A new Pentecost

Today I concluded my annual retreat. During the retreat I was led to meditate on the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our Church. I am still reflecting on Pope Benedict’s homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, particularly in light of our celebration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost this weekend. I was privileged to be participating in the Mass when the pope said “...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!”

At Pentecost, Christ’s disciples had locked themselves behind closed doors, confused and fearful. The Holy Spirit descended and gave them the courage of saints. They became united, fearless, with a clear sense of their call from God.

We, too, have been strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Those who have been privileged to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation have been given the seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The fruits of the Spirit should be evident in the lives of all of us who are committed to the Lord: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.

To receive the grace of a new Pentecost would be to experience a renewal within the Church in America of these gifts and fruits. During the pope’s visit, we saw a hint of what a powerful renewal this can be. The sense of joy was electric. People demonstrated patience and kindness toward one another. You could feel a peacefulness. The evidence of faith was overwhelming and undeniable.

Over the past month, many people have told me how much they would like the atmosphere that came with the pope to be part of our daily life in the Archdiocese of Boston. Hearing that makes me feel that the pope’s prayer for a new Pentecost is already being answered. The fruits of the Spirit within us, which shone so brightly with Pope Benedict’s presence, continue to shine. The Holy Father’s visit has inspired us to carry on Christ’s ministry with greater zeal. Having felt such a powerful connection to so many members of our Catholic family, we are energized in our faith.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our lives, people are drawn to us. When we live a life of faithfulness, when we are generous and kind, when we strive to do what Jesus would do, the presence of the Holy Spirit is felt within and around us.

I am inspired by and grateful for Pope Benedict’s prayer. I find great hope in the fact that, as we nurture the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit as individuals and as a community of faith, we bring the Church in America ever closer to a new Pentecost.

Father Erikson is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.