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Father Muench Says...

Celebrating the work of the Holy Spirit

May 23, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Each year as I begin preparing for Pentecost and read the Gospel of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, I try to imagine what it was like on that day for the apostles.

This Gospel tells us it was a small, frightened group. The apostles knew what Christ expected of them, but Jesus had ascended to heaven. Without him, the situation seemed impossible.

Then the Holy Spirit came to them and gave them the boldness and power to speak out.

I am certain that during my priesthood I have personally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.

There have been many times in my ministry when I was truly challenged, and I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I believe that I found success at those moments through the power, guidance and words of the Holy Spirit.
As a result, I can realize how those apostles were touched by the Holy Spirit to speak and to teach and to baptize.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that on the day of Pentecost, through the power of the Spirit, Peter spoke to the crowds of people and three thousand people were baptized.

Today, we speak of the First Pentecost as the birthday of the Catholic Church. It was a small but powerful beginning. I recently read a meditation by Father Flor McCarthy on the church’s beginnings: “The church should never forget its humble origins. If it does, it will not value the importance of the small. We need to experience the church as small. We need a sense of closeness and belonging – a sense of interdependence.”

Today, I want to remind you of a new Pentecost for our Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII spoke of the Second Vatican Council as a new coming of the Holy Spirit, just as the Spirit descended on that First Pentecost. Pope John called upon the Bishops of the World in Council to throw open the windows of the church for the Holy Spirit.

The Council changed us all – priests and people – and all those bishops at the Council. There was a new enthusiasm and excitement for us all.

The Council passed and published several documents that proposed a new openness for our Catholic Church. I continue to read these documents even now – for me there was a real transformation going on.

The Holy Spirit truly came down upon us all – a new Pentecost.

Some of you will remember well those days of the Council. They were wonderful days, weren’t they? It’s hard to believe it’s been over 50 years since the close of the Council. I notice this when I talk about the Council to those who are too young to remember the church before it. Those many changes were so wonderful for us. However, I am certain that the Holy Spirit continues to bring strength and new life to us all, even now.

The Council, in the power of the Holy Spirit, challenged all to bring a new spirit to our church. This challenge was a call not just to the clergy, but also the laity.

The Council spoke of the many gifts of the laity. Before the Council, it seemed that the laity were only spectators in their Church. The Council made it clear that lay men and women must be more involved in all that is Church, in the full life of the Church.

In the Constitution of the Church, the Council Fathers challenged the laity to become more alive and involved in the life of our church.

The Council recognized the gifts of the laity. The Council called upon the leaders of the Church to recognize and use well the important resource of lay men and women.

There is so much more that the Bishops discussed and acted upon at the Second Vatican Council.

I mention this call to the laity to remind you at this time of Pentecost that you may continue to take your rightful place as members of the church so that our church will again find the enthusiasm and excitement of the coming of the Holy Spirit in our time.

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