Sunday, March 31, 2013

The 'New' Pentecost... A personal reflection.

On the evening of Easter, ' He breathed on them'...

The Spirit has certainly stirred things up, hasn't he?  I'm referring to the light that has come into the Church with Pope Francis.  It seems to me the Pope notes the 'upheaval' in his Easter Vigil homily, when he refers to something new happening to the women at the tomb... comparing our own experience to theirs; "Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do."  We are confused by this new Pope - I think all of us are trying to figure him out, and in the process we are discovering 'new' things about ourselves and our relationship to God, to Christ, to the Church, to one another, to the poor and outsiders.

The Holy Spirit and Easter night...

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

"It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you."

I'm reminded of the Encyclical On the Holy Spirit from Pope John Paul II...  I'm thinking of the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit of God," who according to the biblical description of creation "was moving over the face of the water," and how he stirred everything up at that first Pentecost as well.  How unsettling his action can be.  Even today.

Piously, I continue to consider the renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI and its meaning.  In that regard, I reflected on Christ's revelation to the disciples on Holy Thursday: "If I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you."  Of course, I'm not suggesting that the two popes are actually reenacting in a literal sense the Paschal mystery, yet the promise of Christ seems - to me at least, to be more understandable in the morning light of Easter.  Oddly enough, the passage from John helps me to see a continuity, a continuum between the two popes, and again I only apply Christ's words for the sake of analogy, placing them as it were, on the lips of Benedict:  "He will take what is mine and declare it to you."  Without deprecating Pope Benedict in the least, I have to believe Pope Francis is doing that - although it just doesn't look the same.

Implementing Vatican II:  The work of the Pope.

That was the work of the new Pope's predecessors, and it is his work too:
As the Council writes, "the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16:26). The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and gives her a unity of fellowship and service. He furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic, and adorns her with the fruits of his grace (cf Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church grow, perpetually renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse."
Pope Francis seems to me to be the one ushering in the 'New' Pentecost envisioned by the Council, and 'predicted' by JPII and B16.  So far his actions have upset nearly everyone in the Church.  But that fact alone, on some level - I'm convinced, is the action of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus during the discourse in the Upper Room foretells the coming of the Holy Spirit "at the price of" his own departure, and promises "I will send him to you," in the very same context he adds: "And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."102 The same Counselor and Spirit of truth who has been promised as the one who "will teach" and "bring to remembrance, " who "will bear witness," and "guide into all the truth," in the words just quoted is foretold as the one who "will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement."
Convincing the world concerning sin... righteousness... judgement.

Charismatics use the term 'convicted' when describing the action of the Holy Spirit convincing them concerning sin.  I love that expression.  Such convincing brings repentance, contrition, enflaming the heart with compunction - it's a great 'light', a grace, a ' divine touch' of love.  So far Pope Francis' actions have convicted me of my sin - or propensity towards it, my inconstancy, as well as my self-righteousness... and judgement.  I wonder how many others he has touched in this way - without their understanding it?
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." This revelation of freedom and hence of man's true dignity acquires a particular eloquence for Christians and for the Church in a state of persecution-both in ancient times and in the present-because the witnesses to divine Truth then become a living proof of the action of the Spirit of truth present in the hearts and minds of the faithful, and they often mark with their own death by martyrdom the supreme glorification of human dignity.*
*All quotes taken from Dominum et vivificantem, Bl. Pope John Paul II

Happy Easter!

NB: These are just my 'pious' reflections of course - and I'm probably wrong.  Pray for me.



  1. Again, all about him. Something new happening. The focus should be the Resurrection, not the Vicar of Christ who seems to only begrudgingly act as such.

  2. Nan, believe me, I understand your frustration. I was shaken too. But we have to remember what it was like for Catholics to live during the Borgia popes and other unworthy men who ascended to the throne of St. Peter. Can you imagine how awful some of their liturgies probably were? The difference, of course, is that their messes were not broadcast to the world, but only embarrassed those present. But do we believe that this is Christ's Body? Do we believe that she is protected by the Holy Spirit from ever entering in total apostasy? Remember, Peter was a terrible pope too - could you imagine Francis or Benedict openly denying that they knew Jesus...three times in public (with swearing to boot)? No. Peter is weaker than all of the other 265 popes combined, yet he is the first and held in the hand of Christ.

    I hate Francis' style and liturgies. But the Church is not Francis and the Church will live on after he is gone. I attend Masses that are beautiful and they are not expected to change. Even if they did, I can surround myself at home with beauty and watch Cardinal Burke's Mass at Clear Creek Monastery over and over again until this pontificate is over.

    We will be okay, Nan. I'm a lot like you. But let's pray and offer this up. There is tremendous power in offering up suffering. Many do not understand us, but that is okay too. Let them be confused. It does not matter.

  3. I love you Terry, and I wish you a blessed Easter, but I disagree with you my friend - not all of us are trying to figure this Pope out. People who have an agenda may be. The reaction of some to Francis says more about their own spiritual deficits than it does about any they try to project on him. BTW, my parish is shepherded by a very orthodox priest and at the TLM today, he chose not to give his own homily but to instead read parts of Pope Francis' sermon for Easter Sunday.

    Not everyone who loves orthodoxy and tradition is conducting Pope Watch, or worse.

    Peace of Christ,

  4. Joyce - Happy Easter to you too. I'm so glad you pointed out that not everyone is trying to figure out the pope.

    I'm very happy with him, and grateful.

  5. Francis according to canon law has power that is "supreme" and "immediate". We never saw immediate power in a Pope so now good people are requiring him to have changed the rubrics first before acting...but that's not immediate power...that's power limited by procedure. Francis followed canon law by being immediate in power. Would we prefer Pope Julius III from decades after the Borgia Pope....he built himself a Villa, loved the hunt, banquets, and a teen boy he picked up in Parma...and made a Cardinal. I'll stick with Francis though he will irk me in other areas like the death penalty. He's a net good and we don't need coffee anymore because each morning we wake and say...
    "what did he do now?"

  6. Bill - you make me think and laugh - thanks.

  7. I meant to add this as a post, taken from Deacon's Bench:

    "…The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s decision was “absolutely licit” for a rite that is not a church sacrament. Francis also took into account “the real situation, the community where one celebrates,” Lombardi added."

  8. I completely agree. We are missing the whole point of this Popes teaching being so Scrupulous about if he likes Angel Soft or Charmin.
    Don't take offense to this. I just mean that we're missing the real problem by focusing on what WE think are his shortcomings.

  9. I happened across a great picture on the internet, a sort of triptych showing a picture of Bl. Pope John Paul II on the left, Pope Benedict the Pope Emeritus in the center, and His Holiness the Pope on the right. There is a caption beneath each portrait.

    Underneath the image of Bl. John Paul II the caption reads, "This is what we believe."

    Underneath the image of Benedict XVI the caption reads, "This is why we believe it."

    And beneath the image of Pope Francis, the caption reads, "Now go and do it."

    I thought that was brilliant. It really sums up the principle of continuity that Terry speaks about.

    Incidentally, I watched the Mass of Easter Sunday from St. Peter's on EWTN and for all the nonsensical talk from certain quarters about how our Holy Father is assailing tradition, it was the most sumptuously traditional papal liturgy I've ever seen in St. Peter's Square. To watch that Mass and compare it to the accusations of the Pope's detractors, you'd swear they'd all lost their marbles.

    And Terry, with all due respect, I'd like to contrast this obervation of yours, if I may:

    "So far his actions have upset nearly everyone in the Church."

    That just doesn't ring true, at least not to me; it's not what I'm seeing and hearing at all. The Church at large is loudly and enthusiastically celebrating this man and rejoicing in his message and example. It's only some trads on the fringe who are upset by him, and most people are barely aware of their presence.

  10. Thanks James - you are correct, it's an exclusive minority that is complaining. I find it disturbing nonetheless. I need to avoid those sites.

    I too watched the Holy Father's Mass - excellent. I was moved by his thanksgiving after communion.

    Joe Russo - I like your analogy - LOL!

  11. I saw a triptych similar to the one James M saw but underneath the photo of JPII it said Hope, under B16 it said Faith, and under Papa Francis it said Charity.

    Now that we have a new pope and I know B16 is ok and Holy Week is over it might be time to disappear from blogdom and Catholic forums again and use that time to go out into the world and spread the faith.

  12. Some thoughts on the VPO statement regarding the Mandatum rite controversy, from Dr. Peters' blog:

  13. Some thoughts from Cardinal Ratzinger's "The Spirit of the Liturgy":

    "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.... The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition... . The greatness of the liturgy depends - we shall have to repeat this frequently — on its unspontaneity."

    “When human affairs are so ordered that there is no recognition of God, there is a belittling of man. That is why, in the final analysis, worship and law cannot be completely separated from each other. God has a right to a response from man, to man himself, and where that right of God totally disappears, the order of law among men is dissolved, because there is no cornerstone to keep the whole structure together.”

    "Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation. This is why the Christian East calls the liturgy the "Divine Liturgy", expressing thereby the liturgy's independence from human control."

  14. In response to Dr. Peters (who is not infallible regardless of how much certain bloggers value his insights) his concerns ring true only insofar as the rite of the mandatum is surely and unquestionably meant to represent the institution of the priesthood. Dr. Peters has yet to adequately demonstrate, however, that this rite does not more correctly evoke service than priesthood. After all, the rite doesn't even demand that 12 men have their feet washed. It could be 20. It could be two.

    The fact of the matter is that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship did weigh in on the matter in 1988, heavily favoring the interpretation that the rite is meant to evoke, not the institution of the priesthood, but Jesus' example of service and humility. The Congregation said, “The washing of feet… represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve.’ This tradition should be maintained and its proper significance explained.” In the United States, the inclusion of women has been customary for decades.

    I am at pains to imagine, in any event, congregations of Catholics observing the mandatum rite on Holy Thursday and thinking to themselves, "say...this seems to imply that women can be priests!" I often wonder on what planet these people are worried that Catholics will come to such conclusions.

    As to the INFINITESSIMALLY small number of women who actually want to be priests, anything will be an excuse and a justification in their eyes. But normal people will not be confused by the sight of a Pope washing the feet of boys and girls in a juvenile detention center. Only paranoid Catholics of a traditionalist mindset seem to find themselves bewildered by such things.

    In response to the quote by then Cardinal Ratizinger from "The Spirit of the Liturgy," please note that Pope Francis did not alter the papal liturgy of Holy Thursday in the Lateran or at St. Peter's, which traditionally calls for 12 prelates to have their feet washed. The fact is that Pope Francis did not conduct the traditional papal liturgy, at all, therefore he changed nothing.

    Instead, he went as a simple priest to hold a simple liturgy in service of imprisoned youth, all of whose hearts, you can be sure, were touched by the gesture.

    Please don't throw quotes from past popes against current ones as if you know, therefore, what their reaction would be to current events. As it happens, we are blessed by the living presence of Pope Francis' predecessor. Why don't you pen a letter to him and ask him how he interprets Pope Francis' actions on Holy Thursday instead of throwing about quotes that aren't applicable? Go ahead. Write to the Pope Emeritus. I'm sure his words in reply will provide a valuable education.

  15. Hi James M,

    Dr. Peters' concerns were not in reference to what the rite itself is meant to represent (the institution of the priesthood or service or something else).

    In the very first line of his post, he states he is concerned about the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the life of faith.

    And, actually, Dr. Peters himself would have no problem changing the rite to include both women and men. He said this as recently, I believe, as his March 29th post.


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