May 11, 2016

Pope Francis and a dream for Pentecost

By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *
Pope Francis and a dream for Pentecost

This Sunday, the Church brings to completion the Paschal Season by bestowing the Holy Spirit on us in the Liturgy, rich and beautiful.

The Birthday of the Church

On that first Pentecost morning two thousand years ago, the frightened apostolic community had already been huddled together for ten days awaiting the Holy Spirit.  Jesus had promised to send them his Paraclete-Counselor and Advocate.  The Eleven were present, as were the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the women who had attended to his needs, and the various followers of the Lord.  

At nine o’clock, a sound like that of a mighty wind filled the house.  Then what seemed to be tongues of fire came down and rested on the heads of each of those present.   As the Church came to birth, the Holy Spirit opened to all the knowledge of God and brought together the many languages of the earth in the profession of one faith. “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).  

The apostolic community was transformed from venal and fearful followers to strong and fearless apostles, serving as the Lord’s witnesses in the four corners of the earth.  The ecstatic experience that overwhelmed them that day would be tested time and again. 

The blessings of the Holy Spirit were not limited to that day two thousand years ago.  They come to us in our own day in our own milieu.

The Paraclete Will Teach You Everything

Jesus promised that his Spirit would teach us everything we need to know and remind us of all that he 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.  Our Advocate prods, protects, pleads, and intercedes for us before the Father and inspires us not only to do good but in many cases to do heroic things. 

Though the Holy Spirit is described in metaphors—as fire and love, breath and wind, springs of water, energy and power, as fire and water, justice, and artistic creativity—our Spirit-Advocate is the outpouring of love between Father and Son.  

The action of the Advocate can pass unnoticed because God does not reveal to us his plans.  God is a God of surprise.  This is why the sacrament of the present moment is so important because in the moment, the Spirit-God reveals the graces we need and a way of following them. The Spirit is at work always and everywhere leading us forward to the eternal, always seeking new ways of bringing forth new fruit (Jn 16:13). What the Spirit desires of us is just one virtue, that of docility to those promptings.

The International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen

On May 6th, Pope Francis received the prestigious Charlemagne Award, a prize conferred on those who have contributed to the ideals of reconciliation and peace among nations. In the presence of hundreds of diplomats, the Pontiff responded in a simple and direct way.  He delivered what could be construed as his own “I have a dream” reflection.

The United States, a Child of Europe . . .

Though the Pontiff’s response was intended for the European community of nations, it can be applied in large measure to Americans. In the quotations given below, substitute ‘USA’ for ‘Europe, and you will grasp the strength of his concerns, hopes, and dreams.

The question he asked in 2014, “Europe, what has become of you” was answered in last week’s response. “I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable to being a mother:  a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life.  I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything.”   

“I dream of a Europe of families with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption. I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone without neglecting its duties toward all, of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”

What do we need?  A rebirth after years of world-wide conflict that rages on in Syria, the Middle East, and Africa. 

What do we need?  “A new European humanism” for the rebirth of a continent that cannot forsake her roots and her history.  Indeed the Church “can and must contribute” to this process, he said: that is, men and women must witness to the Gospel and use its “pure water to irrigate the roots of Europe.”  

The Pope Speaks of Our Youth

The Pope stressed that all countries—the smallest and the greatest—have an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society.”  He exhorted youth:  ‘you are not the future of our people but the present.’  He posed some questions to those in attendance:

“How can we tell them that they are essential players in this rebirth when for so many there is widespread unemployment?”

“How can we avoid losing our youth who end up going elsewhere in search of their dreams and a sense of belonging because here in their own countries, we don’t know how to offer them opportunities and values?” 

Can the Spirit’s outpouring transform us and our families?  Can the Advocate’s outpouring transform the community, the Body of Christ as it did the community at Pentecost?  Yes, incrementally but with our cooperation. 

 Three Prayers for Pentecost

Three prayers to the Holy Spirit stand out for their beauty, majesty and vitality.  They form an integral part of the Church, East and West.  In Eastern Christianity, the following prayer is chanted on Pentecost and at other times during the year: “Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, the Treasury of Blessings and the Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, cleanse us of all stain and save our souls, O Good One!”         

Veni Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost of the Roman Rite. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Praised by many for its beauty and depth, the hymn has been finally attributed to Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury. 

VENI, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium. COME, Holy Ghost,
send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium. O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium. O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
the pilgrim's sweet relief.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium. Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium. O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium. Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium. Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium. To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium. Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,

VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora. COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio. O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura. Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti. Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium. Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore. Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Amen. Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.
Amen.

Image credit: vjpaul via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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].

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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