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A Pentecost Meditation

Alleluia!
Today the Spirit of the Lord has invaded the cosmos and filled it!
Life spills out of the Cenacle
and, like a torrent of wine,
courses through the streets of Jerusalem.
God arises and His enemies are scattered;
those that hate Him flee before his face,
and those that love Him sing: Alleluia!

Today He who came down to see Babel’s tower
and confused the speech of the proud
visits the Upper Room.
He unties the tongues of the humble
and unites into one holy people those long divided by sin.
Amazed at what she sees and hears,
the Church intones her birthday song: Alleluia!

Today He who on Sinai descended in fire,
causing rocks to quake and peaks to pale,
descends upon Jerusalem;
tongues of fire dance over the heads of those
who, cloistered in the Cenacle, waited to meet their God
and at His coming, they cry out: Alleluia.

Today the valley of dry bones
begins to stir, to rattle, and to reverberate.
Behold, I will cause the Spirit to enter you,
and you shall live:
and they lived and stood upon their feet,
an exceeding great host
singing: Alleluia!

Today the Cenacle sealed like tomb
opens, a joyful Mother’s fruitful womb.
None was ever born of the Spirit
who did not take his birth from her,
and each, claiming from her the springs of his life,
calls her forever glorious, repeating: Alleluia!

Today the Spirit is poured out in superabundance;
today sons and daughters prophesy;
today old men dream dreams and young men see visions;
today menservants and maidservants
join the choir to chant with one many-tongued voice: Alleluia!

Today the Virgin whom the Spirit covered with His shadow
is wrapped in Love and crowned in flame.
Today the Woman who interceded at Cana
tastes New Wine, for the Hour has come.
Today the Mother who stood watching by the Tree
remembers the stream of water and of blood
and filled with sweetness, cries: Alleluia!

Today the Spirit helps us in our weakness
and we who do not know to pray as we ought,
pray in a way that is wonderful and new;
for now the Spirit Himself intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.
In the valley of the shadow of death
there rises the canticle of life: Alleluia!

Today, for the poor there is a Father,
for the destitute a Treasury,
for hearts grown dark an inblazing of brightness.
Today, for those who weep there comes the Best of Comforters,
for the lonely, there arrives a gentle Guest,
for the worn and weary there is a refreshment so sweet
that even they begin to sing: Alleluia!

Today, for workers there is repose,
for those scorched in the heat of discord, refreshment,
for those brought low by too great a weight of sorrow, solace,
and for those with tears to shed,
a chalice ready to receive them.
Today there is no one who cannot say: Alleluia!

Today, even where there is nothing good
Goodness elects to dwell;
and where there is nothing holy
Holiness makes a tabernacle,
so that the broken, the sad, and the powerless
find their voices to sing: Alleluia!

Today, there is a balm for every wound,
a dew sprinkled over every dryness;
a cleansing water for every stain.
Today, the stubborn heart learns to bend
and the stiff spine learns to bow.
In the twinkling of an eye the frozen are thawed
and icy hearts warmed through and through,
making them declare as never before: Alleluia!

Today there are Seven Gifts
lavishly given for each according to his need:
Wisdom for the foolish,
Understanding for the dull,
Counsel for the hesitant,
Fortitude for the weak,
Piety for the feckless,
and Fear of the Lord for those who have forgotten to adore,
saying humbly: Alleluia

Today for sinners there is forgiveness,
for the stranger a home,
for the hungry a Holy Table,
for the thirsty a river of living water,
and for every mouth the long-awaited Kiss.
Today heaven is poured over the face of the earth,
while the children of men in amazement sing: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Drawing upon the traditional mysteries of the rosary -- Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious, and the new mysteries of Light proposed by Pope John Paul II -- it becomes possible to pray through seven mysteries that, in a special way, reveal the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. I find it practical to use my Seven Dolours Rosary, with its "seven times seven" series of beads for this persevering invocation of the Holy Spirit through Mary.

1. The Annunciation, the “Proto-Pentecost” in which the Virgin is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). Ask for the Gift of Wisdom.

2. The Visitation in which Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:42), greets the Mother of her Lord. Ask for the Gift of Understanding.

3. The Baptism of Jesus, at which the Holy Spirit descended upon him “in bodily form, as a dove” (Lk 3:22). Ask for the Gift of Counsel.

4. The Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) at which, in response to the intervention of his Mother, Jesus provides wine in abundance prefiguring the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Gift of Fortitude.

5. The Death of Jesus Crucified who, “bowing his head, handed over his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Ask for the Gift of Knowledge.

6. The Resurrection of Jesus who, appearing to the disciples “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week” (Jn 20:19), “breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Ask for the Gift of Piety.

7. The Descent of the Holy Spirit “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Ac 2:1). Ask for the Gift of Holy Fear.

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I dedicate this, my translation of a conference for Pentecost by the Benedictine Mother Mectilde de Bar to my beloved brothers and friends of the Diocese of Tulsa who, today, are being ordained to the Order of the Holy Diaconate by His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery.

The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the coming of the Son of God into the world,
the fruit of His sufferings and of His labours.
In order for us to receive Him,
it was necessary that the Son of God suffer all His great sorrows;
moreover, had He not asked the Holy Spirit for us,
we would not have received Him.
The Holy Spirit is, therefore, God's Gift to us.
Like a powerful King who seeks among the good things of His kingdom,
what is most precious
to make of it a gift to the person dearest to him,
even so does the Eternal Father.
Possessing nothing greater than His Holy Spirit,
He gives Him to men in recompense for the suffering of His Son.
This festival is, then, most important,
and so the entire Church disposes herself for it
with a very particular devotion.

What then must one do in so as to to receive Him well
and partake of His fruits?
Two things are needed
to know how great a gift is the Holy Spirit
and what is needed to keep Him.
These will be the two points of my instruction
and the subject of your reflection.

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The Holy Spirit is, first of all, the light that illumines us in our darkness;
strength in our weakness;
fire in our coldness.

We know by experience how much we have need of all these things,
since we are so immersed in shadows
that we see not even a single ray of light,
and nearly always we know not
what we are doing and where we are going.

So weak are we
that we are unable to carry out
even those things that we know God expects of us.

So cold are we towards God,
so little fervour do we have
and so low are our feelings.
that we are ashamed of ourselves.
See then how great is our need to receive the Holy Spirit.

But what must we do to keep the Holy Spirit?
Listen to what the Apostle Saint Paul says:
"My brothers, above all else I pray you and recommend
that you be very attentive not to grieve the Holy Spirit." (Eph 4:30)
And how can we grieve Him?
Let us listen to what He Himself says to the Spouse:
"Open to me, my sister,"
"Open to me my sister, my spouse." (Ct 5:2)
The Holy Spirit is always at the door of our heart:
let us be very careful not to shut Him out,
because this grieves Him.

In the little time that remains
we must train ourselves
to have a great will
and ardent desires to receive Him;
this will be how we open the door to Him.

But this is not enough.
It is necessary also to remove the obstacles
that may keep Him for entering.
And how?
By emptying ourselves of the spirit of the world
and of ourselves,
because two things opposed to each other
cannot subsist together;
that is that black can never become so white
as to have nothing of blackness left.

So it is with us.
Our soul will never be so bright
that all the blackness of sin will have gone out of it.
But we must empty ourselves
if we would be filled with the Holy Spirit;
in fact, he who would fill a vessel must empty it first.

And finally,
what must we do to receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit
and have Him abide in us?
Three things.
The first is humility.
Our Lord, in fact, when He was asked on whom
He would make His Spirit rest,
answered, upon one who is humble.

Let us therefore abandon all the thoughts that turn to our own interests,
to our self-love, and to our own judgment;
this is necessary if the we want the Spirit to live in us.

The second thing is a perfect submission to all that He wants of us.

And the third; the one that is highest,
the most excellent, and unfailing,
is abandonment.
If He wills that we be in health or in sickness,
we must will it;
in joy or in sorrow,
in labour or in rest,
in suffering or in enjoyment,
we must will it.

In the end, we must necessarily burn with this fire of the Spirit
in this world here below,
so as not to burn eternally in the fire of hell.

Make your choice: It is God who has said it.
Let us not cease from asking Him [for the Holy Spirit]
also because God says that if a child asks his father for something,
this will never be refused him.

And therefore, it is assured that we will be heard:
and it is this that I wish for you with all my heart.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Mother Mectilde du Saint-Sacrement (1614-1698)

A Sacerdotal Pentecost

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From a Priest's Notebook

A priest shares what was given him in prayer concerning a sacerdotal Pentecost, a Pentecost of priests, a revival of priestly holiness in the Church. I translated the text from the original French. The image shows Saint John the Apostle on Pentecost.

Aujourd’hui, je crois que c’était pendant les mystères glorieux du rosaire, le Seigneur m’a parlé dune Pentecôte sacerdotale, d’une grâce obtenue par l’intercession de la Vierge Marie pour tous les prêtres de l'Église. À tous sera offerte la grâce d’une nouvelle effusion de l’Esprit Saint pour purifier le sacerdoce des impuretés qui l’ont défiguré et pour redonner au sacerdoce un éclat de sainteté tel qu’il n’a jamais eu dans Église depuis le temps des apôtres.

"Today, I think it was during the glorious mysteries of the rosary, the Lord spoke to me of a sacerdotal Pentecost, of a grace obtained by the intercession of the Virgin Mary for all the priests of the Church. To all [priests] will be offered the grace of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to purify the priesthood of the impurities that have disfigured it, and to restore to the priesthood a brightness of holiness such as the Church has never had since the times of the Apostles."

Cette Pentecôte sacerdotale se prépare déjà dans le silence et dans l’adoration du Saint Sacrement. Les prêtres qui aiment Marie et qui sont fidèles à prier leur chapelet seront les premiers à en bénéficier. Leur sacerdoce sera merveilleusement renouvelé et il leur sera donné une abondance de charismes pour vaincre le mal et guérir ceux qui sont sous l’emprise du Mauvais. Il m’est donné de comprendre que l’intercession du Pape Jean-Paul II a aussi joué un rôle en obtenant par Marie cette grâce de la Pentecôte sacerdotale.

"This sacerdotal Pentecost is being prepared already in silence and in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The priests who love Mary and who are faithful to pray her rosary will be the first ones to benefit from it. Their priesthood will be wonderfully renewed and they will be given an abundance of charisms to vanquish evil and to heal those under the sway of the Evil One. It was given me to understand that the intercession of Pope John Paul II will also have played a role in obtaining through Mary this grace of the Pentecost of Priests."

Certains prêtres refuseront cette grâce de la Pentecôte sacerdotale, soit par orgueil, soit par manque de confiance, soit par une absence de foi en la présence réelle du Christ au Saint Sacrement. Cette Pentecôte sacerdotale partira du tabernacle (ou des tabernacles du monde) comme d’un foyer ardent de charité. Les prêtres qui auront été trouvés fidèles à tenir compagnie à Jésus-Hostie se réjouiront. Ils comprendront tout de suite les merveilles qu’il voudra faire en eux et par eux. La Pentecôte sacerdotale rejoindra d’abord les prêtres qui sont de vrais fils de Marie, vivant comme Saint Jean, dans son intimité, tout près de son Cœur immaculé.

"Certain priests will refuse this grace of the sacerdotal Pentecost, out of pride, or a lack of confidence, or an absence of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This sacerdotal Pentecost will begin from the tabernacle (or the tabernacles of the world) as from a burning hearth of charity. Priests who will have been found faithful in keeping company with Jesus the Host will rejoice. They will understand straightaway the wonders that He will want to do in them and through them. The sacerdotal Pentecost will affect first of all the priests who are true sons of Mary, living like Saint John, in her intimacy, very close to her Immaculate Heart."

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Here is a translation of the address the Holy Father gave Saturday evening at the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens at the annual Marian celebration closing the month of May.

Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Persevering and United in Prayer With Mary

I greet all of you with affection at the end of the traditional Marian vigil that concludes the month of May in the Vatican. This year it has acquired a very special value since it falls on the eve of Pentecost. Gathering together, spiritually recollected before the Virgin Mary, contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, you have relived the experience of the first disciples, gathered together in the room of the Last Supper with "the Mother of Jesus," "persevering and united in prayer" awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). We too, in this penultimate evening of May, from the Vatican hill, ask for the pouring out of the Spirit Paraclete upon us, upon the Church that is in Rome and upon the whole Christian people.

The Holy Spirit and the Heart of Mary

The great Feast of Pentecost invites us to meditate upon the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary, a very close, privileged, indissoluble relationship. The Virgin of Nazareth was chosen beforehand to become the Mother of the Redeemer by the working of the Holy Spirit: in her humility, she found grace in God's eyes (cf. Luke 1:30). In effect, in the New Testament we see that Mary's faith "draws," so to speak, the Holy Spirit. First of all in the conception of the Son of God, which the archangel Gabriel explains in this way: "The Holy Spirit will descend upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). Immediately afterward Mary went to help Elizabeth, and when her greeting reached Elizabeth's ears, the Holy Spirit made the child jump in the womb of her elderly cousin (cf. Luke 1:44); and the whole dialogue between the two mothers is inspired by the Spirit of God, above all the "Magnificat," the canticle of praise with which Mary expresses her sentiments. The whole event of Jesus' birth and his early childhood is guided in an almost palpable manner by the Holy Spirit, even if he is not always mentioned. Mary's heart, in perfect consonance with the divine Son, is the temple of the Spirit of truth, where every word and every event are kept in faith, hope and charity (cf. Luke 2:19, 51).

The Two Hearts and the Precious Blood

We can thus be certain that the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in his whole hidden life in Nazareth, always found a "hearth" that was always burning with prayer and constant attention to the Holy Spirit in Mary's Immaculate Heart. The wedding feast at Cana is a witness to this singular harmony between Mother and Son in seeking God's will. In a situation like the wedding feast, charged with symbols of the covenant, the Virgin Mary intercedes and, in a certain sense, provokes, a sign of superabundant divine grace: the "good wine" that points to mystery of the Blood of Christ. This leads us directly to Calvary, where Mary stands under the cross with the other women and the Apostle John. Together the Mother and the disciple spiritually taken in Jesus' testament: his last words and his last breath, in which he begins to send out the Spirit; and they take in the silent crying out of his Blood, poured out completely for us (cf. John 19:25-34). Mary knew where the Blood came from: it was formed in her by the work of the Holy Spirit, and she knew that this same creative "power" would raise Jesus up, as he promised.

Mary's Universal Maternity

In this way Mary's faith sustains the faith of the disciples until the meeting with the risen Lord, and will continue to accompany them even after his ascension into heaven, as they await the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Acts 1:5). At Pentecost, the Virgin Mary appears again as Bride of the Spirit, having a universal maternity with respect to those who are born from God through faith in Christ. This is why Mary is for all generations the image and model of the Church, who together with the Holy Spirit journeys through time invoking Christ's glorious return: "Come, Lord Jesus" (cf. Revelation 22:17, 20).

In Mary's School

Dear friends, in Mary's school we too learn to recognize the Holy Spirit's presence in our life, to listen to his inspirations and to follow them with docility. He makes us grow in the fullness of Christ, in those good fruits that the apostle Paul lists in the Letter to the Galatians: "Love, joy, peace, magnanimity, benevolence, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22). I hope that you will be filled with these gifts and will always walk with Mary according to the Spirit and, as I express my praise for your participation in this evening celebration, I impart my Apostolic Benediction to all of you from my heart.

[Zenit Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Homily of Pope Benedict XVI for the Solemnity of Pentecost 2009

Apart from being a magnificent example of mystagogical preaching, the Holy Father's Pentecost homily reveals an exquisite sensitivity to role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in preparing the Church for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI continues to offer us a wealth of Mariological insights masterfully harmonized with the liturgical cycle of feasts and mysteries. The subtitles and italics are my own.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The One Center of the Liturgy and of the Christian Life

Every time that we celebrate the Eucharist we experience in faith the mystery that is accomplished on the altar, that is, we participate in the supreme act of love that Christ realized with his death and resurrection. The one center of the liturgy and of Christian life -- the paschal mystery -- then assumes specific "forms," with different meanings and particular gifts of grace, in the different solemnities and feasts.

The Holy Spirit, the True Fire

Among all the solemnities, Pentecost is distinguished by its importance, because in it that which Jesus himself proclaimed as being the purpose of his whole earthly mission is accomplished. In fact, while he was going up to Jerusalem, he declared to his disciples: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish for it to be kindled!" (Luke 12:49). These words find their most obvious realization 50 days after the resurrection, in Pentecost, the ancient Jewish feast that, in the Church, has become the feast of the Holy Spirit par excellence: "There appeared to them parted tongues as of fire ... and all were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit, the true fire, was brought to earth by Christ. He did not steal it from the gods -- as Prometheus did according to the Greek myth -- but he became the mediator of the "gift of God," obtaining it for us with the greatest act of love in history: his death on the cross.

Receive the Holy Spirit

God wants to continue to give this "fire" to every human generation, and naturally he is free to do this how and when he wants. He is spirit, and the spirit "blows where he wills" (cf. John 3:8). However, there is an "ordinary way" that God himself has chosen for "casting fire upon the earth": Jesus is this way, the incarnate only begotten Son of God, dead and risen. For his part, Jesus constituted the Church as his mystical body, so that it prolongs his mission in history. "Receive the Holy Spirit" -- the Lord says to the Apostles on the evening of his resurrection, accompanying those words with an expressive gesture: he "breathed" upon them (cf. John 20:22). In this way he showed them that he was transmitting his Spirit to them, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

The Grace of the Cenacle: Prayer and Concord

Now, dear brothers and sisters, in today's solemnity Scripture tells us how the community must be, how we must be to receive the Holy Spirit. In his account of Pentecost the sacred author says that the disciples "were together in the same place." This "place" is the Cenacle, the "upper room," where Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples, where he appeared to them after his resurrection; that room that had become the "seat," so to speak, of the nascent Church (cf. Acts 1:13). Nevertheless, the intention in the Acts of the Apostles is more to indicate the interior attitude of the disciples than to insist on a physical place: "They all persevered in concord and prayer" (Acts 1:14). So, the concord of the disciples is the condition for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and prayer is the presupposition of concord.

A Church Less Preoccupied With Activities and More Dedicated to Prayer

This is also true for the Church today, dear brothers and sisters. It is true for us who are gathered together here. If we do not want Pentecost to be reduced to a mere ritual or to a suggestive commemoration, but that it be a real event of salvation, through a humble and silent listening to God's Word we must predispose ourselves to God's gift in religious openness. So that Pentecost renew itself in our time, perhaps there is need -- without taking anything away from God's freedom [to do as he pleases] -- for the Church to be less "preoccupied" with activities and more dedicated to prayer.

Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Church and Bride of the Holy Spirit

Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Church and Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost occurs on the last day of May, when the Feast of the Visitation is customarily celebrated. This event was also a little "Pentecost," bringing forth joy and praise from the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary -- the one barren and the other a virgin -- who both became mothers by an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Luke 1:41-45).

The Hayden Harmoniemesse

The music and singing that is accompanying our liturgy, also help us to united in prayer, and in this regard I express a lively recognition of the choir of the Cologne cathedral and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. Joseph Haydn's "Harmoniemesse," the last of the Masses composed by this great musician, and a sublime symphony for the glory of God, was chosen for today's Mass. The Haydn Mass was a fitting choice given that it is the bicentennial of the composer's death. I address a cordial greeting to all those who have come for this.

The Air We Breathe

To indicate the Holy Spirit, the account in the Acts of the Apostles uses two great images, the image of the tempest and the image of fire. Clearly, St. Luke had in mind the theophany of Sinai, recounted in Exodus (19:16-19) and Deuteronomy (4:10-12:36). In the ancient world the tempest was seen as a sign of divine power, in whose presence man felt subjugated and terrified. But I would like to highlight another aspect: the tempest is described as a "strong driving wind," and this brings to mind the air that distinguishes our planet from others and permits us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life; and as there is air pollution, that poisons the environment and living things, there is also pollution of the heart and the spirit, that mortifies and poisons spiritual existence. In the same way that we should not be complacent about the poisons in the air -- and for this reason ecological efforts are a priority today -- we should also not be complacent about that which corrupts the spirit. But instead it seems that our minds and hearts are menaced by many pollutants that circulate in society today -- the images, for example, that make pleasure a spectacle, violence that degrades men and women -- and people seem to habituate themselves to this without any problem. It is said that this is freedom but it is just a failure to recognize all that which pollutes, poisons the soul, above all of the new generations, and ends up limiting freedom itself. The metaphor of the strong driving wind of Pentecost makes one think of how precious it is to breathe clean air, be it physical air without lungs, or spiritual air -- the healthy air of the spirit that is love -- with our heart.

Fire From Heaven

Fire is the other image of the Holy Spirit that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. I compared Jesus with the mythological figure of Prometheus at the beginning of the homily. The figure of Prometheus suggests a characteristic aspect of modern man. Taking control of the energies of the cosmos -- "fire" -- today human beings seem to claim themselves as gods and want to transform the world excluding, putting aside or simply rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be the image of God but the image of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free, adult. Obviously that reveals an inauthentic relationship with God, the consequence of a false image that has been constructed of him, like the prodigal son in the Gospel parable who thought that he could find himself by distancing himself from the house of his father. In the hands of man in this condition, "fire" and its enormous possibilities become dangerous: they can destroy life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which atomic energy, used as a weapon, ended up bringing death in unheard of proportions, remain a perennial warning.

With Mary in the Cenacle

We could of course find many examples, less grave and yet just as symptomatic, in the reality of everyday life. Sacred Scripture reveals that the energy that has the ability to move the world is not an anonymous and blind power, but the action of the "spirit of God that broods over the waters" (Genesis 1:2) at the beginning of creation. And Jesus Christ "cast upon the earth" not a native power that was already present but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God, who "renews the face of the earth," purifying it of evil and liberating it from the dominion of death (cf. Psalm 103 [104]: 29-30). This pure "fire," essential and personal, the fire of love, descended upon the Apostles, gathered together with Mary in prayer in the Cenacle, to make the Church the extension of Christ's work of renewal.

The Holy Spirit Overcomes Fear

Finally, a last thought also taken from the Acts of the Apostles: the Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples fled to the Cenacle after the Master's arrest and remained there out of fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus' resurrection this fear did not suddenly disappear. But when the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, those men went out without fear and began to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified and risen. They had no fear, because they felt that they were in stronger hands.

His Infinite Love Will Not Abandon Us

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, where the Spirit of God enters, he chases out fear; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: whatever happens, his infinite love will not abandon us. The witness of the martyrs, the courage of the confessors, the intrepid élan of missionaries, the frankness of preachers, the example of all the saints -- some who were even adolescents and children -- demonstrate this. It is also demonstrated by the very existence of the Church, which, despite the limits and faults of men, continues to sail across the ocean of history, driven by the breath of God and animated by his purifying fire. With this faith and this joyous hope we repeat today, through Mary's intercession: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!"

[Zenit Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Days of Fire and of Light

In the traditional Roman liturgical calendar the glorious solemnity of Pentecost has its own Octave: eight days under the grace of the Holy Spirit, eight days of joy in the fire and light of His presence, eight days of thanksgiving for His gifts. The Octave of Pentecost was one of the most beautiful moments in the Church Year, not only by reason of the liturgical texts, but also by reason of its effect in the secret of hearts. Each day of the Octave the Church would sing her “Golden Sequence,” the Veni, Sancte Spiritus: a chant of such unction that one never tires of repeating it.

The Suppression of a Great Joy

In some places in the Catholic world, Whit Monday was a reason to have a civil holiday, as well as a liturgical celebration. In this way, the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit marked even the secular culture. It came as shock, and brought no little distress to the faithful, when in 1969 the Octave of Pentecost suddenly disappeared from the calendar. It would appear that not even the Pope was apprised of the suppression of one of the Church’s great joys.

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For Pentecost I translated this passage from the Spiritual Journal of Concepción (Conchita) Cabrera de Armida. In it Our Lord speaks to Conchita concerning his plan for the sanctification of priests by the Holy Spirit through Mary.

"To obtain that which I ask, all priests must make a general consecration and a particular consecration to the Holy Spirit, not only of the diocese and of the nations, but also each one, personally, of their priestly souls, asking Him through the intercession of Mary, that He would descend upon them as in a new Pentecost, and that he would purify them, enamour then, possess them, unify them, sanctify them and transform them in Me.

The Holy Spirit is the great motor of the Church, her soul, her life, the One to whom belong the heartbeats of those who give themselves to Him. Let my priests do this and they will render glory to the Trinity, attaining the end which I pursue, that is, to console my Heart: for their own good and for the salvation of the world.

All depends on their response to that which I ask: be it their faithfulness and their love for Me; be it this transformation, this Union, this making of their will one single will with mine. Mary had an active role by which she caused that these graces should be poured out upon my priests and upon my Church. Let them be grateful sons, let them honour and love her always more, because they are the sons whom she loves more intimately, because, like the Saviour of the world, they have, in a certain sense, life from her life, from her immaculate being, from the maternal warmth of her Heart. I promise that this radical change will come to pass; I will reign above all in my priests, for I am the Universal King of my Church and of hearts."

Here is the Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit that the Venerable Servant of God, Concepcíon Cabrera de Armida was accustomed to renew:

Consecration to the Holy Spirit

O Holy Spirit,
receive the perfect and total consecration
of all my being.

Deign to be from this moment hence
in every instant of my life
and in my every action:
my Director, my Light, my Guide, my Strength
and all the Love of my heart.

I abandon myself without reserve to all Thy divine actions
and I want always to be docile to Thy inspirations.

Holy Spirit, transform me with Mary and in Mary
into Christ Jesus
for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world.
Amen.

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Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (1851-1926) was Archbishop of Malines, Belgium from 1906 until his death. Besides the heroic leadership he demonstrated during World War I, Cardinal Mercier hosted the famous Catholic-Anglican dialogue known as the Malines Conversations, and obtained the establishment of the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatress of All Graces with its proper Mass and Office. His spiritual mentor was Blessed Dom Columba Marmion. Here, in his own words, is the daily practice he recommended:

I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness.
Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world, in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do. Give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.


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Drawing upon the traditional mysteries of the rosary -- Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious, and the new mysteries of Light proposed by Pope John Paul II -- it becomes possible to pray through seven mysteries that, in a special way, reveal the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. I find it practical to use my Seven Dolours Rosary, with its "seven times seven" series of beads for this persevering invocation of the Holy Spirit through Mary.

1. The Annunciation, the “Proto-Pentecost” in which the Virgin is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). Ask for the Gift of Wisdom.

2. The Visitation in which Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:42), greets the Mother of her Lord. Ask for the Gift of Understanding.

3. The Baptism of Jesus, at which the Holy Spirit descended upon him “in bodily form, as a dove” (Lk 3:22). Ask for the Gift of Counsel.

4. The Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) at which, in response to the intervention of his Mother, Jesus provides wine in abundance prefiguring the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Gift of Fortitude.

5. The Death of Jesus Crucified who, “bowing his head, handed over his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Ask for the Gift of Knowledge.

6. The Resurrection of Jesus who, appearing to the disciples “on the evening of that day, the first day of the week” (Jn 20:19), “breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Ask for the Gift of Piety.

7. The Descent of the Holy Spirit “when the day of Pentecost had come” (Ac 2:1). Ask for the Gift of Holy Fear.

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Fifth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:5-18
John 14:21-26

And I Will Love Him

I am grateful to the Apostle Saint Jude for the marvelous dialogue recounted in today's Gospel. Our Lord reveals what it means to love Him and to be loved by Him. He declares that anyone who loves Him will be loved by the Father. He promises to love the one who loves Him and to manifest Himself to him. "He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (Jn 14:21).

The Way of Love

Saint Jude doesn't immediately grasp what Our Lord is saying. He cannot conceive of a way of knowing Christ apart from the obvious way given to all. Jude seems to think that it is enough to observe Jesus: something that everyone can do. That there should be a higher way of knowing, a more intimate way, the way of love, completely eludes him. "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (Jn 14:22).

We Will Make Our Home With Him

Our Lord explains that the manifestation of Himself to His disciples will be inseparable from His Father's love for them. He promises a mysterious indwelling: "We will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14:23). He declares that anyone who loves Him will hold fast to His words. Those who let go of His words, those who fail to store them up in their hearts, will not enjoy the manifestation reserved to His friends. They will remain strangers to the joy of the indwelling of the Father and the Son.

The Heart of Jesus

How can we not relate this Gospel to the tender love Our Lord revealed in manifesting Himself to the friends of His Sacred Heart over the centuries. To each one of them He said in a unique way, "Behold, I love you and manifest Myself to you, even as I promised."

The Virgin Mother and the Virgin Disciple

I am thinking above all of the Virgin Mother beneath whose own Pure Heart His Sacred Heart of flesh first began to beat. I am thinking of Saint John the Beloved Disciple who, inflamed by his experience of the Heart of Jesus, was compelled to write: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it" (1 Jn1:1-2).

Lovers of the Sacred Heart

I am thinking of Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude, Saint Mechthilde, Saint Lutgarde, and Saint Bonaventure. I am thinking of Saint Margaret Mary, of Saint Claude la Colombière, of Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, of Sister Josefa Menendez, of Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, Father Jean du Coeur de Jésus d'Elbée, and of so many others. For each one of these men and women Our Lord fulfilled the promise he makes in today's Gospel: "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn 14:21).

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Christ's Gift to Us

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, before being a gift of ours offered to Christ is a gift that He offers us. "If you but knew the gift of God!" (Jn 4:10). This is the clear teaching of Pope Pius XII in Haurietis Aquas: "We are perfectly justified in seeing in this same devotion . . . a gift without price which our divine Saviour . . . imparted to the Church, His mystical Spouse in recent centuries when she had to endure such trials and surmount so many difficulties" (HA, art. 2).

The Holy Spirit, Gift of the Heart of the Son

For Pope Pius XII, the Holy Spirit is the first Gift from the Heart of the risen Christ. This too is announced in today's Gospel: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). The work of the Holy Spirit is threefold. (1) The Holy Spirit is our Advocate with the Father, "interceding for us with sighs too deeps for words" because "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom 8:26). (2) The Holy Spirit is sent to teach us all things, that is, to make clear for us "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8). (3) The Holy Spirit is sent to quicken the memory of the Church, to bring to remembrance all that Christ said, lest any word of His be neglected or forgotten.

Advocate, Teacher, and Prompter

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Teacher, and our Prompter. As Advocate, the Holy Spirit aligns us with the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Father; "the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom 8:27), that is, according to the Heart of Christ. As Teacher, the Holy Spirit gives us "the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:18); in a word, the Holy Spirit teaches us the Heart of Christ. As Prompter, the Holy Spirit calls to mind the words by which Christ communicates to us all "the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3) hidden in His Sacred Heart.

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Called to a Vocation of Holiness

"I would remind thee to fan the flame of that special grace
which God kindled in thee
when my hands were laid upon thee.
The spirit he has bestowed on us is not one that shrinks from danger;
it is a spirit of action, of love, and of discipline.
Do not blush then for the witness thou bearest to our Lord,
or for me, who am his prisoner;
share all the tribulations of the Gospel message
as God gives thee strength.
Has he not saved us, and called us to a vocation of holiness?"
(2 Timothy 1:6–9)

Monthly Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit

On May 18, 1874, the Carmelite Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (1846–1878) beheld a chalice streaming with light and a dove. From the light she heard a voice saying:

I ardently desire that priests say a Mass each month in honour of the Holy Spirit. Whoever will say it or hear it will be honoured by the Holy Spirit Himself. He will have light, he will have peace. He will cure the sick. He will awaken those who are asleep.

True Devotion to the Paraclete

In June 1877, through the intermediary of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, she sent a message to Blessed Pope Pius IX, saying:

The world and religious communities are seeking novelties in devotions, and they are neglecting true devotion to the Paraclete. That is why there is error and disunion, and why there is no peace or light. They do not invoke the light as it should be invoked, and it is this light that gives knowledge of truth. It is neglected even in seminaries. . . .

Light for Priests

Every person in the world that will invoke the Holy Spirit and have devotion to Him will not die in error. Every priest that preaches this devotion will receive light while he is speaking of it to others.

I was told that each priest in the whole world should be required to say one Mass of the Holy Spirit each month, and all those who assist at it will receive very special grace and light.

I have tried, since my own ordination twenty-two years ago, to celebrate a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit on the first available ferial day of each month. For me it is a way of following Saint Paul's injunction to the young priest Timothy: "Fan the flame of that special grace which God kindled in thee, when my hands were laid upon thee" (2 Tim 1:6). The Roman Missal contains a wealth of texts for the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit and the Bride

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Our Lady and the Holy Spirit

Today’s feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, in its own special way, a feast of the Holy Spirit, a fitting sequel to the Solemnity of Pentecost that we celebrated just three weeks ago.

The Visitation

The Church ponders the mystery of the Visitation two or three times a year: today, on May 31st, in preparation for the solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th; during Advent, on December 21st; and again on the Fourth Sunday of Advent of the Year C.

The Roman liturgy gives us two Mass formularies for the Visitation: the one given in the Missal for May 31st, and a second one found in the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987). This latter contains four explicit mentions of the Holy Spirit. The translations are my own.

The Collect

O God, Saviour of mankind, who by the blessed Virgin Mary,
the ark of the new covenant, brought salvation and gladness
to the house of Elizabeth,
grant, we beseech you, that, by yielding to the breath of the Spirit,
we may carry Christ to our brothers and sisters,
magnifying you by our praises and by the holiness of our way of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

This Collect uses a very evocative phrase: “yielding to the breath of the Spirit.” To yield to the Holy Spirit requires suppleness; it obliges us to let go of our plans, to make changes in our program, to “arise and go with haste into the hill country” (Lk 1:39). In going to Elizabeth, Mary yielded to the breath of the Holy Spirit. Our Lady could do this because she was light as a feather carried on a gentle breeze; light, I say, because she was utterly poor —empty of self — and utterly virginal — pure capacity for God.

What keeps us from yielding to the breath of the Spirit if not the heaviness that clings to us and weighs us down, the burden of our preoccupation with self, the load of all our attachments? What happens when we yield — give in — to the breath of the Spirit? We may be carried where would rather not go. One thing is certain, and this too is in the Collect, we will be free to carry the hidden Christ, to others and to magnify God with praise and with holy living.

The Prayer Over the Offerings

Lord, we beseech you
let your Spirit hallow these our gifts,
the very Spirit who formed the Virgin Mary to be a new creature,
so that from her, bathed in dew from heaven,
would rise the fruit of salvation, Jesus Christ your Son,
who is Lord forever and ever.

This Prayer Over the Offerings asks the Father to hallow them by sending upon them the same Spirit who formed the Virgin Mary to be a new creature: an allusion to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit at the moment of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. It goes on to describe the Blessed Virgin as “bathed in dew from heaven”: a reference to her overshadowing by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation.

The Dew of Your Spirit

The same image of dew is used for the Holy Spirit at the Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer II: “Therefore, make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit, that they may become for us the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mary most holy, bathed in the dew of the Spirit, brought forth the fruit of salvation, the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus. That same fruit of salvation is given us in the Most Holy Eucharist, by the power of the same Spirit, descending invisibly like dew from heaven on our oblations of bread and wine.

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Blessed Columba Marmion (1858–1923) wrote this prayer to the Holy Spirit at the Abbey of Mont-César in Louvain on Christmas 1908. It is part of his Consecration to the Holy Trinity:

O Holy Spirit,
Love of the Father and of the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts,
and ever transport on high our thoughts, our affections, and our actions,
like ardent flames,
even into the bosom of the Father.
Let our entire life be a Gloria Patri,
et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto
.

Virginie Danion (1819–1900) founded the Community of Thanksgiving (L'Action de Grâces) of Mauron in France. At the end of the Octave of Pentecost she writes, "Oh! How I would want to prolong this week of the Holy Spirit! With what regret do it see it come to an end." Then she addresses the Holy Spirit:

O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, heart of my heart,
I want always to find Thee in the most intimate place of my being.
In this humble and hidden sanctuary thou wilt not be forsaken;
no longer wilt thou remain inactive,
and all that is within me shall obey Thee.
It is true that my wickedness, my faults, and my miseries
will often oppose Thee,
but Thou, all-powerful, wilt overturn, or break, or annihilate
all that would rise up against Thee.
The abyss that is Thine shall fill up the abyss that is mine.
Abyssus abyssum invocat.

I find that Virginie Danion's prayer has, however remotely, something of John Donne's magnificent Holy Sonnet XIV:

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.


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Apart from the universally treasured Veni Creator Spiritus and the Veni Sancte Spiritus there are a few prayers to the Holy Spirit that have rooted themselves in my heart and served me well over the years. I thought that I might share them with the readers of Vultus Christi.

I don't remember where or how I came across the first of these prayers. It was written by Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (1851–1926). I vaguely remember that it was printed on a little leaflet. Cardinal Mercier wrote this prayer on the back of a holy picture while on pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. In 1926, while preaching a retreat, he offered a little commentary on it:

"I am going to reveal to you a secret of holiness and of happiness. Every day for five minutes, silence your imagination, closing your eyes to things of the senses and your ears to all earthly sounds so as to withdraw into yourselves, and there in the sanctuary of your baptized soul, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, speak to that Divine Spirit, saying:

Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore Thee;
enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me;
tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it,
I promise to be submissive in everything that Thou shalt ask of me
and to accept all that Thou permittest to happen to me,
only show me what is Thy will.

If you do this, your life will flow along in happiness, serenity, and consolation, even in the midst of sorrows, because grace will be proportioned to your trials, giving you the strength to bear them, and you will arrive at the gates of Paradise laden with merits. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of holiness."

I found the second prayer when I was about fifteen years old. It was in a small paperback edition of the Pastoral Prayer of Saint Aelred, published in England. I believe it came into my hands on an early visit to Saint Joseph's Trappist Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The prayer so impressed me that I copied it out on the last blank page of the breviary I was using at the time:

"Lord, may Thy good, sweet Spirit descend into my heart,
and fashion there a dwelling for Himself,
cleansing it from all defilement both of flesh and spirit,
inpouring into it the increment of faith and hope and love,
disposing it to penitence and love and gentleness.
May He quench with the dew of His blessing the heat of my desires
and with His power put to death my carnal impulses and fleshly lusts.
In labours and in watchings and in fastings
may He afford me fervour and discretion,
to love and to praise Thee:
to pray and think of Thee:
and may He give me the power and devotion to order every act and thought
according to Thy will,
and also persevere in these virtues until my life's end. Amen."

To be continued.

Timor Domini

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Saturday: The Gift of Fear of the Lord

The Gift of Fear of the Lord is the antidote to pride and the beginning of the humility by which the soul arrives at union with God. In Chapter Seven of the Holy Rule Saint Benedict says: "The first degree of humility then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes, shunning all forgetfulness, and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded." The Gift of Holy Fear fills one with the utmost reverence for God and for all that pertains to his service. It makes one recoil from occasions of sin and desire a burning purity of heart for the worship of God “in the beauty of holiness” (Ps 95:9).

One deficient in fear of the Lord is careless in His service, easily flirts with temptation, and takes stupid risks, walking a tight rope over the abyss of sin. One lacking fear of God approaches holy things casually and treats lightly of what is sacred. American culture, especially suburban American culture, fosters a casual approach to all things, including the worship of the Divine Majesty. The past forty years have witnessed an incremental loss of reverence in our churches.

The Gift of the Fear of the Lord causes us to shun carelessness in His service. Fear of the Lord is far removed from anything resembling a morbid and self-centred scrupulosity; it is marked by joy in the Holy Spirit and fosters a holy boldness in the presence of the Father. One graced with Fear of the Lord knows that, hidden in the secret of the Face of Christ and assumed into His filial and priestly prayer to the Father, there is nothing to fear.

Fear of the Lord colours the way we carry out the Sacred Liturgy; it inspires a loving attention even to the smallest details. It constitutes a kind of enclosure around the Holy of Holies lest we fall into an attitude of casual familiarity and into the soulless routine that is the death of true devotion. Fear of the Lord imbues us with a holy awe and with that quality of “Eucharistic amazement” which Pope John Paul II sought to reawaken in the Church during his Year of the Eucharist. Finally, the Gift of Fear of the Lord associates us with the angels who, with veiled faces, tremble and ceaselessly cry out: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is 6:3).

Pietas

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Friday: The Gift of Piety

Pietas is a word wonderfully rich in meaning and full of nuances. It is notoriously difficult to translate. In the end one settles for “piety,” and then tries to unpack some of the meaning of the word. Piety has to do with the relations between a father and his child, and between a child and his father. People will sometimes say of a certain man, "He is utterly devoted to his children"; this is paternal piety. People will sometimes say of a son, "He is utterly devoted to his father"; this is filial piety.

Before we can begin to understand anything of the filial piety we owe God, we have to reflect on the paternal piety of God toward us. God relates to us not as a master to his slave, but as the most tender of fathers to his child. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 1:11–13). God is utterly devoted to each of His children by adoption.

We in turn are bound to offer God the dutiful obedience of loving children: piety is the expression in daily life of filial devotedness to the Heavenly Father. The Gift of Piety strengthens the virtue of religion, making us zealous for the worship of God and eager to put all that we are and do into the hands of Christ the Priest to be offered to the Father in His Sacrifice. Piety is the gift by which everything in life is ordered ad Patrem, toward the Father. One might say that the Gift of Piety unites the soul to the inner dispositions of Christ revealed throughout the Fourth Gospel: “He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29). To my mind, the Church's Doctor Pietatis ought to be Blessed Columba Marmion.

The Gift of Piety delivers one from that oppressive sense of obligation that makes all things burdensome and tedious. One lacking the Gift of Piety has no zeal for prayer. Both private and liturgical prayer are carried out in a perfunctory manner, often with one eye on the clock. One contents oneself with doing the bare minimum. One short on piety asks, “How little can I get away with doing and still fulfill the letter of the law?” One graced with the Gift of Piety asks: “How much can do to show my Father that I love him, that I am attached to him, and that all my joy is in the service of His majesty.”

Scientia

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Thursday: The Gift of Knowledge

“How deep is the mine of God's wisdom, of his knowledge; how inscrutable are his judgments, how undiscoverable his ways! Who has ever understood the Lord's thoughts, or been his counsellor?” (Rom 11:33-34).

The Gift of Knowledge is a way of seeing to the core of things. It is insight into situations and persons. It is a light projected onto the Word of God or, again, a light projected from the Word of God into the heart. It is that occasional pulling back of the corner of the veil that gives one just a fleeting glance into the inscrutable mysteries of God.

The Gift of Knowledge produces a quiet joy in the soul, a delight in the truth, a desire for union with the Beloved. In this way, the Gift of Knowledge is directly related to the development of the twelfth fruit of the Holy Spirit: chastity.

The Gift of Knowledge allows one to sort things out in the light of God; it obliges one to a closer conformity with His designs. With knowledge comes responsibility. With knowledge also comes a deeper capacity for compassion. The Gift of Knowledge does not make one an arrogant know-it-all. It makes one meek and lowly of heart. Above all it fills the soul with admiration, making one sing, Quam magnificata sunt opera tua, Domine! “How great are thy works, O Lord! Thou hast made all things in wisdom” (Ps 103:24). The more one uses the Gift of Knowledge, the lower one descends into adoration.

A Gift for Each Day

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The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit? The Catechism names them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is customary to associate each day of the Octave of Pentecost with one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Pentecost Sunday: Wisdom
Monday: Understanding
Tuesday: Counsel
Wednesday: Fortitude
Thursday: Knowledge
Friday: Piety
Saturday: Fear of the Lord

The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are rooted in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The three theological virtues come directly from God and are ordered directly to union with God; they give us the capacity to live as children of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, that is, in a state of grace. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit allow us to express the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity in daily life; they make us docile in following divine inspirations. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit flower in the faithful soul and mature into the Holy Spirit's Twelve Fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, and purity.

Pentecost Sunday: The Gift of Wisdom

The Gift of Wisdom gives a taste for the things that will make us truly happy. The wise person is one who consistently and habitually chooses the things that will make him happy, not with a fleeting, deceptive happiness, but with the happiness that comes from being in right relationship with God. Saint Paul, graced with wisdom, says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The Gift of Wisdom is that by which one “sets nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). One graced with wisdom knows what will make him happy because he has tasted it; he sings with the psalmist, “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet; blessed is the man who hopes in him” (Ps 33:8).

The Gift of Wisdom makes one take delight in the companionship of the saints, in the example of their lives, and in their writings. The saints are wisdom’s children. A proverb says, “Tell me with whom you keep company, and I will tell you who you are.” The wise Christian never tires of reading the lives of the saints; he prays before their images, kneels humbly before their relics, and, in their company, discovers wisdom’s secrets.

One who lacks wisdom makes foolish choices. There will be disorder in his priorities: an inability to put first things first. One who lacks wisdom will have little or no taste for the things of God, for things holy, heavenly, and divine. He will forever be looking elsewhere for happiness. The unwise person lacks stability. In his search for happiness he knocks at all the wrong doors, passing by the one door open to receive him: the pierced Heart of Christ.

Pentecost Monday: The Gift of Understanding

The Gift of Understanding opens the mind and heart to the splendour of the truth. One graced with understanding is at home in an adoring silence. One graced with understanding will be open to God, receptive to the truth and, for that reason, always full of wonderment and ready to adore.

The Gift of Understanding is the undoing of pride. The prideful person clings to his own perceptions and resists growth, saying, “I know what I know, and what I know is enough for me.” One lacking the gift of understanding is literally unintelligent, that is to say, he cannot read the deeper meaning of events and circumstances. He approaches the Word of God superficially and skims on the surface of the Sacred Liturgy instead of plunging into its depths.

The Gift of Understanding pushes one to one’s knees in the presence of God. The Gift of Understanding also makes one compassionate toward others. Understanding the ways of God is the beginning of understanding the human person created in His image and likeness. Understanding produces joy, the joy of discovering the glory of God “shining in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6), and the joy of perceiving that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

Pentecost Tuesday: The Gift of Counsel

The Gift of Counsel enables one to make choices in harmony with the providence of the Father, the mind of Christ, and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. With the Gift of Counsel one walks securely and serenely, know that it is possible at every moment to consult the best of Counselors, “soul’s sweet Guest.” The Virgin Mary, associated with the Holy Spirit in all His works, is the Mother of Good Counsel. She is present to us in our perplexities, close to us when we stand at life’s crossroads. “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5) is the word of loving encouragement she addresses to the disciples of her Son.

One without the gift of counsel suffers an endless succession of false starts and goes from one spiritual calamity to another. He acts hastily, is easily manipulated, and makes decisions under the sway of emotions, especially fear. One graced with the Gift of Counsel, on the other hand, will be serene, calm, and full of trust that God’s kindly light will lead him one step at a time.

Pentecost Wednesday: The Gift of Fortitude

The Gift of Fortitude makes one distrust oneself and place all one’s trust in the strength that comes from the grace of Christ. “Separated from me, “ says Our Lord, “you have no power to do anything” (Jn 15:5). He does not say, “Separated from me you can do something,” or “you can do a little bit.” It is the grace of Christ that makes all the difference. The words of Our Lord to Saint Paul give the measure of the Gift of Fortitude: “My grace is enough for thee; my strength finds its full scope in thy weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Saint Paul, taking the word of the Lord to heart, declares: “Nothing is beyond my powers, thanks to the strength God gives me” (Ph 4:13).

It is in the martyrs that we see the most striking illustration of the Gift of Fortitude. The Preface of the Mass of Holy Martyrs sings: “You make strength perfect in weakness, and you strengthen our feeble powers, that they might bear witness to you.” Children give yet another illustration of the Gift of Fortitude, as striking as it is touching. I am thinking, in particular, of Saint Agnes, Saint Maria Goretti, the Blessed Children of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Nennolina.

One graced with the Gift of Fortitude goes along steadily; he is not intimidated by the apparent force of evil. He faces challenges, weaknesses, temptations, trials, and setbacks with equanimity and courage, knowing that no matter what befalls him the power of Christ is stronger, and the power of Christ is his, communicated to the weak by the Holy Spirit, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist: the food and drink of the strong.

To be continued.


Veni Sancte Spiritus

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This is, I think, my favourite English translation of the "Golden Sequence," the Veni Sancte Spiritus. I found it in Maurice Zundel's classic, The Splendour of the Liturgy (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1939), a book to which I return again and again, and always with a new delight.

Holy Spirit, come and shine
On our souls with beams divine,
Issuing from thy radiance bright.

Come, O Father of the poor,
Ever bounteous of thy store,
Come, our hearts' unfailing light.

Come, consoler, kindest, best,
Come our bosom's dearest guest,
Sweet refreshment, sweet repose.

Rest in labour, coolness sweet,
Tempering the burning heat,
Truest comfort of our woes.

O divinest light, impart
Unto every faithful heart,
Plenteous streams from love's bright flood.

But for thy Blest Deity,
Nothing pure in man could be:
Nothing harmless, nothing good.

Wash away each sinful stain,
Gently shed thy gracious rain
On the dry and fruitless soil.

Heal each wound and bend each will,
Warm our hearts benumbed and chill,
All our wayword steps control.

Unto all thy faithful just,
Who in thee confide and trust,
Deign thy sevenfold gift to send.

Grant us virtue's blest increase,
Grant a death of hope and peace,
Grant the joys that never end.

Amen. Alleluia.

Whitsunday

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A Pentecost Meditation

Alleluia!
Today the Spirit of the Lord has invaded the cosmos and filled it!
Life spills out of the Cenacle
and, like a torrent of wine,
courses through the streets of Jerusalem.
God arises and His enemies are scattered;
those that hate Him flee before his face,
and those that love Him sing: Alleluia!

Today He who came down to see Babel’s tower
and confused the speech of the proud
visits the Upper Room.
He unties the tongues of the humble
and unites into one holy people those long divided by sin.
Amazed at what she sees and hears,
the Church intones her birthday song: Alleluia!

Today He who on Sinai descended in fire,
causing rocks to quake and peaks to pale,
descends upon Jerusalem;
tongues of fire dance over the heads of those
who, cloistered in the Cenacle, waited to meet their God
and at His coming, they cry out: Alleluia.

Today the valley of dry bones
begins to stir, to rattle, and to reverberate.
Behold, I will cause the Spirit to enter you,
and you shall live:
and they lived and stood upon their feet,
an exceeding great host
singing: Alleluia!

Today the Cenacle sealed like tomb
opens, a joyful Mother’s fruitful womb.
None was ever born of the Spirit
who did not take his birth from her,
and each, claiming from her the springs of his life,
calls her forever glorious, repeating: Alleluia!

Today the Spirit is poured out in superabundance;
today sons and daughters prophesy;
today old men dream dreams and young men see visions;
today menservants and maidservants
join the choir to chant with one many-tongued voice: Alleluia!

Today the Virgin whom the Spirit covered with His shadow
is wrapped in Love and crowned in flame.
Today the Woman who interceded at Cana
tastes New Wine, for the Hour has come.
Today the Mother who stood watching by the Tree
remembers the stream of water and of blood
and filled with sweetness, cries: Alleluia!
Today the Spirit helps us in our weakness
and we who do not know to pray as we ought,
pray in a way that is wonderful and new;
for now the Spirit Himself intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.
In the valley of the shadow of death
there rises the canticle of life: Alleluia!

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Invoke the Holy Spirit

We ought to pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness.

The Forgiveness of Sins

And chiefly that first requisite of man, the forgiveness of sins, must be sought for from Him: "It is the special character of the Holy Ghost that He is the Gift of the Father and the Son. Now the remission of all sins is given by the Holy Ghost as by the Gift of God" (Summ. Th. 3a, q. iii., a. 8, ad 3m). Concerning this Spirit the words of the Liturgy are very explicit: "For He is the remission of all sins" (Roman Missal, Tuesday after Pentecost).

Sweet Guest of the Soul

How He should be invoked is clearly taught by the Church, who addresses Him in humble supplication, calling upon Him by the sweetest of names: "Come, Father of the poor! Come, Giver of gifts! Come, Light of our hearts! O, best of Consolers, sweet Guest of the soul, our refreshment!" (Veni Sancte Spiritus). She earnestly implores Him to wash, heal, water our minds and hearts, and to give to us who trust in Him "the merit of virtue, the acquirement of salvation, and joy everlasting." Nor can it be in any way doubted that He will listen to such prayer, since we read the words written by His own inspiration: "The Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings" (Rom 8., 26).

Trentotto anni di messa!

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For The Reverend Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins on the 38th Anniversary of His Ordination to the Holy Priesthood:

"The Holy Spirit will honour Mary and, through Mary, the Holy Spirit will be honoured, beginning from the heart of priests. Two new glories are held in reserve for the world: the reign of the Holy Spirit through Mary and a new awareness stirred up by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual and Christian world of the sorrowful and loving years of Mary's solitude. In these two things, I too will be honoured together with my Father from whom I never separate myself, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

And so, if my priests want to make progress in virtue they must do it by means of Mary; if they want to grow in knowledge and in love for the Holy Spirit, they must become ever more hers. More and more then let them make known and glorify these years of her solitude.

There is nothing surer than to avail themselves of the Holy Spirit and of Mary for their transformation into Me and, even more, for the perfection (insofar as this is possible on earth) of the union of the members of the Church among themselves, and the perfect Unity in the Trinity that I am seeking in a thousand ways."

The text is from Sacerdoti di Cristo by Conchita Cabrera de Armida, p. 387. The translation is my own.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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