23 May 2012

'Receive the Holy Spirit.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost

Pentecost, El Greco, painted 1596-1600

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

(The readings for the Vigil Mass are on the upper part of the page, those for the Mass During the Day on the lower part of the page).

Liturgical Note. Pentecost, like Easter and some other solemnities, has a Vigil, properly so-called. This is not an ‘anticipated Mass’ but a Vigil Mass in its own right, with its own set of prayers and readings. It fulfils our Sunday obligation. There may be an extended Liturgy of the Word,er similar to the Easter Vigil, with all the Old Testament readings used. 

The prayers and readings of the Mass During the Day should not be used for the Vigil Mass, nor those of the Vigil Mass for the Mass During the Day. 

Gospel John 20:19-23 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


I'm quite happy to live in the present and to look forward to the future without worrying too much. That is all grace from God. There is, however, one event in my life that I would, perhaps, like to relive, if that were possible, which it's not. It was the summer of 1969, less than two years after my ordination in Ireland, when I was studying in a college north of New York City. I was also one of the chaplains in the college.

One day during Lent of that year while walking across the campus to class I met Betty, a student who was in some classes with me, and asked her what she was doing for Easter. I was just making small talk. But when she told me that she and some other students were going to work in a parish in rural Kentucky as volunteers for that week I got interested - and ended up going with them. I spent most of Easter week in Lancaster, Kentucky, cleaning up buildings, getting them ready for summer programmes such as Bible classes and summer camps for local children. The parish priest, Fr Ralph Beiting, had many projects and invited students, most at college level bu some still in high school, to come during the summer for a week, two weeks, a month or longer, to help run the Bible schools in the four towns in his parish, to staff the two camps for children to spend a five-day vacation in, to do house-to-house visitation in pairs, and some other things. He had also founded the Christian Appalachian Project to help the development of this predominantly poor corner of the USA, and an area where there was only a handful of Catholics. There were still remnants of anti-Catholicism.

Fr Beiting used to go around preaching in towns during the summer, accompanied by seminarians and other male college students. They'd park their truck at a place where people could gather and he'd preach basic Christian truths from the back of the lorry. He was following an old Protestant tradition in the area but one that was dying out. On one occasion he was driven out at gunpoint but next day turned up again, not to preach but simply to show himself.

This great diocesan priest had the great gift of organising and inspiring young people in the service of the Gospel. These gifts of his helped me to discover a gift I was unaware of - the ability to listen to people. When I went back to Kentucky for six weeks in the summer of 1969 he asked me to divide my time between the activities in Lancaster and those in Cliffview Camp, where each week a group of local youngsters went on Monday morning and went home on Friday afternoon, with lots of activities to keep them, and the student volunteers, occupied. Cliffview is now a retreat and conference centre for the Diocese of Lexington.

Father Beiting wasn't a person you would go to if you had a problem or wanted to talk about something. He was an 'action man', though a prayerful one. However, I discovered that many of the young volunteers I was working with, and some persons older than me, found in me somebody who could listen to them. I had never been aware of that ability but it was to become very important in my life as a priest. Indeed, in the case of one young volunteer who became a close friend and to whom I was to be a mentor, that ability that God gave me became helped, 12 years later, to draw her back from the brink of suicide. And in that episode I discovered that sometimes a person of deep and generous faith can also be very fragile. My friend died the following year, aged only 29, peacefully and from natural causes. Some months before her death she told me that she thought she didn't have long to live. I had the good sense to listen to her and we spoke to each other as persons of faith as to what her death would mean. There was nothing morbid about our conversation and we went for an Italian lunch afterwards - my friend was pure Italian - and had a joyful time together.It was to be our last time to meet.

I am posting this early because this evening, 23 May, I will be starting a retreat with four novices and four professed of the Canossian Sisters. It will end on the morning of 1 June. I will give one talk a day and meet each retreatant individually each day. This aspect of my life all springs from the discovery I made in Kentucky in the summer of 1969. I need your prayers too.

But what I still marvel at, and thank God for, is that 'casual' meeting with another student and a conversation that I didn't see as having any importance at all. A question that expressed friendliness rather than curiosity was to receive a profound and life-long answer, not from Betty, but from the Holy Spirit.

Receive the Holy Spirit . . . as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Sequence for Mass on Pentecost Sunday)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

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

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverence of salvation,
grant eternal joy.



shadowlands said...

Hi Father Seán

I didn't even know you had a blog, you don't link to it on your profile?
I googled you and found you here.

Do you have a reason for not displaying a link?

I'll go and have a mooch at your previous posts now........

shadowlands said...

PS You do link on this profile but where you post a comment, there is no link to this blog from clicking on your name..

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thanks, Shadowlands. I'll follow up on this when I have a better connection. Where I'm giving a retreat at the moment the internet connection isn't great.