Congregational Letter | Vol. 6, No. 8
Dear Brothers, Associates, and Colleagues,
With Pentecost a few days off, I want to wish each of you ‘Holy Pentecost!’ A joyful feast, Pentecost recalls the birth of our Christian community and recalls the great ‘fear that paralyzed Jesus’ followers.’ An awe-filled moment in the life of the disciples, Pentecost was a breakthrough event. It broke the chains of fear that fettered the hearts of Jesus’ followers.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. He said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when He said this, He breathed upon them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’John 20:19-23
In his Pentecost homily last year, Pope Francis noted that ‘fear’ is still closing people in on themselves. Often Pope Francis talks of ‘the culture of fear.’ It’s the fear of the loss of ethnic and personal identity, the fear of the loss of influence and power that causes members of a dominant culture to scapegoat those who are of a different color, or of a different tribe, or who speak a different language, or share a culture and customs that are not the same as those of the ‘mainstream.’ Fear of this type breeds hatred. Unbridled hatred easily explodes into violence. Sadly, this dynamic is happening all over the world. This dynamic threatens the meaning of Jesus’ gospel, the ideals of democracy, and the existence of basic human rights. It is a dangerous ideological shift to the xenophobic right.
‘The Spirit frees hearts chained by fear,’ the pope stated. Pope Francis suggested that we should invoke the Holy Spirit each morning by praying to be led closer to those in need. In our prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit, ‘What do you want of me today?’ Then we listen in silence. We will not receive a text message or voice mail. However, we will have breakthrough moments because the Holy Spirit already dwells within each of us. At some point in our prayer we feel His impulse urging us to go out of ourselves and serve those in need. It is the Spirit who reminds us of Jesus’ words. ‘As the Father sent me, I also send you.’
When I think of the impulse of the Holy Spirit, I remember celebrating Pentecostés in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia. It was special day. The students would decorate the chapel with balloons and colorful streamers and at the right moment during the Gloria they would set off firecrackers. The sounds of the drums, guitars, charangoes’, flutes, and tambourines really touched the soul. One hymn we used to sing talks of the different actions of the Holy Spirit. The hymn is called Espiritu Santo, ven, ven. (Holy Spirit, come, come). In the hymn, we implore the Holy Spirit to accompany us, to lead us, to take our lives and make them holy, to transform us, to fill us with life, to convert us, to make our lives give glory to God, to renew us, to strengthen us, and to console us. Singing about the many actions or movements of the Holy Spirit, there was no doubt that the Spirit dwells within. Yet two of the Holy Spirit’s actions are not in this hymn.
In a book he wrote about the action of the Holy Spirit, Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp. points out that the Spirit also disturbs us. The Spirit disturbs us when we become mindful that God’s will is not being done for all people. The Spirit disturbs us at the sight of thousands of victims of senseless wars. It disturbs us at the sight of children dying of starvation and illness due primarily to poverty. The Spirit disturbs us at the news of the violence that many women and LGBTQ people experience. The Holy Spirit disturbs us when the world becomes indifferent to the suffering of migrants and refugees or to the subtleties of racism.
The Holy Spirit disturbs us not to make us feel guilty but to prompt us to fulfill Jesus’ commandment, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 15:12). The Spirit also encourages. He gives us the courage to live Jesus’ simple command and to come out of ourselves to help someone in need and to show we care. I may not be able to change the way governments treat refugees from war, violence and hunger, but I can support an organization that is reaching out to refugees. The Holy Spirit impels us to put on the mind of Christ.
In a real way our upcoming General Chapter is our Pentecost—a breakthrough event in the life of our Community. As we prepare for the General Chapter, it is important that each of us, Brother, Associate, and Colleague, enter into silent prayer and let the Holy Spirit prompt us, as He did our Founder. Theodore James Ryken gives us a beautiful example of heeding Jesus’ words, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Let’s pray to be disturbed enough and encouraged enough to go out of ourselves and together to discern how to best serve those in need. May I suggest that until the Chapter is over that you include the very familiar prayer to the Holy Spirit in your daily prayer?
Know you are in my prayers.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX | General Superior