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Saturday, May 26, 2012

From the Pastor - A Red Letter Day

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

The term “Red Letter Day” goes back to 325 AD when the First Council of Nicaea decreed that great feasts be marked in red on the calendar. Pentecost is quite literally a Red Letter Day since its liturgical color is red, to match the fire that came down on the apostles fifty days after the Resurrection remade the world.

Saint Augustine said that God made us without our help, but He will not remake us without our cooperation. We did not invent the biological process by which we were conceived and, as zygotes, given the 38 chromosomes that encode the physical nature we have throughout life, but we do have a moral freedom to decide how we are going to use that physical life. The Holy Spirit gives each of us in Confirmation, as he gave the whole Church at the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, seven powers to enable God to make us what He wants us to be: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

It is good to study the subtle differences between these gifts. This can easily be done by reading the Catechism, and praying daily for their increase. This is what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta meant when she used to say so often, “Just give God permission.”

There is no need to regret lost opportunities when we still have the breath of life, if we let the Holy Spirit breathe into that life the love that made us. What you might have wanted to become does not matter, so long as you let God make you what he intends you to be. Thomas S. Jones, Jr., a New York poet who died in 1932, wrote a gentle poem that still crops up from time to time:

Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play –
The lad I used to be.

And yet he smiles wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder if he hopes to see
The man I might have been.

We would be condemned to perpetual wistfulness at the contemplation of unfilled promise, were it not for what the Holy Spirit can still make us with our consent. Aristotle taught that the qualities of a good rhetorician are Ethos (talents and integrity of character), Logos (right use of the mind) and Pathos (sharing a sense of the challenges of life in a difficult world). The Holy Spirit shifts this to a formula for holiness by an Ethos that shares the heritage of the saints, a Logos which is God's own truth, and the triumphal suffering of Christ who died and rose again so that we might live forever with Him. So Pentecost is the reddest of Red Letter Days.

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