mainly of 12 men.  There’s more. 


That group prayed for the healing of a Pentecostal member’s daughter who had muscular dystrophy.  A number of us of different persuasions went with his family to the charismatic healing Mass at St. Paul’s in Schenectady and laid hands on her for healing, and the Lord heard our prayer.  She was healed.


Fred embraced Catholicism.  He, his wife and daughter entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 1980.  What a celebration that was!  Two and a half hours of worship and praise in the old St. Vincent’s on Madison when it was still a church!  Fr. Richard Fragomeni had such a wonderful gift for liturgy and celebration, and Roger Mock had this little orchestra with violins etc.  The singing was magnificent as was the proclamation of the Word.  Oh, I remember it well with yearning to experience another celebration like that.


I write this story because of the irony of how the Holy Spirit works.  Here was this Reformed Protestant who became interested in the Holy Spirit by attending Catholic charismatic liturgies.  Then, he attended a Pentecostal revival in a Catholic high school.  He receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit by being prayed over by Pentecostals, becomes a new man in Christ and then becomes Catholic.  Is the Lord trying to tell us something?  For me there’s a lesson there about being open to the work of the Spirit.  Let’s not block the Holy Spirit by the preconceived ideas of theologians about how He should act.  Let’s be open to let Him act where He may and how He may.  Lord help us to become one.

--Walt Gartner, OFS

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