Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost Vigil at the Cathedral: Come, Holy Spirit!

Anyone with a shred of doubt about the Catholic Church must have missed yesterday’s vigil mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in South Boston.

You could not have celebrated Pentecost with Cardinal Seán O’Malley and a full house including about twenty new catechumens and a colorful, boisterous, visibly multicultural collection of Catholic ecclesial movements and thought the Church is a fossil, the Church is a scandal, the Church is in decline.

The Church is alive, baby. It’s alive right here in Boston. And Cardinal Seán O’Malley is a great leader for the Church in a century still aborning.

As the Cardinal noted in his homily, the first Christian Pentecost was effectively the birthday of the Church—when after the Resurrection and Ascension the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room, and they all went out of that room into the world speaking in tongues with their hair on fire.

About those tongues: The mass was said in (by my count) nine languages including Latin, of course, and the Gospel proclaimed in eight of them (English, Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Polish, and Mandarin). A Chinese mother nodded and smiled to the daughter she cuddled in the pew in front of me when John 7:37–39 was read in their language.

While the mass included a laying-on of hands for a score of new Catholics with surnames from every continent, the readings and music were offered by representatives of some of the many new movements that have arisen in the Church in the past hundred years. Just looking at the program for the mass, I can offer this partial list: Cursillo, Communion and Liberation, the Neo-Catechumenal Way, the Community of Saint Egidio, the Brazilian Charismatic Community, and Comunidad Evangelizadora para la Reconciliatión y Servicio.

My spiritual director, a laywoman and leader of the Archdiocesan Cursillo Movement, offered one of the readings. My pal Michael Joens, a German-born deacon in my local church, had the honor of proclaiming the Gospel auf Deutsch.

I have been impressed with Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley every time I have heard him speak or say mass. His voice is just the horn to cut any fog, and his fluency in Spanish and Portuguese along with his native English allow him to speak to a broad community. In his homily he told the story of waiting out a hurricane with another priest in a rectory bathroom, the safest place they could find, without windows. They said the rosary and listened to an audiobook about another natural calamity, which the Cardinal likened to watching an airline disaster movie on a Transatlantic flight.

But then he made the point that the wind experienced by the followers of Christ on Pentecost c. 33AD must have been very like the hurricane that rattled the rectory roof during that storm. And when he and the other priest emerged, they found a world laid flat and all new. 

My faith and my affection for the Catholic Church were renewed yesterday afternoon at Holy Cross Cathedral.

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