Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church- the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who empowers us with the same faithful, dynamic Spirit of Love as He did St. Peter and the Apostles two millennia ago. I had the privilege of celebrating this Feast at one of my favorite places on Earth: the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion, Wisconsin. (http://www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/index.html).
Those of you who are frequent visitors to Salve Sancta Mater Dei, may recall from my previous posts (such as http://salvematerdei.com/2011/11/08/pilgrims-progress/), that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. It was here in 1859, that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young Belgian immigrant woman, named Adele Brise, and commissioned her to “gather the children of this wild country, . . . and teach them what they need to know for salvation.” Here, on this very spot, the Queen of Heaven condescended from Her Heavenly throne to attend to the catechetical needs of Her children on the wild frontier of the young United States. Over the years, my family has had the honor of spending quite a bit of time at this miraculous location.
My son K.J. has blogged extensively regarding this spiritual haven on his site at http://GodAloneSufficeth.com; last year penning a 10 –part series on the history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
It is tradition that each year on the last Sunday of May, Holy Mass is celebrated outdoors, to accommodate the crowd. Often the Bishop of Green Bay presides, concelebrating with the Shrine Rector and local priests. Hundreds – often thousands of voices glorifying God, and singing sweet songs of gratitude to Our Lady for Her intercession. Each year, there is a procession around the grounds that were miraculously spared the ravages of the Pestigo Fire, which killed over 2,000 neighboring settlers in 1871. In addition to Holy Mass and the Rosary procession, we worship our Lord during Benediction as the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and carried in procession.
Again this year, my family had the honor of participating in this grace-filled event: my boys served, and my girls helped to carry the banner of Our Lady during the procession. It was a blessing that this year’s May celebration should fall on Pentecost Sunday. Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Peter Stryker CPM, Shrine Rector, and Fr. Jewel Aytona, CPM. The spiritual welfare of tens of thousands of pilgrims who visit the shrine annually is entrusted to these capable Father’s of Mercy.
Fr. Stryker graciously shared a written copy of his stirring homily from today’s Mass to post here, as a guest blogger. The photos that are interspersed throughout his homily and this post are from our visit today:
Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 2012- Homily- Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help
More than a century ago – a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America! Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters – without a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate – because the crew was dying of thirst!
And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared – headed directly toward them. And as the steamship drew closer – the captain called out: “We need water! Give us water!” From the steamship came this reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!”
Well, the captain was furious with such an indifferent response – yet he called out again: “Please, give us water!” From the steamship – came the same reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!” And with that – they sailed away. The captain was beside himself – with anger and despair. Exasperated – he went below deck.
Yet a little while later – when no one was looking – one of the young sailors lowered a bucket into the sea. He tasted what he brought up – and it was perfectly sweet, fresh water! All that time – the ship was just out of sight – of the mouth of the Amazon River! All that time – they had been sitting right on top – of all the fresh water they could ever desire! Sounds incredible! Yet that situation can happen anytime and anyplace – when it comes to the fresh spiritual water superabundantly available – through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit!
How many Christians feel just kind of out of it – just kind of totally drained – when it comes to supernatural direction and inspiration? We all need people in our lives – who can direct us and inspire us on a natural level – so as to help us along in ordinary ways. It’s a fact – that we definitely need one another! Yet it is all the more necessary – that we have a divine person in our life – a God-person – who will direct us and inspire us on a supernatural level. The Holy Spirit is that God-person – the God-person whose mission it is – to fill us with the life and love of Jesus! Thus God the Holy Spirit is that God-person who is – as Jesus tells us in John 16 – “the Spirit of truth”!
How many false and lying spirits are there – in our modern world? False and lying spirits – when it comes to love! False and lying spirits – when it comes to life! False and lying spirits – when it comes to marriage and family! In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples – the first bishops of the Church. And Jesus is speaking especially to Peter – the first pope of the Church!
Jesus guarantees his disciples – a charism. And of course – a charism is a special Holy Spirit gift – for the building up of the common good of the Church! And this particular charism is the ability to teach – without any mistakes – about God, Jesus, and his Church – and about how we are to live our lives! There’s no question about it! The disciples – especially Peter – were blessed with an extraordinary grace! To preach God-given truth – with God-given certainty – through the power of the Holy Spirit!
What happens when people – ignore Church teaching? What happens when people – just do what they want to do? Well, it may happen that their lives – their families – their relationships – will resemble what’s described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”
Does that sound beautiful? Does that sound truly desirable? No! Yet we know – that with our fallen human nature – any of us are capable of “works of the flesh.” And such “works of the flesh” cause us – to be trouble-making slaves of sin!
Given that life is short – given that few of us, if any of us – will be here on earth a 100 years from now – it makes sense to want to get it together! It makes sense to say, “The Bible is right! God is right! We cannot get it together – on our own power. This is not a job for Congress – and not a job for the United Nations. We need God the Holy Spirit – as our Advocate!”
This annual celebration of Pentecost – is an excellent time to acknowledge – how much more we could be living – a life of truth! God-given truth! Church-given truth! Truth supercharged – by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Such a life is described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:
“[The] fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Beautiful life-giving qualities! And such fruits of the Holy Spirit – flow from the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord.
How are we to welcome the Holy Spirit – into our hearts and lives? With fidelity to Sunday Mass – and frequent sacramental confession! With daily prayer – and especially the Holy Rosary! And with works of mercy! Yet isn’t there one simple way – to grow and develop in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit?
Yes there is! And from the fifth century – we hear about that one simple way – from St. Augustine. He says this:
“Accordingly, we too receive the Holy Spirit if we love the Church, if we are bound together by love, and if we rejoice in the Catholic name and faith. Let us believe it, brothers and sisters: we will have the Holy Spirit in the same measure that we love the Church of Christ. Moreover, we love the Church when we stand fast in her membership and love.”
And to that – we can all say: “Amen! Alleluia!” This is the day we celebrate the fullness of the peace of Christ Jesus – the peace we share as members of the Body of Christ! Our Lord Jesus is the rock solid present-moment offer of grace to us – by the Father – and in the Spirit of God! Jesus says to us today, “Peace be with you” – and, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us eagerly receive the Holy Spirit – so that through us the world may encounter – the Christian mystery of forgiveness and mercy!
Our Lady of Good Help – we long to receive your spouse, the Holy Spirit – and to enjoy free and superabundant access – to fresh spiritual water!
Rev. Peter Stryker, CPM- homily delivered at Pentecost Sunday Mass, May 27, 2012, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
Happy Solemnity of Pentecost. May the Holy Spirit fill you with abundance of His many gifts.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,