Padre Beto asked me about the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit. He wanted to know about praising aloud, speaking in tongues, and the laying on of hands as was the custom for healing. Although I explained things as best I could, I thought it better for him to see what The Children of God called a Holy Ghost sample. We went for a visit. It inspired Padre Beto to see nearly a hundred young people praising God with loud, fervent voices and arms raised to the heavens.
After experiencing that first evening of praise and worship, he asked me to explain the gift of tongues.
"I was anointed with the gift of tongues a couple of years ago," I explained. "This might sound weird, but hear me out before you write me off as a psycho."
"Okay," he said, laughing.
"I was praying and praising aloud one day when suddenly words and sounds started pouring out of my mouth that had no meaning to me. It was as if I was speaking a foreign language. Then I felt a liberating feeling in my heart and soul as I continued to bring forth what was on my heart . . .not filtering it. I realized I was speaking to God, to the Spirit, without limitation of words. I did not have to think about the words I was saying. They just flowed." I stopped and looked at Padre Beto. "I really perfected my speaking in tongues gift back in Santa Rosa at the Pentecostal Church. There were a lot of gifts of the Spirit pouring out there," I said.
Padre Beto continued looking at me, not saying a word. I figured I had lost him.
"I told you it might sound strange," I said in my defense. "But it is the most incredible, freeing way to pray. I can get everything on my heart out to God without having to translate emotions into words. Sometimes I do not know what is bothering me and do not need to know because I am able to just pray in the sounds we call 'tongues' until I am emptied of emotions."
He was quiet a moment longer and then asked, "So what does interpreting tongues mean in your religion?"
"Well, sometimes there is a message in what we call the tongues that others are gifted to understand. Those individuals have the gift of interpreting tongues. When I finish speaking in tongues, someone else may speak up and give the congregation a message they believe is from God. However, you always have to be careful that messages from God are Bible-based, and not just someone's self-serving crazy thoughts."
Sundays after Mass, Padre Beto, Berna, Chety and others went with me to visit The Children of God. At first, Padre Beto had difficulty understanding what he saw, as he watched the gifts of the Spirit poured out. I give him credit that he was open to new spiritual experiences and I was excited to see him take such an interest. He was awakening to a personal, spiritual revolution.
An invitation, via a phone call, arrived asking me to attend and sing at something called a "Charismatic Catholic Mass" in San José. I didn't know what a Charismatic Catholic Mass was, nor did Padre Beto, but I agreed to attend.
I arrived home late that particular evening. Padre Gogo, a young priest and friend of Padre Beto's, had taken me out for ice cream. We'd lost track of time and Padre Beto went to the meeting in my place.
"Lo siento. I am sorry I did not get home in time to go to the Mass," I told Padre Beto when he returned home. "How was it?"
"I had never experienced anything like it at a Mass before," he said, his face aglow. "I arrived and found Catholics praising God out loud with their hands raised in the air like at The Children of God services."
"Wow, that is great," I said, glad he'd enjoyed himself, yet feeling guilty for having failed to meet my obligation to attend the Mass.
"In the beginning I just stood there watching. I was thinking, this is not the way I pray. I sang with them, but kept my arms down at my sides," he said. We both laughed.
I smiled imagining Padre Beto standing there in his priestly attire, trying to be so proper.
"Then a young man approached me," he continued. "He touched my arms and guided them up toward the ceiling. As my arms lifted up in praise to God something happened within me. . .I actually felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit."
I could see that Padre Beto had changed. He was animated and enthused with what he had seen, felt and experienced. Soon after, he brought the Charismatic Catholic movement to Tres Rios. A movement that dated back to the time of the original apostles as described in the Book of Acts, but had died out over the years in most churches worldwide.
We discovered that the Charismatic movement had been renewed in the Catholic Church in 1967 during a Duquesne University weekend conference in Pittsburg. One night, students and professors gathered in the chapel and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Some praised God in new languages, others quietly wept for joy, and others prayed and sang.
During the following weeks, the fellowship group at the university grew. This renewal spread to other universities. In September 1967, approximately 150 students, staff and priests attended the first annual National Catholic Pentecostal Conference. The movement then spread to parishes across the United States and then around the world, eventually involving millions of Catholics.
Far away in Costa Rica, Padre Beto had been led to a meeting of Catholic Charismatics. He had found a way to live and minister with the power of the Holy Spirit while keeping the Catholic religion's foundation.
While I was busy preparing to leave the Casa Cural and begin the La Casa de la Esperanza project, Padre Beto held Charismatic Catholic services at the Tres Rios Church. They lasted late into the night. Hundreds of people joined in and the Holy Spirit touched them. Loud praising of God sounded throughout the church and town plaza. Parishioners received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The entire feel and format of his Masses changed as the new Holy Spirit experience burst forth.
In early 1976, Padre Beto Cordero, the beloved Priest of Tres Rios, received orders from above to leave the Tres Rios church. They reassigned him to a new parish in a nearby town. Newspaper reporters wrote about the night he left Tres Rios and it will always be in the minds and hearts of his congregation.
Five buses, with 100 parishioners in each bus, along with dozens of cars and taxis filled with his friends and followers, lined the highway. They followed Padre Beto as he drove away in his own car. I can imagine how their hearts were heavy. People cried. It was like a super-sized funeral procession. They escorted him in style to the town of Guadalupe and to his new Casa Cural.
Padre Beto had touched so many lives in the 17 years he had served as the priest of the Tres Rios Catholic Church. Some say his reassignment was normal, just the way the Catholic Church moves its priests from parish to parish.
Others, like me, believe his reassignment came because of his revolutionary, spirit-filled leadership that could not be contained.