In late March, I read an article entitled The church is suffering from Holy Spirit Atheism written by Franciscan Friar, Fr. Daniel Horan. I have pondered his words and challenges these past months.
And then on his return flight from Romania, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, seemed to criticize traditionalist Catholics who try to “safeguard the ashes” of the past. An article in the National Catholic Reporter quoted the Pope as saying, “The tradition of the church is always in movement….The tradition does not safeguard the ashes.”
As we celebrate PENTECOST — the day the Church was birthed — when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples — I ask: What happened on that day? What/who was begotten? And ultimately, when — if ever — did the Spirit of God stop working to create new things and new ways?
In his article, Fr. Horan, in speaking about Holy Spirit atheism, he states: By this I do not mean that most Christians outright reject the divinity of the spirit. Rather, I have a sense that many Christians think and act as if the Holy Spirit did not exist and therefore this phenomeon is largely implicit.”
Was not Christianity something new and different at some point? Was not “the Church” at some point new and different than what existed “before?” Has not the Church evolved over time —– not by the MEN who held authority —- but by the Holy Spirit moving men and women in new/different directions?
When did the Holy Spirit stop acting and leading in new directions? When did Holy Spirit evolution stop?
In returning from Romania, Pope Francis compared tradition to roots. He said: “Tradition is like roots [of a tree] which gives us nutrtion to grow…You will not become like the roots. You will flower, grow, give fruit. And the seeds become roots for other people.”
In praying the NICENE CREED, we profess:
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son,
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
The same Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters of creation, who was there when the Father sent manna from the heavens, the same Holy Spirit who was there when the angel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the same Holy Spirit who came upon the apostles and disciples on Pentecost — came to me and to you at Baptism — and again at Confirmation.
When you and I pray — we pray IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. That Same Holy Spirit is leading and guiding the Church today.
The Holy Spirit OPENED hearts and minds and stretched the human spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon ordinary men and women and inspired them to do the extraordinary.
In the Acts of the Apostles we have seen that from the earliest days — there were those who wanted to assure that the old ways prevailed — of course — new members must be circumcised because THAT IS THE WAY WE CAME FORTH — AND THAT MUST BE THE ONLY WAY!!
The tradition of our FAITH is not in Latin Liturgy, kneeling with our hands under a communion cloth, at a altar rail — our tradition is not merely glorious hymns and fancy vestments. There is nothing wrong with these “things” —- and they are part of our historical-tradition. BUT OUR TRADITIONS are much deeper and richer than this — and many of our traditions are intangible bonds between the past and the future.
If we believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well — why would anyone fear discussion of priestly celibacy or the ordination of women? If the Holy Spirit is alive and well and given to all the faithful, then must the development of doctrine and discipline be decided by an all-male-ordained clergy and then passively received and embraced the lay faithful.
Were prophets called only in pre-Christian days? Did prophecy stop with people like John the Baptist? Must one be ordained to be prophetic?
Did not Martin Luther speak a prophetic message? Did not Martin Luther King speak a prophetic message? Did not Sr. Thea Bowman speak as a prophetess? Did not Nelson Mandela speak a prophetic message? Did not Oscar Romero speak a prophetic message? Were not the suffragettes women speaking a prophetic word? Is there not a prophetic message spoken by those who call for universal health care? Could not Pope Francis be speaking a prophetic message?
There are those who want the Church to be like a museum preserving relics — while there are those who want the Church to be a living body — actively passing on a lived-faith with a presence in the marketplace and participation in the socio-political-economic process.
In prayer we ask for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon God’s people, the Church. We will sing, “Come Holy Ghost” —- do we really mean it? Do we really want the Holy Spirit to come upon us? Is there HOLY SPIRIT ATHEISM in our Church?
Cannot God be about something new in 2019? Was there only ONE PENTECOST?