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June 04, 2014
The Gift of a Lifetime
By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *

By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *

In the court of justice, lawyers mediate, advocate, and plead for their clients.  They stand with and for them.  An advocate is one who is called to help someone in need of counsel.  They help them make wise decisions.   In Italian, the word for lawyer is avvocato.  The Greek word parakletos is a legal term signifying advocate, helper, and mediator. 

When Jesus told the Twelve at the Last Supper: “I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever,” he was encouraging them to take heart. On his Ascension into heaven, the Father would send them the Holy Spirit, the fullness of all good gifts.  The Spirit would remain with them and counsel them through thick and thin.

The Coming of the Advocate

On that first Pentecost morning, the community had already been huddled together for ten days awaiting the Paraclete.  The Eleven were there, as were Mary, the mother of Jesus, the holy women who had been so attentive to his needs, and the various followers of the Lord.  The Acts of the Apostles records that at nine o’clock, a sound like that of a mighty wind filled the house and what seemed to be tongues of fire came down on each of them.  What was the immediate result?  “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit who enabled them to speak in foreign tongues, as the Spirit gave utterance to each” (Acts 2:3, 4). 

What do we notice?  The Advocate was given to all gathered there, all one hundred and twenty and not just to the Eleven or to Mary alone. The gifts of the Spirit were poured out on the entire community. What happened to them that morning? They were transformed from venal and fearful men and women to brave and fearless apostles. As such, they would be witnesses to the Resurrection of the Lord wherever they went.  The ecstatic experience that overwhelmed them would be tested time and again.  Can the Spirit’s outpouring transform today’s Body of Christ as it did to the community at Pentecost?  Yes, but gradually.

The Holy Spirit is God’s very own Self standing beside us teaching us everything—everything we need to know and remind us of all that Jesus taught.  The Paraclete is our divine solicitor on whom we can call at any time. As the soul of the Church, as its animating principle, the Spirit-Paraclete comforts and consoles, supports, prods, protects, pleads, and intercedes for us before the Father. 

It is true that the Holy Spirit is described as fire and love, breath and wind, springs of water, energy and power, as fire and water, justice, art, and artistic creativity. But these are metaphors.  Our Spirit-Advocate, the outpouring of love between Father and Son, inspires us not only to do good but in many cases to do heroic things.  Which brings us to D-Day.

The Case for Spiritual and Secular Witness

This week Americans and other nations commemorate the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.  It doesn’t matter if we were not born then.  The records of history, documentaries, and films vividly tell of the heroism shown on that June 6 day. How many thousands of service men, service women, and civilians gave their lives in heroic service for our country not only at Normandy but in other battle zones as well!  We have been honored to meet some of the greatest generation who, by their very presence, teach today’s generation what it means to be an American. 

The story of the five Sullivan brothers has been one of the most frequently told narratives of World War II even though they did not take part in that “longest day” on the Normandy coast. They and their sister, Genevieve, were raised in a closely-knit, Catholic family. The five boys were so committed to one another that their motto was “we stick together.”  They requested to be permitted to serve on the same ship, and in February, 1942, they were assigned to USS Juneau whose destination was the Pacific.  One was married and had an infant child. Tragically, on November 13, 1942, all five lost their lives when the newly-commissioned ship sank during the Battle of Guadalcanal.  It was only six months after their commission. The brothers ranged in age from twenty to twenty-eight.  Three died instantly, one drowned the next day, and the last died from delirium.

After the war, the Sullivan parents, Thomas and Alleta, toured the country promoting war bonds.  Here is an example of one family’s witness to both secular and spiritual ideals.  In deep gratitude, we commend them and all other war heroes to the hands of Providence.

Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (Ph.L), musicology (Ph.D.), theology (M.A.), and liturgical studies (Ph.D). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her e-mail address is [email protected].
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August 21, 2014

Saint Pius X, Pope

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Mt 19:23-30

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