Emitte spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae. Send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth. (Ps. 103:30)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My very Dear Sons,
Today, on the feast of Pentecost or Whitsunday as it is also called, we celebrate a certain beginning. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit of God did not exist before it came upon the Apostles in the Upper Room or that the Church herself had no existence prior to the apparition of tongues of fire and the great wind that shook the whole house where the Apostles were gathered along with the Blessed Virgin Mary. From the dawn of Creation, as we read in the Book of Genesis, the Spirit of God was there and “hovered over the waters” (1:2). No, Pentecost is not the absolute beginning of spiritual things; nor does it mark the commencement of holiness or even of Christian holiness; however, the great outpouring of the Spirit of God as related in the Book of Acts does represent a kind of new creation, a spiritual rebirth of things as the world had never until then experienced.
Unlike the beginning related in the Book of Genesis, the new beginning that happened for the Apostles and Disciples united around the Mother of God continues even today. It continues in the entire Church but most especially in the Saints. The Church’s history of holiness, of sanctity, is a rich one. The Roman Martyrology, to name just one reference, contains the accounts of the lives of a crowd of Saints, a “cloud of witnesses,” (12:1) as the Epistle to the Hebrews magnificently says in reference to the lives of the Christian martyrs and saints. There is a vast literature about this, a hagiography of holy persons down through the Christian ages. Theology describes for us under the term of “justification” what happens to a human being when he or she receives holy baptism and the initial gift of sanctifying grace. Hagiography or the recorded history of the Saints teaches us about the marvelous development of that initial gift, how the tiny mustard seed given at the beginning grows into a great tree, so that “the birds come to perch in its branches” (Mt. 13:32).
What makes a Saint is somewhat mysterious, but we know that sanctity is rooted in the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. One definition of sanctity would be a certain perfection, a certain fullness of these virtues, especially that of Charity. Charity is our supernatural love of God that branches out into the love of our fellow human beings. The two aspects go together. “A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34).
This Theological virtue of Charity does not stand alone, however; not only does it go together with Faith and Hope, but brings along as well infused moral virtues such as prudence and justice and a whole panoply of spiritual favors. On this feast of Pentecost the holy liturgy reminds us especially of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, those marvelous divine habits of the soul that enable it to be docile to the commands and inspirations of God. The Saints display to an amazing degree the presence in their souls of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In many cases, with the more famous Saints, we see also the presence of extraordinary gifts, “charismatic” gifts as they are sometimes called.
The miraculous gift of being able to read hearts, for example, enabled Saint Padre Pio, who died 50 years ago, to discern when someone was being deceitful in Confession or simply had forgotten a serious sin, perhaps through lack of an adequate examination of conscience. In such cases Saint Pio was able to tell the penitent exactly what he did and when, as well as any relevant circumstances. This gift of the holy man drew hundreds to him for Confession and spiritual direction. The same holy capuchin was known to have even more marvelous gifts. The testimony given by Padre Carmelo Durante is just one of the many stories testifying to Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation, the ability to appear in more than one place at a time.
One day in the refectory we were talking of this and that. I remember that in the conversation I was holding forth about a fact then unheard of: an airplane–I don’t remember of which airline–had made the journey non-stop between Rome and New York in only six hours. To me and the others it seemed something incredible! The Padre who until then had kept silent, interrupted in the middle and asked: “How long? How many hours, did you say?” I answered, with increasing marvel: “Padre, six hours and what is more non-stop!” The Padre also marveled over the fact but to the side exclaimed: “Six hours! Good heavens, but that is a long time! When I go it takes me only a second.” (Christine Fickling, Spiritual Gifts of Padre Pio)
Such are the charismatic gifts, destined, not for the sanctification of the individual who possesses them, but for the edification of the Church. Saint Paul speaks of such gifts in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter twelve. “Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” These riches, such as prophecy and the gift of tongues, are things to be thankful for. However, the same Apostle of the Gentiles, after having enumerated the charismatic gifts, has something further to say. “But be zealous for the better gifts. And I show unto you yet a more excellent way.” He then introduces his great celebration of the theological virtues, especially of charity. “And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” In a world that is desperately in need of saints, let us beg the Holy Ghost to give us all the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and many other gifts, especially these “better gifts” mentioned by Saint Paul. And let us strive with all our might—helped by the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles—let us strive with all our Faith, Hope, and Charity, to become authentic Saints—the Sovereign Pontiff recently wrote about this—and to lead all the children and young people around us to embrace this great ideal. In these perilous times, nothing less will do but a rebirth of authentic sanctity; nothing else will suffice. Veni Sancte Spiritus. Amen. Alleluia.