It will always be Pentecost in the church,
provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit
shine forth from her countenance.
When the church ceases to let her strength
rest on the power from above –
which Christ promised her
and which he gave her on that day –
and when the church leans rather on the weak forces
of the power or wealth of this earth,
then the church ceases to be newsworthy.
The church will be fair to see,
attractive in every age,
as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her
and she reflects that Spirit
through her communities,
through her pastors,
through her very life.
May 14, 1978
Archbishop Oscar Romero from “The Violence of Love”
The Church is alive. We — you and me and all of us who dare to call Jesus “Lord” — are the living Body of Christ on earth. We are the hands of Christ reaching out to comfort, to heal, to feed, to sacrifice for those in bondage. We are the feet of Christ — always on the move, always bearing the message of love and mercy and repentance, always walking beside the poor and the forgotten and the brokenhearted. We are the heart of Christ — overflowing with compassion and brimming with hope.
The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus at the Pentecost is the breath that animates this Body. Without this life-giving breath, the Church ceases to live. It becomes a dead thing. An artifact. A series of ornate buildings suitable only as museums or mausoleums. As Archbishop Romero said, the Church must remain utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit and not on worldly power or wealth if she is to remain beautiful, strong, and the voice of the fierce and loving Christ on earth. This goes for us, too — you and me and all of us. This Pentecost (and every day) we are called to remember our reliance on the Holy Spirit and our commission to serve and to love with courage and humility.
Pentecost is here! Today is a day to celebrate! Are you new to celebrating Pentecost in the Catholic tradition? No sweat! Here are some ideas from this convert to get you started:
- Come, Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the perfect time to learn a new prayer to the Holy Spirit. Some examples include the Litany of the Holy Spirit, Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit, Novena of the Holy Spirit, or the Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
- Let them eat cake. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. Therefore, you need cake (ok… there’s no official obligation to have cake, but still… CAKE). This is our family favorite. Hint: Strawberries look a lot like tongues of fire.
- Petals from Heaven. It has long been a tradition for red rose petals symbolizing tongues of fire to rain down from the rafters of churches on Pentecost Sunday. You can decorate tables with rose petals or even fill a piñata with petals, paper doves, and small treats. Check out this video of falling petals on Pentecost Sunday at the Basilica of Sancta Maria ad Martyres in Rome.
- Gifts of the Spirit. This week I read a great story about retired barber Anthony Cymerys who set up shop in a local park to provide free haircuts to the homeless. This man uses his God-given gifts to serve the poor in a way that celebrates their dignity. Take time today to think about the gifts the Spirit has bestowed on you. Give thanks for these gifts and think of at least one way to share them with those in need.
- Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day. Since today is the birthday of the Church, let’s wish our Blessed Mother a Happy Mother’s Day! If you have yet to crown a statue of Mary this May, do it today. As Catholics, we honor Mary as the Mother of the Church. She prays for us and teaches us how to follow Jesus. Artistic renditions of the Pentecost often depict Mary at the center of the apostles during the Pentecost. Here’s my favorite.
Do you have a family tradition for celebrating Pentecost? I’d love to hear about it!