Happy Pentecost! May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and therefore our Church this day. For those of you who, like me, are reading (or have read) Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism, his words and his thesis are very relevant today:
“lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is no longer optional” p. 20
The Holy Spirit has come today, which is a source of wonderful joy for us, since he is our interior Master, our consolation, our solace, the One who burns with purifying fire to configure us to Jesus… Let’s draw close to Him frequently.
Pentecost confronts me, if I’m honest, with the question of discouragement – particularly if we feel utterly submerged in, and surrounded by, on all sides, lukewarm Catholicism, as Weigel terms it. What is lukewarm Catholicism? It’s Catholicism which isn’t doing what it’s meant to do – penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the world with Christ’s Love, by forming intentional disciples and sending them out.
Are you in that boat? I think most of us are. I asked a group of seminarians what percentage of people they would say were “intentional disciples” in the last parish they were in. “Probably around two,” one offered. “Okay – two percent – probably your average British parish,” I responded. “No,” he said, “not two percent – two people.” We laughed over that one, but I wonder how many parishes that is true for, and if so, the vast majority of us experience lukewarm Catholicism as our Sunday reality – maybe we don’t even realise that’s what it is.
Discouragement comes to mind because around us we may see the Church and its impact far, far from where it should be. Last week many friends were at the HTB leadership conference in the Royal Albert Hall. It’s safe to say that the percentage of intentional disciples in evangelical congregations are far, far greater than in our own Catholic parishes. And this is without the grace and power of the sacraments. Some days the thought floats through my mind that, counting the number of ‘intentional disciples’ I’ve met in my new context on one hand, it may be worth popping into the local evangelical church to find people in love with Christ and committed to evangelisation. (I haven’t done this… yet!)
A day like today – Pentecost – reminds me that the Holy Spirit wants to take this reality and transform it in his power; that God desires on-fire disciples infinitely more than I do; that every prayer I pray that he would raise up many people to be his disciples in the world does not go unanswered.
So, making an act of faith that this is true, we need to think about how we deal with the discouragement that does sneak up now and then:
- The devil loves more than anything for us to be discouraged. Let’s send negative thoughts packing
- The moment we turn to our Father with our best efforts – how can we not come away realising how much he loves his son or daughter? How much he blesses our miniscule efforts? How much, how abundantly, he wishes to bless us the more we come to him
- What situations cause us discouragement? Let’s avoid them if we can (unless we have a responsibility there that no one else can do). No point in attending well-intentioned parish meetings if you leave more discouraged than you arrived
- What events / movements in the Church increase our hope and console us? Where do we find strength and receive joy? Let’s attend these more frequently
- In discouragement we see the sad reality of a situation which can then spur us to more prayer and more mortification. We can more earnestly pray our intentions in our Holy Communions / Thanksgiving after Mass / novena… And we can forego the biscuit with our coffee, the chance to put ourselves forward, the ‘smart alec’ remark… mortifications greatly increase the power of our prayers. (I am just writing this here because we rarely hear this)
Today, as we return into Ordinary Time, let us increase our hope and prayer to the Holy Spirit to pour water wherever in our Church he finds parched earth.
Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.
Thou in toil art comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.