Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On The Vigil of Pentecost V

Here are some reflections upon the ninth and tenth verses of the Sequence from the Mass of Pentecost: the Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles. Veni, Sancte Spiritus

On Thy faithful who adore,
And confess Thee evermore,
In Thy seven-fold gifts descend.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit - seven being the biblical number which signifies totality or wholeness: seven sacraments, seven days of creation...

These gifts are: wisdom, counsel, knowledge, understanding, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.

Perhaps a word just about piety. Piety means a devout heart. We get the words vote and vow from devout. So piety is: to make good the promises and desires of the heart towards God. 

Father Willie Doyle, S.J. was an Irish Jesuit priest who served as chaplain until his death (August 16, 1917) on the battlefields of France during the First World War. In one of his diary entries he speaks of piety. Here's a paraphrase of his thoughts.

Piety is not synonymous with religious sentiment or getting into a religious mood. It is not consolations or looking for signs. Some Christians see the spiritual life as primarily the discovery of visions, miracles, wonders and saints who had mystical gifts. But piety is delighting in and growth in virtue, which is practiced goodness.

Contrary to a popular devotional sense, piety requires no special form of prayer. Piety is not doing anything in particular, but simply listening for the Spirit's inspirations. The Spirit's work is to make us whole.

Piety is conscience, yes, doing what is good and avoiding what is evil, but it is all the more attentiveness to the whisperings which call us to awareness: how to be an authentic and fully alive persons in this moment, as was Jesus. 

~ ~ ~

Give them virtue's sure reward,
Give them Thy salvation, Lord. 
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Salvation doesn't just mean, get me to heaven, Jesus. Salvation begins here and now. It has to do with getting on a safer or more sure track. Get me to where I belong.

I remember one night years ago as a young priest answering a sick call in the middle of the night. The family gave me directions to find their home in a kind of private community. I found the home and stayed an hour or so, leaving to return to my rectory at about 2 A.M.

But I couldn't retrace the directions and became hopelessly lost, driving around and around for hours until the sun started to come up. Then all of a sudden I kind of popped out onto the main road which led me back to my rectory. 

I felt powerless and unreasonably fearful: "O God, I'll run out of gas and they'll find me here, dead on the side of the road. Get me out of here." That' just touching the need for salvation. The addict understands the need for salvation more deeply. Or the person with a life-threatening illness. Or a provider who loses a job. Or where resentment, negativity or self-pity is starting to own me. 

But whatever the person is experiencing, "Get me out of here" or "Get me home" seems to be the basis of feeling the need for salvation. 

On the Eve of Pentecost I might name my immediate need for salvation and present that in my prayer.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Soon It Will Be Pentecost IV

Here are reflections on verses seven and eight of the Pentecost Sequence: Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew,
On our dryness pour Thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Whoever composed the Pentecost sequence certainly understood what it is to be human and to live on this planet. We all carry wounds, some of which are very old and well-kept secrets. So the prayer asks for healing and renewal as the wounds impact on how we are today - no matter how many people have told us to get over it or move on.

The wounds may keep us from relating well, loving well or knowing how to receive graciously. Old wounds can prevent us from expressing ourselves effectively. They can cause us to be needy for things, for compliments, permissions and approval. We might live in anxieties, hidden-ness and fearful imaginings. We're not free if we're living in wounded secrecy. Maybe Pentecost invites us to come up and out of that place. 

Wash the stains of guilt away.  It used to be said of Catholics that they had a lesser incidence of craziness because they had built into their religious system a way of getting out what's troubling or guilt-carrying.

Guilt is a terrible burden to carry. It distracts, steals away sleep and energy. Some people want to hold onto guilt because they're convinced they need to be punished. But God doesn't want that. 

So confess it. Get rid of it. Then you need never think of it or speak of it again. It is lost in the abyss of Jesus' Heart.

~ ~ ~

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

What's this? Perhaps where we get stuck in racism, hatred, opinion-ating, party politics and zealotry. But this verse doesn't apply only to individuals, but a nation can be frozen, chilled and gone astray.

Pope Francis recently called out the nations of the world which make billions upon billions of dollars selling weapons of war. He called it the Industry of Death. I expect he had in mind the United States, China, Russia, France - the weapons cafeterias of the world. He said the devil has gotten into our wallets. He said these things sitting in the midst of children, who suffer so profoundly in every war. 

Some people reacted immediately telling the pope that he should stay out of politics and stick to birth control and who-can-marry morality. But a pope is the voice of conscience in a world that tends to forget quickly - like the Chosen People who forgot and complained against God soon after God had led them from Egyptian slavery. 

And God spoke to Moses and said: "Speak to the whole community of Israelites and say: 'Be holy, for I , Yahweh your God, am holy. Each of you will respect father and mother, and you will keep my Sabbaths; I am Yahweh your God. Do not turn to idols and do not cast metal gods for yourselves. I am Yahweh your God.'" (Leviticus 19:4)

Well of course, God wasn't talking just to ancient Israel but to us today.  Some people will resent the suggestion that God would have something to say about our own national inclination to create gods and how we arrive at our prosperity. 

Religion (stubborn and frozen) can be very late in addressing these contemporary things. There were American Catholic prelates who blessed bombs and bombers during the Second World War, and today there are Russian priests who bless automatic rifles that will be used to kill fellow Christians in Ukraine. Sometimes religion gets stuck in the Bronze Age. And so: Holy Spirit, guide the feet that go astray.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Intercessions ~ Pentecost Sunday

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for the Church and its unity./ We ask for the Church to be a bold witness to Jesus-Risen/ a victor over fear,/ violence,/ pessimism and alienation./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for our families,/ asking the Holy Spirit to restore us where we are separated from each other./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we pray for those who will be Confirmed this year./ We ask the Spirit of Jesus to build them up in faith,/ prayer/ and an eagerness to serve./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we ask the Spirit of Jesus to melt what is frozen and to warm what is chill within us/ and to transform the Church where we need to learn mercy,/ compassion/ and salvation for all./ We pray to the Lord. 

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we make intercession for the sick and those who care for them/ asking blessings for all who hope for healing of body,/ mind or spirit./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost/ we remember those places around the world where there is great suffering:/ wars,/ natural disaster,/ oppression and poverty./ That the world of prosperity would rush to lift the weak ones to their feet./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray this Memorial Day Weekend/ for those who have died in wars/ and those who mourn and miss them./ We ask for the dead to follow Jesus into the kingdom of refreshment,/ light and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

Pentecost Countdown III

We're pondering the ten verses of the Pentecost Sequence these days before the Sunday Feast. Today, verses five and six.

O Most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.

There was canned music playing out of the pump while I gassed up recently. Suddenly the music stopped mid-tune and a too-cheery, sing-song voice said, "While you're filling up your vehicle, why not come inside and fill yourself up too."  The voice then described every edible thing and its price. Yuck!

But the sequence prayer speaks of an interior filling up. This may strike many people as odd - we pay so little attention to our soul capacities or needs. Spiritually speaking: some people are riding on fumes. Some people are hoping to make it on empty. 

  • In these bouts of depression: fill me up with Light divine.
  • In my dark-moodiness: fill me up with Light divine.
  • In the darkness of my persistent resentments: fill me up with Light divine.
  • In the grip of Oh what's the use: fill me up with Light divine.
  • In the secret place where I know I'm on empty: fill me up with Light divine.
  • Where my life has become same old-same old: fill me up with Light divine.
  • Where I live behind changing masks: fill me up with Light divine.
  • Where I'm a collection of opinions, hoping to sound intelligent or right: fill me up with Light divine. 
  • Where I've confused being alive with having things: fill me up with Light divine.
~ ~ ~

Where Thou art not, man hath nought,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

God is the source of all that is good within me, deeds yes, but even my thoughts. Of course! Pope John Paul II said to the post-Soviet young people of Kazakhstan: "You are one of God's thoughts, one of God's heartbeats." 

But a life can feel tainted. Tainted means there's a trace of poison, contamination, infection, something foreign or bad. We're pretty quick to detect the taint in others, but not in ourselves. 

We might give thanks for where there is discernible goodness in ourselves (that's not being vain or prideful - just grateful). Give God the Glory! But also bring to awareness, from behind the inner barriers, where there's some sense of my own being tainted: selfishness, self-absorption, some form of dishonesty, a false persona...

But why? For God's pleasure in seeing us mature and evolve - as each of us is God's own dear child, and nothing pleases a mother or father more than to see the child grow!