Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Happy Pentecost! Happy Birthday of the Church and Happy Birthday to the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, (Spiritans), and to all Spiritan Associates!
It is with joy in the Holy Spirit that we write this Pentecost message to you during this Covid 19 pandemic. May the descent of the Holy Spirit grant us the resilience we need during this challenging period.
At Jesus’ ascension, he asked his disciple to remain in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit showered them with the Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and The Fear of the Lord. Filled with, and empowered by this Spirit, the disciples became Jesus’ witnesses starting from the land of Israel to the entire world, (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Blessed Trinity is both an agent and a catalyst of mission. “He is the Lord, the giver of life who proceeded from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified”, (Nicene Creed).
Before the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus, they were timid and lacked the courage to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus which is the Gospel of life. But once the Holy Spirit bestowed his gifts on them, all the human fears in them dissipated. They began to proclaim the Gospel and many people who heard the message about Jesus where touched in their hearts and a respectable number, (over three thousand), asked to be baptised in a single day! (Acts 2:37-41).
One of those who was touched by the Holy Spirit and who appreciated the gift of the Holy Spirit in the church was Fr Claude Poullart des Places, the founder of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, (Spiritans). He gathered some poor seminarians who he was helping to feed in France and dedicated them to the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 28th May 1703. The members were dedicated to work among the poor in their society and in challenging missions where the church finds it difficult to find worker to send.
Hence the Spiritans work as missionaries in first evangelisation, in parishes, hospitals and among refugees. At the moment, the Spiritan Fathers and Brothers are working in over 55 countries which include; Australia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, Ethiopia, Nigeria, France, United Kingdom, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Kenya, Ireland and so forth.
The Holy Spirit is like a dove. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in form of a dove, (Matt 3:16). Sometimes, we wish that we could domesticate the Holy Spirit so that it will be at our beck and call, however, the Holy Spirit is like a bird, it flies where it wills. When Peter was speaking to Cornelius, (a Roman soldier), in Acts 10:1-48, to the bewilderment of Peter and his followers, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to the Word of God, including the members of the household of Cornelius who were non-Jews and not yet baptised. Peter then ordered for their baptism.
The Holy Spirit is like the Wind. Jesus said, “the wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but we cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit”, (Jon 3:8). The Spirit cannot be contained. It may be a gentle breeze or a hurricane.
The Holy Spirit is like a fire. On the way to the promised land, the Israelites were led in the night by the pillar of fire, (Ex 13:12). Fire has been a symbol of God’s presence in the Old Testament. Today, (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles like a tongue of fire, (Acts 2:5). The Spirit cleanses us as fire purifies gold, making us acceptable to God.
As we celebrate Pentecost today, we pray that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit so that you will continue to be Jesus’ witnesses in the world. We also pray that God will give the Spiritans the graces they need to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ as they celebrate the Anniversary of their foundation. Amen.
Happy Pentecost! Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp, Fr Jude Agorchukwu CSSp