VOLUME 2, NUMBER 28, JUNE 5, 2011
The First Novena, Waiting and Prayer
In the lesson from Acts this Sunday we hear that, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the disciples followed Jesus' command to wait with expectation for the coming of the Holy Spirit who would empower them for a mission that would take them far from the familiarity of the land and practices of their ancestors. They went back to the upper room to wait and to pray. This is often considered the first Novena (nine consecutive days of prayer followed by a feast) of the Church.
Throughout her history the Church has found herself in in-between times—in times after one way of being Church and before other ways of being Church. Times of persecution, of schism, of Reformation and the like. You have heard me say again and again that we live in such a time. The days of the established Church—when the culture and the Church used each other for mutual benefit—have come to an end. We are no longer able to get by just by doing what we used to do. Sundays are no longer off limits to the culture, for example. There are a great many activities that compete even for the few hours traditionally set aside for Christian worship. It is no longer assumed that everyone will worship somewhere on a regular basis or that our children will grow up in the faith of their parents. As a result, the Church all over North America and Europe is in a constant struggle for resources.
But whatever is coming next isn't yet here, and it's not clear what this renewed Church will look like. Church leadership is wrestling with this question from the parish level through diocesan and other regional leaders all the way up to the highest places of the hierarchy in every denomination. The only thing we know for sure is that Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, so in some way the Church will continue until the Kingdom comes, but also that it will not look like it has looked in the past. My sense and my hope is that a renewed Church will involve the Holy Spirit setting us on fire again and that out of that new fire, the apostolic nature of the Church—in the sense of the Church as something sent into the world in mission—will become the center of our new life in ways it hasn't been for centuries. We, like those disciples after Pentecost, will be taken far away from the land and practices of our ancestors.
So what do we do in the meantime, before this new way of being Church is revealed to us? Waiting with real expectation for the power of Holy Spirit isn't a bad place to start. Neither is prayer.
The Fifty Days of Easter continue. Happy Easter!
ADULT FORUM... After the 10AM Mass today, Mack Harrell will offer the first in a recurring series that will dig deeply into the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. See you there!
FEASTS NEAR AND AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE EASTER SEASON... Easter is a fifty day celebration which ends on the Feast of Pentecost. Next Sunday (June 12), following Ascension by about ten days is the second greatest feast of the Church year (after Easter), Pentecost, also known as Whitsunday for the white garments placed on the newly baptized (Pentecost being the second most appropriate day for Baptism after the Great Vigil of Easter). We are lucky to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism on that day at the 10AM Solemn Mass. The two Sundays following, though not in the Paschal Season, are also celebrations of some import and will be celebrated with Solemn Processions and other ceremonies at the 10AM Masses on those days: Trinity Sunday on June 19 and Corpus Christi on June 26.
FOOD FOR FRIENDS, AN EASTER THOUGHT... Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian year, and the Easter season lasts for 50 days. During that time, we can surely reach out to include needy persons in our continuing celebration, especially by donating to the Food for Friends food barrel on Sundays through Pentecost, June 12 this year. During these times of unemployment and underemployment, the need is great. The Food Pantry especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats, as well as tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's CDC and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501. Thank you.
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