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Saturday, May 19, 2012

From the Pastor - Come, Holy Spirit

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

The great feasts of Christmas and Easter have their Advent and Lent for preparation, but there is little of the sort for Pentecost, which is celebrated next week, although the liturgies of the week before are filled with anticipation. The Resurrection of Christ and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit on the Church fifty days later are inseparable, and there was what we might call a Pre-Pentecost on Easter itself when Christ breathed on the apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and who sins you retain are retained” (John 20: 22-23). On the actual Pentecost, the whole Church would be inspired with fire from Heaven.

The hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” invoking the Holy Spirit is sung at the Church’s important events, and most fervently at the conferral of Holy Orders. I remember Archbishop Dominic Tang Yee-min of Canton preaching to American seminarians and saying three times: “No pope, no Catholic Church!” He had been confined to a Communist prison for twenty-two years for loyalty to the papacy. We can also say, “No priest, no Catholic Church!” Every Christian is imbued with the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and the priest has a special measure of that gift so that he might serve the people. For many years in our country there has been a deafness to the Holy Spirit’s call to priestly service, for we hear Him with our hearts, and hardness of heart is the spiritual equivalent of hardness of hearing. Happily, invocations of the Holy Spirit seem to have stirred up solid vocations recently, and the present number of 3,723 seminarians in our country is the highest in nearly twenty-five years.

Among the young men from our own parish studying for the priesthood, three hope to be ordained to the diaconate later this year. This past week I had the privilege of giving the annual retreat at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers for those preparing for ordination in our archdiocese. I’d have to say that all of them seem more certain of what is the solid meat of doctrine than was the tone when I was in seminary, and they are very much in the mold of the present Pontiff as shepherds of souls. God willing, they will be priests in one of the most challenging times in Christian history, and our culture will not afford them the perquisites and comforts that an earlier and more Christian culture provided, but that circumstance will also make for stronger hearts and voices for the conversion and care of souls.

Everyone has a vocation to some state of life and some particular service, and the Holy Spirit guides each in discerning what that is. In this season, then, it is especially fitting to pray, “Come Holy Spirit. Enlighten the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love.”

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