“It’s a Birthday Party, and My Head’s On Fire, My Head’s On Fire!”-Acts 2:1-4†

Pentecost Sunday: Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  This color recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

Pentecost is historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, which commemorates God giving Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus.  Shavuot was celebrated on Wednesday, May 19th this year, and will be on Wednesday, June 8th in 2011.

Today in Catholic History:

† 1430 – Joan of Arc is captured by the Burgundians while leading an army to relieve Compiègne.
† 1498 – Girolamo Savonarola is burned at the stake, in Florence, Italy, on the orders of Pope Alexander VI.
† 1533 – The marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon is declared null and void.
† 1967 – Death of Lionel Groulx, French Canadian priest and historian (b. 1878)
† Liturgical Feats/Memorials: Aaron the Illustrious in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Saint Desiderius, Saint Guibert of Gemblours

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.”  – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press

Today’s reflection is about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  (NAB Acts 2:1-4)

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw those famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit (as flames) coming down on the Apostles, I thought why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!  I now know that the Apostles, with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, represent the candles at the birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  The answer is simple: to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or any other liturgical event, The Holy Spirit wants to reveal Jesus to our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the fire of the Holy Spirit, the things that keep us from Jesus are burned away.

Jesus actually defeated death, and was declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an advocate, (a helper also called the Paraclete) who would enable His believers to be witnesses to Christ’s “good news,” and to be the reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind…”  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John 3:8 (The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit).  The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “wind” and “spirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  I might look at spring storms a little different in the future.

The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus 19:18 (Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …) where the fire symbolizes the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  Here the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, acts upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant,” with its gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  Jesus wants all His followers to be agents of peace and harmony amongst all peoples, and in all places of the world.  This can only be done through the actions of the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer, in praise of God.  We may know it as “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in Acts 2:11 as speaking in foreign languages (both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God), it symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people; it actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella:  the Catholic, or universal Church.

To live as a disciple of God through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, is a gigantic privilege.  He brings us peace, and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility as well.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this wounded and hurting world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Find a place and sit quietly.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, heart burn is a good thing in this case. 

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate.  Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua


Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO


Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist Rossi

This holy priest was born in 1698 at the village of Voltaggio in the diocese of Genoa and was one of the four children of an excellent and highly respected couple.  When he was ten, a nobleman and his wife who were spending the summer at Voltaggio obtained permission from his parents to take him back with them to Genoa to be trained in their house.  He remained with them three years, winning golden opinions from all, notably from two Capuchin friars who came to his patron’s home.  They carried such a favorable report of the boy to his uncle who was then minister provincial of the Capuchins that a cousin Lorenzo Rossi a canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin invited him to come to Rome.  The offer was accepted and he entered the Roman College at the age of thirteen.  Popular with his teachers and with his fellow pupils he had completed the classical course with distinction when the reading of an ascetical book led him to embark on excessive mortifications.  The strain on his strength at a time when he was working hard led to a complete breakdown which obliged him to leave the roman College.  He recovered sufficiently to complete his training at the Minerva, but he never was again really robust.  Indeed his subsequent labors were performed under the handicap of almost constant suffering.

On March 8, 1721 at the age of twenty three he was ordained and his first Mass was celebrated in the Roman College at the altar of St. Aloysius Gonzaga to whom he always had a special devotion.

His fame came from his work as a confessor and as his ministry to the sick.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)


Tomorrow (May 24th) is celebration of the “Dedication of the Patriarchal Basilica of Our Holy Father St. Francis at Assisi, and Commemoration of the Transfer of the Body of St. Francis”

This feast and commemoration are observed by all the branches of the Franciscan Order.  When St. Francis died in 1226, he was buried in the Church of St. George in Assisi (now a chapel in Santa Chiara, and the shrine of the original San Damiano crucifix.)  Two years later St. Francis was solemnly canonized, and the building of San Francesco at the other end of the town was begun.  In May, 1230, the body of the saint was transferred to the new church; and in 1253, on the anniversary of the transfer, Pope Innocent IV consecrated the Church of San Francesco.  Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) raised it to the rank of a patriarchal basilica and papal chapel.

   (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)


Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #23:

Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.



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