Are there any accounts of “words of knowledge” taking place outside of Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations?
The short answer is yes.
In Christianity, the word of knowledge is a spiritual gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8. It has been associated with the ability to teach the faith, but also with forms of revelation similar to prophecy. It is closely related to another spiritual gift, the word of wisdom.
Among Pentecostal and some Charismatic Christians, the word of knowledge is often defined as the ability of one person to know what God is currently doing or intends to do in the life of another person. It can also be defined as knowing the secrets of another person's heart. Through this revelation, it is believed that God encourages the faith of the believer to receive the healing or comfort that God offers. For example, in a public gathering, a person who claims to have the gift of knowledge may describe a medical problem (such as syphilis or trench foot) and ask anyone suffering from the described problem to identify themselves and receive an effective prayer for healing. According to this definition, the word of knowledge is a form of revelation similar to prophecy or a type of discernment.
Many Catholic saints have had this gift. We generally call it the ability to read souls. It is closely related to a special gift of intuition.
A facet of Mystical knowledge is a supernatural gift of God whereby a Saint is able to read into the heart and conscience of an individual to then be able to guide and direct the person towards a greater union with God. Over the centuries, this gift of reading into souls has often been given to Priests that they may better guide penitents in the Sacrament of Confession. Some of the Priests famous for the gift of reading souls are St Padre Pio (d. 1968), St Anthony of Padua (d. 1231), St John Bosco (d. 1888), St Philip Neri (d.1595), St Francis of Paola (d. 1507), St Joseph of Cupertino (d. 1663) and St Paul of the Cross (d. 1775) to name just a few.
There have also been many mystics who have received this gift of reading into hearts, such as St Gerard Majella (d. 1755), St Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), St Lydwine of Schiedam (d. 1433), St Hedwig (d. 1243) and in modern times the mystics Blessed Alexandrina da Costa (d. 1955) and Servant of God Marthe Robin (d. 1981), and the American mystic Marie-Rose Ferron (d. 1936) to name just a few.
Perhaps one of the greatest and most documented examples of the gift of reading into souls can be found in the extraordinary life of St. John Vianney (1786-1859), affectionately known across the world as “The Cure of Ars”. St John Vianney was a most zealous priest who spent his whole life for the conversion of sinners. Sainte Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney as he is known in France was a country priest in the small town of Ars, France. He spent literally 16-18 hours a day in the confessional, and people from all over France and abroad made pilgrimages to Ars to visit the “Holy Cure”, and to go to him in Confession. For God, who was pleased with the love and devotion of this holy priest gave him the gift of reading hearts, so as to be able to lead sinners closer to God, and St John Vianney certainly possessed this gift in a most extraordinary way.
The gift of reading hearts in the life of St John Vianney
Because of his gift of reading souls, people came from all over France to go to Confession to the holy Cure of Ars, and although he spent from 16-18 hours a day in the Confessional, there were always long lines of people waiting to seek advice and counsel from him, for he truly was a “alter Christus”, that is, another Christ. He are some true stories about his amazing gift of seeing into the heart of men. -
Mystical knowledge in the lives of the Saints –The gift of reading into hearts
Some years ago, I read “The Cure D’Ars” by Abbe Franicis Trochu in the original French and still have my favourite stories to retell.
On day, Fr. John Vianney was saying Mass and the topic of his homily was on the 6th and 9th commandments. Those present knew that his holy priest could see into the souls of those present. Before starting into his sermon he made a little announcement: “I will be preaching on the sins against the 6th and 9th commandments. Anyone guilty of sins on these two commandments should leave now.”
The Cure d’Ars very often would preach while walking down the aisle of the church, going to the pulpit which was situated in the middle of the church. Along the way, he would would rebuke big sinners publicly of their sins. If they denied them, he would numerate them, for all to hear.
In both Catholic and Protestant churches the pulpit may be located closer to the main congregation in the nave, either on the nave side of the crossing, or at the side of the nave some way down. This is especially the case in large churches, to ensure the preacher can be heard by all the congregation. - Location of pulpit