Staying Active in the Holy Spirit

493px-peace_dove-svgWe learn in high school English class the significance of the birth metaphor: something important has taken place, our hero has crossed the threshold to a new level, and they will never again be the person that they used to be. The feast of Pentecost is full of birth imagery. It’s no accident that it’s referred to as the birthday of the church, for it represents the moment when Jesus’s disciples were transformed from scared followers asking “now what” to bold preachers willing to spread the good news at all costs. The description of Pentecost in John (“After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy spirit.’” 20:22, The Inclusive Bible) echoes the second creation story, the birth of humanity, where “YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, The Inclusive Bible). Recall, too, the presence of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’s baptism, his spiritual rebirth: “the Holy Spirit descended on the Anointed One in visible form, like a dove” (Luke 3:22, The Inclusive Bible).

The birth metaphor, with its images of life and breath, reveals another fact about the Holy Spirit: she is associated with action and movement. The appearance of the Holy Spirit in the Acts reading for Pentecost is accompanied by “what sounded like a violent, rushing wind” (Acts 2:2, The Inclusive Bible). The disciples present act on the spirit’s urgings by preaching in a multitude of different languages. The breath mentioned in the John passage above is an image of movement, too – we can feel the rush of air! In modern English, I only have to use the phrase “spirited debate” for your brain to be filled with images of animated people gesturing wildly and perhaps moving about the room in order to make their point. The word spirit carries energy.

Unfortunately, the feast of Pentecost shares a fatal flaw with the other major appearance of the Holy Spirit: the Sacrament of Confirmation. With both celebrations, the story too often ends right then and there. For some, the Sacrament of Confirmation marks the end of regular visits to Church for the foreseeable future.  In the case of Pentecost, it can feel like the last stop before our brains kick into summer mode. (This is culturally reinforced: school lets out, vacations begin, and the church choir is on hiatus.) We may still be there physically for the summer months, but our spiritual development stagnates.

How do we face spiritual stagnation head on? At the MCC church, one way we do this is to declare the season after Pentecost to be Pridetide: in this time of gay pride parades and festivals, we take time to reflect on our place in the celebration and show up, claiming our own place among the groups. In this active spirit of Pentecost and Pridetide, my summer goal is to continue my spiritual growth. During Lent, I developed the habit of asking, “What do you want me to hear?” Now I’m asking, “What do you want me to do?” If I am successful, Advent will not only mean beginning again; it will be a new beginning.

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

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The birthday of the church

pentec10Jerry Kellman is a plain, soft-spoken man in his sixties. He has been, and done, many things. Born in New York, he retains some of the accent, but he moved to Chicago many moons ago. Born Jewish, he converted to Catholicism, also many moons ago.

Kellman is a professional community organizer. He learned his trade at a school run by Saul Alinsky. He then mentored other community organizers, including Barack Obama. Kellman is also a professional lay minister. He earned his M.Div. from my alma mater, Loyola University Chicago.

On Pentecost weekend, Kellman talked at my parish. He said Pentecost is one of those days you know is important, but you don’t necessarily feel is important. It’s not Christmas or Easter.

One reason we’re told it’s important is because it’s “the birthday of the church.” But why give Pentecost the credit for that? From the scriptures and the historical record, we know that “Jesus communities” were in place during Jesus’ lifetime. Continue reading

Catholic Guilt

Both my parents were raised Catholic, but only a couple of my mom’s siblings still attend Church. I asked my mom whether she would have continued to go to Church if she hadn’t married my dad (who comes from a more strict Catholic background), and she said yes. Hoping for some insight into my mother’s spirituality, I asked her what would have made her continue attending Church while the rest of her family fell away. She said, “Well, I’ve always had a high propensity for guilt.”

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Reflection on this Blog’s Birthday

I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on this blog and how far it has come.  It was launched about a year ago on Pentecost 2008.  It grew out of a concern that the Catholic blogging world is dominated by conservative voices.  That’s fine, but on a sociological level, it’s only a small sampling of who makes up the American Catholic Church.  We wanted to provide a sampling of the other side of the coin – to show that there are young Catholic voices that weren’t being heard, yet were just as committed and faithful to the Catholic traditions for social justice as others.

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Blog of the Word – Pentecost

Hi all —

It is great to be part of this emerging online conversation about our experiences and wisdom as young adult Catholics who are also part of the CTA community! I thank the blog team for allowing me to be a part of the dialogue as a regular contributor. I have asked to focus my (hopefully) weekly reflections on the Scripture readings that are part of the upcoming Sunday’s Eucharist so as to invite response and reflection on how the Word of God might touch our lives and be living words to transform our church and world.

Given that the blog is starting on the great celebration of Pentecost, I submitted this reflection as a sample to the blog team, and they have asked me to post it, in the hope it might inform your reflections even in this post-Pentecost week! So here it is. In the future, I’ll also try to provide the verse references for the readings or an online link.

Peace,

Marc DelMonico

Washington, DC

In honor of the Spirit who blows where she will, here are some unorganized but integrated images and thoughts from the Scriptures for Pentecost:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled …” – a striking image from the first reading from Acts of completing a time of preparation for something new to burst on the scene. The disciples of Jesus, with Mary, were praying in the upper room and something new and powerful burst forth from that time of intense prayer. Note, too, that “they were all in one place together.” The Spirit is not the possession of any individual, no matter how “charism”-atic. It is God’s gift to the whole church which comes together in God’s name. We are invited to claim each others gifts to the church, as St. Paul also reminds us in the second reading from 1 Corinthians.

St. Paul also points out the one body, many members reality of the church united to Christ. Consider how there are two ways to look at that which complement each other: (1) We are made one in Christ even though we have many gifts, talents, diverse personalities, challenges, joys. (2) Every single person in the church is needed in their uniqueness for the body to be complete. How can we as a church based on community balance these two?

The Gospel account from John shows a link between the suffering for a new world that Jesus endured and the Spirit that comes in the form of his peace and the power to bring God’s forgiveness and mercy to others. Where might we be invited by God to see the link between redemptive suffering, peace, forgiveness, and the powerful might of the Spirit’s flame in our lives and world this week?

Finally, a brief word on the Sequence – a beautiful and poorly used prayer in today’s liturgy, one often passed over as a relic. Yet such beautiful and powerfully transforming words: “In our labor, Rest most sweet, grateful Coolness in the heat, Solace in the midst of woe! … Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen, warm the chill, guide the steps that go astray.” I encourage you to find a copy of the prayer in the misallette or online this week and pray it. Find the image that most speaks to your heart and hear in it the Spirit’s invitation to you and to the church and world to be renewed.

A Warm Welcome

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the [authorities]

We, Catholics who love the Church and want to make it better, know what it is to want to lock the doors behind us when we gather. Yet we started this blog because we think faithful, progressive Catholics have stayed in “safe spaces” for too long. This community will be a “safe space” for free expression and respectful dialogue. But it also represents the community of young, faithful, progressive Catholics throwing open doors and windows and turning our voices outward to the world.

Jesus came and stood in their midst.
We love the Church–the Scripture, the Sacraments, the social justice teachings, the mystical tradition, the historical liturgy and yes, the Gather hymnal ; ) We love the religious and priests who taught us, the Catholic families who raised us and the God who calls the church into being. We work and watch for the day when God’s reign of justice prevails within the church as well as throughout the world.

There are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.

We speak in cacophony, not with one unified voice. Deeply committed to free and respectful expression, we welcome one another’s differing viewpoints and the differing viewpoints of you, the readers.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

As believers in the Word made flesh, we know the power of words. Free speech is a precious gift. We and all contributors to this blog pledge to use our words to express our truths, to edify others and to serve the God who gave us speech.