Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 2, 2020
To quote Michael Jordan, "I'm back." (No, I'm not comparing myself to Michael Jordan. If anything I'm like Jud Buechler...at best--no disrespect to Jud.) I have returned from my 30-Day silent retreat. Thank you all for your understanding and support, and thank you especially to Father Emanuel and the parish staff who kept the place running.
Speaking of staff, I would like to welcome again the new principal of Saint Juliana School, Ms. Cathie Scotkovsky. Cathie started July 1st and has been hard at work getting ready for the new school year. She is an SJS alum herself and we are very excited for her leadership of our school!
Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in the . Pentecost, the 50th and final day of the Easter Season, celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the book of , ushering in the beginning of the Church. 50 Days after Jesus' resurrection (and 10 days after his Ascension), the apostles were gathered together, confused and contemplating their future purpose and mission. On Pentecost, a flame rested upon the shoulders of the apostles, and they began to speak in tongues (languages), by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus Pentecost is a time for many Catholics and other Christians to celebrate two important realities: the Holy Spirit and the Church.
“Holy Spirit, Lord of Light,
From the clear celestial height,
Thy pure beaming radiance give.”
is the opening verse of the great Sequence hymn for Pentecost, “Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Please view the full taize version below and feel free to sing along... Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “You that are Israelites,[a] listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth,[b] a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death,[c] because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites,[d] I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David[e] spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah,[f]saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at[g] the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah,[h] this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The First Converts
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Life among the Believers
43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k]and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
This novena in honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas since it was first made at the direction of Our Lord Himself when He sent His apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII asked the whole church to renew its devotion by praying a Novena to the Holy Spirit in the nine days leading up to Pentecost (Divinum Illud Munus). He asked that this novena be done every year in every parish throughout the world. Addressed to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, it is a powerful plea for the light and strength and love so sorely needed by every Christian. It focuses on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT To be recited daily during the Novena
On my knees I before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, “Speak Lord for Your servant heareth.” Amen.
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT To be recited daily during the Novena
O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit on Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.
Holy Spirit! Lord of Light! From Your clear celestial height, Your pure beaming radiance give!*
The Holy Spirit
Only one thing is important — eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared–sin? Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.”
Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Spirit, and hast given us forgiveness all sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us your sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.
Come. Father of the poor. Come, treasures which endure; Come, Light of all that live!*
The Gift of Fear
The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. “They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls.”
Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set you, my Lord and God, before my face forever, help me to shun all things that can offend You, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Your Divine Majesty in heaven, where You live and reign in the unity of the ever-Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.
Thou, of all consolers best, Visiting the troubled breast, Dost refreshing peace bestow.*
The Gift of Piety
The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.
Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.
Thou in toil art comfort sweet, Pleasant coolness in the heat, solace in the midst of woe.*
The Gift of Fortitude By the gift of Fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to under take without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”
Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.
Light immortal! Light Divine! Visit Thou these hearts of Thine, And our inmost being fill!*
The Gift of Knowledge
The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth–in their relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. “Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it.”
Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.
If Thou take Thy grace away, nothing pure in man will stay, All his good is turn’d to ill.*
The Gift of Understanding
Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion BY faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy Light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.
Heal our wounds–our strength renews; On our dryness pour Thy dew, Wash the stains of guilt* away.
The Gift of Counsel
The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. “Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth.”
Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen warm the chill. Guide the steps that go astray!*
The Gift of Wisdom
Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written “all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.” It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: “Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.
Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.
Thou, on those who evermore Thee confess and Thee Adore, in Thy sevenfold gift, Descend; Give Them Comfort when they die; Give them Life with Thee on high; Give them joys which never end. Amen *
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.
Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.
"The Lily of the Valley" is an epithet for the Blessed Virgin. In simply describing this May flower we can see a few attributes of Mary.
The lily, with its white petals, symbolizes purity. The Easter Lily's flower, atop the straight stem (honesty), is in the shape of a trumpet, pointing up to heaven, as if it is announcing the good news of the Resurrection. But it is also in an open position, able to receive the gifts and love of God. Inside the flower are seven gold (in some cases, red) seeds. The seven sacraments and gifts of the Holy Spirit come from God. And in connection to purity, the red seeds symbolize the fire of love for God that burns within the virgin's heart. The Blessed Virgin is no shrinking violet. She is a burning bush.
The posture of lily of the valley species is slightly different. The bell-shaped flower on the wilted stem points to the ground, symbolizing a teardrop and the virtue of humility. Mary, in saying "I am the handmaid of the Lord," has no ounce of pride.
The lily is the first of the spring flowers to bloom, sprouting from the cold earth around March 25th (the Annunciation). These hardy and fragrant perennials grow abundantly, rapidly and in any environment, be it a valley, plain, manicured garden or a wild field. Wherever they be, they beautify the landscape. Hosea, prophesying the growth of Israel, said, "he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon" (Hosea 14:5).
"Consider the lily of the fields," Jesus himself told us. "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29). We should consider Mary, the Lily of the Valley and greatest flower of all.
The website for Amazon lists 60,000 books on “leadership.” It is a hot topic these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what makes for a good leader and what leaders are supposed to do.
During these days in which our local church has just ordained eight new priests and 23 new deacons, we should take a moment and reflect on the leadership qualities that are expected of those who lead us. Obvious ones come to mind. A servant-leader should be selfless, patient, collaborative, decisive, hardworking, visionary. Most books list those and other qualities.
But one quality for leadership that is specific to church life, dating back to the earliest days in our tradition, is often overlooked: Leaders in the church are first of all to be “witnesses of the Resurrection.”
That is what we learn in reading the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. There Peter identifies the criteria for selecting a replacement for Judas. In addition to being with Jesus throughout his earthly life, hearing his words and seeing his many deeds, the candidate to be named as one of the 12 also had to be “a witness to his resurrection.”
Surely one who leads in the church must know and witness to Jesus, who lived 2,000 years ago as recounted in the Scriptures and tradition. Getting to know Jesus, especially through the Gospels, must be at the center of all ministry formation.
But that must include not only Jesus who walked along the shores of Galilee and lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Ministers in the church must also bear witness to the Risen Lord, as one who is present and active in the world today.
By making one’s witness to the Risen Lord the priority, church leaders keep ever fresh in their minds that Jesus is the one taking the lead, not them. Their job is to discern and point out where he is leading us. Such an approach to ministry distinguishes leadership in the church in a number of ways.
First, it eases the burdens of leadership, as Jesus told his first disciples: “take my yoke upon your shoulders, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30). Instead of being burdened with the task of taking the initiative, mapping out a way forward and defining goals, servant leaders in the church are confident that everything for the salvation of the world, as St. Paul often reminds the early Christians, does not depend on our works but is proceeding according to God’s own design (cf., 2 Tm 1).
This is a warning to church leaders not to take themselves too seriously, as if everything rises and falls on them. They should always remember that it is the Lord who takes the initiative and they are called to be attentive to all that he is doing.
Pursuing leadership in this way also has a calming effect in moments of great challenge and even crisis. I always like what St. John XXIII recounts in his memoirs. After a very heavy day, filled with the many seemingly intractable problems he faced as pope, he would simply say to Jesus, “It’s your church, Lord; I am going to bed.” This great pope was able to remain serene and composed as he carried out his ministry, because he knew that the Risen Lord was once again in the boat with him as Peter’s successor.
Finally, servant-leaders, for whom witnessing to the Risen Lord is the priority, are able to provide a hopeful vision, for they remind the community that Christ is always doing something new. No challenge is too daunting, no crisis too overwhelming. The future is not intimidating, nor is the past confining, for Christ is the Lord of history, who is moving all of creation forward by his plan and design.
Surely, servant-leaders in the church must have the skill set to respond to the everyday needs of the community living in this temporal world. They must have integrity, know how to consult, collaborate, give direction and take hard decisions. More is required for those who serve as leaders in a church that recognizes that Jesus is alive and at work in ways that are ever new and that need to be discerned.
It is up to servant-leaders in the church to be attentive to all that the Risen Lord Jesus is doing, for it is their witness to it that inspires and gives direction to the pilgrim people of God as they march through time until all things promised are fulfilled.
George Washington's Farewell Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, second to Lincoln's address at Gettysburg. It has been analyzed, referenced, and reenacted (the speech is read every year on the US Senate floor on February 22) countless times.
Washington didn't actually deliver publicly the over-seven thousand word address. It appeared in the newspapers on September 19, 1776. The father of the nation indicated he would not seek a third term as President of the United States. He would instead "retire" to his home in Mount Vernon. This was truly his desire since the end of the Revolutionary War. He simply wanted to tend his land. He truly was a 'Cincinnatus'.
Washington warns, in the address, against division: geographic, political, international. But he is also positive, attempting to guide the people and leave an American legacy. "The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity," he wrote, "must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local distinctions."
Washington wanted to form an American identity in the people. They were no longer British colonists. Nor were they citizens of a particular state, federalists, republicans, farmers, soldiers, whatever. They were Americans.
We read from the Gospel of John this week part of Christ's 'farewell address.' It's better than Washington's. His 'command' to the people (just like Washington 'commanded' the people not to be divisive) was: "love one another" (John 13:34).
Michelangelo's pietà—the image of Mary holding her dead son at the foot of the cross—was perhaps the most famous depiction of the subject until this past week. Now, I argue, it is the pietà underneath the high altar of Notre Dame in Paris. Two images of the sculpture just after the monumental fire stand out. One is of three French firefighters looking into the smoke-filled nave of the church. The statue can barely be seen, other than the brilliant gold cross above Mary. The other image is of the statue with a pile of charred rubble before it.
Yes, the pietà at Notre-Dame de Paris is a symbol of resilience, just like the cathedral itself. The 800-year-old church survived the Black Plague, the 100 Years War, the French Revolution, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler, who wanted to burn it. But Notre Dame is something more, which is why this fire made the front page of every town's newspaper in the world. A church is, fundamentally, our gift of worship and praise to God. Sure, we celebrate community and even the sacraments in a church, and we are inspired by the art, the preaching and the music. But a church building is not about us. It is about God. The cross is God's gift to us. Our gift in reciprocation is a church. And Notre Dame—the most beautiful church in the world—is the best we as a human race can give.
And it burned. It is up for us now, individually, to give as a gift to God our hearts. Lay your burned heart before Christ when you venerate the cross, and your gift will be greater than Notre Dame.