Speaking in tongues: A controversial subject. A subject that many do not understand; but that's OK. It is acceptable not to understand speaking in tongues; or not to believe it. The fact remains that it happens. It happened in Jesus' times and it happens now.
Before we discuss this let me explain that speaking in tongues is not just a Catholic thing. Other denominations, pastors and preachers believe in it too and speak in tongues when in prayer.
So what is it?
Some history: After Christ's Resurrection, the early Christians were in a house when "suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of a fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. And when this sound rang out, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking his own language" (Acts 2 1-6 onwards).
What happened in that day is something that the followers of Jesus experienced. It was not something they had read about in scripture, or something Jesus had told them about. It was a personal experience.
They were in a house, hiding in fear, when suddenly they experienced the Holy Spirit descending on them, giving them courage to speak out about Jesus, and to do so in languages they did not until then know.
Imagine this happened to you. Suddenly, through prayer, you realise and know, that the Holy Spirit is within your soul. You put away any shyness, nerves or fear you may have had, and you proclaim your Christian beliefs to people in French, German or any other language you do not presently know.
How would you feel about that? You would tell the whole world about it; about what you experienced.
Speaking in tongues today: Many people today have difficulty understanding that the Holy Spirit can, and does, inhabit one's soul and guide us in this life whenever we ask Him. Ironically, in this modern age, people are more willing to believe that the devil can possess a person, which he does, rather than believe that the Holy Spirit can abide in us when we ask Him to. The Holy Spirit will never inhabit a soul without being invited.
When this happens, the individual often feels a sense of peace like they have not experienced before. A sense of knowing that all will be well and that God is indeed in control of every situation. A sense of "enlightenment" guiding them on what they should do, or say, and how to do it.
This sense of being filled with the Holy Spirit can last a matter of days or longer; depending on the situation and person. I have known people who have always been calm and serene and somehow at peace with themselves and the world all the time. Being with them was like being with a living Saint, a holy person ... someone totally different from everyone else.
I have witnessed "speaking in tongues". I used to attend regular weekly prayer meetings. We were a group of 20 or so. At quiet times, as we were praying silently, one or two individuals would start babbling incomprehensibly in a low voice for a minute or so. They were not in a trance; but fully awake either with eyes closed or looking down in prayer.
At first I did not know what was happening. It was explained to me that they were speaking in tongues - the Holy Spirit was praying through them. It was never explained in what language the Holy Spirit was praying. This happened several times over several weeks and was accepted by the rest of the group that these people spoke or prayed in tongues.
It does not matter if the individual speaking in tongues does not understand what he is saying. It is the Holy Spirit praying or praising God through them. Sometimes, there were other individuals who claimed to understand what was being said and interpreted to the rest of the group.
It is understandable if some people feel sceptical about this and think it is all nonsense and the individuals were putting it on. This is a controversial subject which has been debated by Christians and non-Christians alike for many years.
At the end of the day, you have to decide on this matter for yourself:
Do you believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity? The Holy Spirit is God, just like Jesus is God, and just like God is God.
Do you believe that the Holy Spirit of God does fill us with His presence and guides us should we ask Him earnestly to do so?
On the answers to these two questions rests your views on speaking in tongues. If the Holy Spirit can abide in us, and guide us in life's difficulties and teach us how to behave, what to say or not say at a particular time; then surely this same Holy Spirit, when abiding in us, can if He so wishes, pray to God in tongues.