Let's get on fire for our faith this Pentecost Sunday

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

Keeping the Faith

“Grant, we pray, that we may always be aflame with that same Spirit whom you wondrously poured out on your Apostles, and that the new Israel, gathered from every people, may receive with rejoicing the eternal commandment of your love.”  

These words come from the Vigil of Pentecost in the Roman Missal. They highlight this wonderful, yet underappreciated solemnity in the life of the Church.  Part of the problem with the celebration of Pentecost is that it often falls on Memorial Day weekend. Another part of the problem why this third most important day in the Church’s year doesn’t get the attention it deserves is that it hasn’t been embraced by secular culture. That might not be surprising since the Holy Spirit is not easily tamed.  Christmas has Santa, Easter has the Easter Bunny, and Pentecost has ...? 

I had a neighboring priest who used to hang a giant papier mache red dove from the ceiling of his church that would swing during the Masses celebrated on Pentecost. I’m not sure that was the answer to getting the message across to people in the pews about the significance of Pentecost.

During his visit to the United States a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and said: “As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” 

What words of wisdom! May the Church in America and in the Church in the Diocese of Trenton take the Holy Father’s words to heart!

Now with Confirmation season coming to a close in parishes around the diocese, I have been thinking about the young men and women who have received the seven Gifts of the Spirit and how they are now called to step forth as disciples.  I pray for them and I worry about them. Will they have the support from family and friends to keep the promises they have just made to serve out their discipleship?  When I address the young people in my homily, I’ll ask them what color they see.  Usually they get it right — red. Then I ask, why red? They usually respond with either it’s the color of fire or the color of blood.  Both answers are correct — blood is for those who shed their blood for the Gospel, and fire is for what we commemorate this weekend, the fire of the Holy Spirit. Then I’ll ask the confirmandi what they are on fire about.  Being on fire for their faith is usually not their first answer. 

And, maybe that’s because we adults are not setting examples of being on fire for the faith for our young people.  Our views may have grown dim by the constant challenges that cross the path to our faith -- threats to our religious freedom, forces in society and a government that is trying to marginalize the Church’s voice. 

Even in spite of these challenges, we still need to be people who are on fire for their faith and who are willing to stand up for truth.

It was Pope Benedict’s prayer that we would experience a new Pentecost. Maybe this weekend as we celebrate the birthday of our Church, we can make an effort to make his prayer a reality. 

Let’s try to ignite the fire for “new Pentecost” this Pentecost weekend.

Father Freer is diocesan vicar for Catholic education.

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“Grant, we pray, that we may always be aflame with that same Spirit whom you wondrously poured out on your Apostles, and that the new Israel, gathered from every people, may receive with rejoicing the eternal commandment of your love.”  

These words come from the Vigil of Pentecost in the Roman Missal. They highlight this wonderful, yet underappreciated solemnity in the life of the Church.  Part of the problem with the celebration of Pentecost is that it often falls on Memorial Day weekend. Another part of the problem why this third most important day in the Church’s year doesn’t get the attention it deserves is that it hasn’t been embraced by secular culture. That might not be surprising since the Holy Spirit is not easily tamed.  Christmas has Santa, Easter has the Easter Bunny, and Pentecost has ...? 

I had a neighboring priest who used to hang a giant papier mache red dove from the ceiling of his church that would swing during the Masses celebrated on Pentecost. I’m not sure that was the answer to getting the message across to people in the pews about the significance of Pentecost.

During his visit to the United States a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and said: “As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” 

What words of wisdom! May the Church in America and in the Church in the Diocese of Trenton take the Holy Father’s words to heart!

Now with Confirmation season coming to a close in parishes around the diocese, I have been thinking about the young men and women who have received the seven Gifts of the Spirit and how they are now called to step forth as disciples.  I pray for them and I worry about them. Will they have the support from family and friends to keep the promises they have just made to serve out their discipleship?  When I address the young people in my homily, I’ll ask them what color they see.  Usually they get it right — red. Then I ask, why red? They usually respond with either it’s the color of fire or the color of blood.  Both answers are correct — blood is for those who shed their blood for the Gospel, and fire is for what we commemorate this weekend, the fire of the Holy Spirit. Then I’ll ask the confirmandi what they are on fire about.  Being on fire for their faith is usually not their first answer. 

And, maybe that’s because we adults are not setting examples of being on fire for the faith for our young people.  Our views may have grown dim by the constant challenges that cross the path to our faith -- threats to our religious freedom, forces in society and a government that is trying to marginalize the Church’s voice. 

Even in spite of these challenges, we still need to be people who are on fire for their faith and who are willing to stand up for truth.

It was Pope Benedict’s prayer that we would experience a new Pentecost. Maybe this weekend as we celebrate the birthday of our Church, we can make an effort to make his prayer a reality. 

Let’s try to ignite the fire for “new Pentecost” this Pentecost weekend.

Father Freer is diocesan vicar for Catholic education.

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