“Mondays with Mary” – Six Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost – the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow, and grow rapidly. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit accompanied them and through his guidance many repented of their sins and were baptized.

Before the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, afraid for their own lives, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and great fortitude. They preached the Gospels even when it was dangerous to do so. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

Although he did not travel as vastly as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI brought the Gospel message to the nations and continents during his nearly eight year papacy. However, his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is thoroughly examined, explained, and taught in his many books and writings.

To celebrate Pentecost this year, here are six quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and Pentecost –

1. “Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature “pentecost” which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Lk 1: 41-45).”

2. It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the “Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who “renews the face of the earth”, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103[104]: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.

3. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves…we sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

4. Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14)…The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores:  “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

5. If there is no Church without Pentecost, without the Mother of Jesus there is no Pentecost either, since she lived in a singular way what the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit. St Chromatius of Aquileia comments in these words on the annotation in the Acts of the Apostles: “so the Church had gathered in the upper room together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. It is therefore impossible to speak of the Church if Mary, Mother of the Lord is not present…The Church of Christ is wherever the Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin is preached, and wherever the Apostles, who are the Lord’s brethren, preach, it is there that the Gospel is heard (Sermo 30, 1: SC 164, 135).

6. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel…With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, let us ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire thoughts of peace and reconciliation in everyone.

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. And let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was present that day. Amen.

250th “Mondays with Mary” 

Pentecost: Lighting the World on Fire with the New Evangelization

There is a scene in the 1991 film, Backdraft, when Robert De Niro’s character asks Donald Sutherland’s character (an imprisoned pyromaniac), “what do you want to do to the whole world Ronald”, and he replies “burn it all.”

If you have never see the movie, I encourage you to see because it’s a great film, however the reason why I quote this film is because as Catholic Christians living in the world, we should want to do the same thing to the world, but in a Evangelistic way. We should be seeking to light the world on fire with the light of the Holy Spirit.

As Catholics, we should be spiritual fire-starters for Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). Obviously, I am not talking about starting literal fires, but I am speaking about playing with the fire of Pentecost and the fire that we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholics, it is our fundamental duty to evangelize the world by playing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the direction of a good friend of mine, a few years ago, I read George Weigel’s book – Evangelical Catholicism. His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is prophetic, and remember we are only at the beginning of it. If you have never read it, I would highly encourage you to do so.

In Chapter 1, there is a section called – Pentecost, Again. He begins this section by stating that through the pontificates of Pope St. John XXIII (and the Second Vatican Council) and Pope St. John Paul II, a new Pentecost is on the horizon in the Catholic Church. The marching orders that will lead this new Pentecost is the New Evangelization.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Pope St. John Paul II says this –

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.

Now this is no easy task, especially in a Church that seems to be somewhat conflicted with herself today, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

To encourage you to “play with fire”, here are some dynamic and powerful quotes from Evangelical Catholicism and the section on the new Pentecost –

Quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger –

“the Holy Spirit is fire; whoever does not want to be burned should not come near him.” This fire…”is an “inimitable” part of the “relationship between Christ, Holy Spirit, and Church.””

Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ –

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.”

Fire of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger  –

“Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I…When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes comfortable only as first glance…Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.”

Evangelical Catholicism is Not Easy –

“The cultural Catholicism of the past was “comfortable” because it fit neatly within the ambient public culture, causing little chafing between one’s life “in the Church” and one’s life “in the world.”…Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to “get along”; it seeks to convert.”

Evangelical Catholicism in the Church –

“…Lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is not longer optional…Evangelical requires a generosity about time from the laity, who must make time amid the rush of postmodern life for a deeper encounter with Christ than that permitted by an hour’s worth of weekly worship…more attention to sacramental preparation and sacramental discipline…”

Evangelical Catholicism, Community, and Holiness –

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of the faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace…The tongues of from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze…Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.”

I don’t know about you, but these words from George Weigel get me fired up…pun intended! As Catholics, it is time, now more than ever before, for us to light the world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and the Church. Find strength in the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist – they unite us with Jesus Christ and each other, the Body of Christ.

In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism (another great text!) Karl Adam says, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

If the Twelve Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. My fellow Catholics – Go! Evangelize! And the set the world on fire

“Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost. It is the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit was with them.

Before Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and courage. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

No one knew the message of Pentecost better than Pope St. John Paul II, who as Pope traveled far and wide across the globe, much further than any of the Apostles originally traveled, as well as all his predecessors, to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to many nations and all continents.

To celebrate Pentecost, here are five quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Mary and her connection to Pentecost –

1. “Thus beginning her invocation to the Holy Spirit, the Church makes her own the substance of the Apostles’ prayer as they gathered with Mary in the Upper Room; indeed, she extends it in history and makes it ever timely… So we pray with Mary, sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, a most precious dwelling-place of Christ among us, so that she may help us to be living temples of the Spirit and tireless witnesses of the Gospel” (Pentecost Homily, 1998).

2. In the Acts of the Apostles Mary is as one of those taking part in the preparation for Pentecost as a member of the first community of the Church which was coming into being. On the basis of Luke’s Gospel and of other New Testament texts a Christian tradition on Mary’s presence in the Church was formed, which the Second Vatican Council summed up by hailing her as a preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church (cf. LG 53), inasmuch as she is the mother of Christ, the Man-God, and therefore the mother of God” (Wednesday Audience – June 28, 1998).

Pentecost - Eastern Icon

3. After the events of the Resurrection and Ascension Mary entered the Upper Room together with the Apostles to await Pentecost, and was present there as the Mother of the glorified Lord. She was not only the one who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” and loyally persevered in her union with her Son “unto the Cross,” but she was also the “handmaid of the Lord,” left by her Son as Mother in the midst of the infant Church: “Behold your mother.” Thus there began to develop a special bond between this Mother and the Church. For the infant Church was the fruit of the Cross and Resurrection of her Son. Mary, who from the beginning had given herself without reserve to the person and work of her Son, could not but pour out upon the Church, from the very beginning, her maternal self-giving” (Redemptoris Mater, #40).

4. “Descending upon the apostles assembled with Mary, Christ’s mother, the Holy Spirit transforms and unites them, “filling them” with the fullness of the divine life. They become “one,” an apostolic community, ready to bear witness to the crucified and risen Christ. This is the new creation which flowed from the cross and was given life by the Holy Spirit, who gave it its historical beginning at Pentecost” (Wednesday Audience – August 30, 1998).

5. “Now, at the first dawn of the Church, at the beginning of the long journey through faith which began at Pentecost in Jerusalem, Mary was with all those who were the seed of the “new Israel.” She was present among them as an exceptional witness to the mystery of Christ. And the Church was assiduous in prayer together with her, and at the same time “contemplated her in the light of the Word made man.” It was always to be so. For when the Church “enters more intimately into the supreme mystery of the Incarnation,” she thinks of the Mother of Christ with profound reverence and devotion. Mary belongs indissolubly to the mystery of Christ, and she belongs also to the mystery of the Church from the beginning, from the day of the Church’s birth” (Redemptoris Mater, #27).

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. Amen.

Blessed Virgin Mary…Pray for Us.

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Pentecost and ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the great day known as the birth of the Catholic Church and the day the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus Christ numerous times in the Gospels, descended upon the Apostles (and more than likely the Blessed Virgin Mary as well) just days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. Pentecost is known as the founding of the Catholic Church as the bearer of God’s spirit to the world. It is one of the great Solemnities in the liturgical calendar and one of the great days culminating the Easter Season.

So before we get to the heart of today’s QLC, ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’, lets briefly focus on Pentecost.

Originally, the feast was known as the Feast of Weeks (Dt 16:10) or the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16). Later on, among the Jews that spoke Greek, the feast became known as penetkoste, which in Greek means “fiftieth.” The fifty days refers to the timing of the festival – fifty days after the spring celebration of Passover (Lev 23:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, is one of the three major feasts listed in Exodus 23:14-17. The other two feasts are Unleavened Bread and Ingathering. The feast was gauged to happen seven weeks from the day of when the first sheaf was presented from the barley harvest during the Passover celebration (Lev 23:15-21). In the ancient days of Israel, the Feast of Weeks was a harvest festival where baked loaves of bread made with wheat, from the spring harvest, were offered to the Lord as a gift from the first fruits. The day was meant for sacred rest and there was worship with certain prescribed sacrifices (Num 28:26-31).

It became a pilgrim feast in the Deuteromonic Covenant, which required all participants to travel to “the place which the Lord your God will choose” (Dt 16:9-12). This would eventually become Jerusalem. There they would celebrate the sacred rites. To this day, Jerusalem is still a city of pilgrimage (just like Rome).

Now that we have a better understanding of the biblical history of Pentecost, let’s focus on the third person of the Holy Trinity – The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as I said above, was promised in numerous places, with numerous names, in the Gospels (Lk 12:12; Jn 14:16, Jn 14:26, Jn 15:26, and Jn 20:22). Jesus promised that he would send the Counselor and the Advocate to give them all that he taught and shared with them.

The Second Vatican Council document, Ad Gentes (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity) says this about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost –

“On the day of Pentecost, however, he came down on the disciples that he might remain with them forever; on that day the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun. Finally, on that day was foreshadowed the union of all people in the catholicity of the faith by means of the Church of the New Alliance, a Church which speaks every language, understands and embraces all tongues in charity, and thus overcomes the dispersion of Babel.”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to the Church who continues to guide and direct the Church even today. The mission of Jesus and God the Father is in union with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is united as three persons and one God. A simple way to understand the Holy Trinity is through water and it’s three forms – liquid, ice, and steam – they are all water (one nature), but three separate entities (persons).

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

Now that we have an understanding of the Holy Spirit, let’s turn to what Catechism of the Catholic Church states on the topic –

“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ (Gal 4:6). [#724]

From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable. [#743]

In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23). [#744]

The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7). [#745]

By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church. [#746]

The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men. [#747]

I would suggest reading paragraphs 683-741 in the Catechism as well. Pope St. John Paul II was one of the pope’s that wrote an entire encyclical on Holy Spirit. It’s titled Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World). He also left us a series of Catechesis on the Holy Spirit.

I would also suggest reading some of my other blog posts from the past on Pentecost – ‘Mary and Pentecost’, 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Pentecost, Mary is the Church on Pentecost, Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization, and Reflections on the Pentecost Readings.

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us joyfully proclaim with fire in our souls…Come Holy Spirit! 

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