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BY The Editors
The Church in the United States celebrated Pentecost early
this year. The Mass Pope Benedict XVI said at Nationals Stadium in Washington,
D.C., was identical to the Mass the Church celebrates on Pentecost Sunday,
except that the second reading was changed.
It was as if the Holy Father was so eager to call down the
Holy Spirit on Catholics in America that he just couldn’t wait. In fact, he
said the main reason he came to America at all was to pray for a kind of new
Pentecost in America. Using striking, formal language, he said:
“In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I
have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of
the apostles. I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of
Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah. … I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent
call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a
new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country.”
He spelled out his Pentecost program. He hopes for all
Catholics to “reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their
contemporaries a convincing account of the hope that inspires them, and to be
renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom.“ We’ll look at
each of those in turn.
1. Unity in the faith
It’s a sad truth that Catholics in America are factionalized
and divided. Newcomers to the world of Catholic action in America are often
startled at the viciousness of these divisions. Catholics of different styles
and stripes are continually judging each other, summing up one other
uncharitably, and sharing their opinions with whomever will listen.
In the midst of this, the Holy Father called Catholics to
unity, and identified the place to find it: in Church teaching, particularly as
expressed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
The Church has been threatened from the beginning with
divisions — from the apostles’ arguments about who was greater, to the
animosity already apparent in the early Church. The miracle is that the Church
has survived, united, through all of that division. Whatever the different
opinions and directions Catholics had, the truth of the Catholic Church has
always been stronger.
The Holy Father even identified a means for us to tap into
this strength: catechesis, especially for the young.
“Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of
catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds
of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord,” he said. “The challenges
confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of
2. Hope through reconciliation
Next on the papal Pentecost program was hope. He pointed out
that Americans are people of hope, but that the current context makes hope
The sex-abuse crisis in the Church took the wind out of the
sails of many Catholics in America. Benedict’s answer to it: Serve the victims,
continue safety measures but also reaffirm the priests who have done nothing
wrong and whose reputations have been hurt by the scandals.
The painful reality makes hope seem farther off, but the
Holy Father pointed out that it’s the Holy Spirit who brings hope, not
favorable human circumstances. He called Catholics to unite to the Holy Spirit
in deep prayer.
Said the Pope: “This is a prayer that yearns, in the midst
of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a prayer of
unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by
suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of
Christ’s own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of
If the difficulties the Church has faced have left us less
disposed to hope on our own, they have also created the conditions necessary to
allow God to become our only hope.
This difficult hope comes from confronting the past and
turning to God in confession, said the Pope, reminding us that it is through
the gift of the Holy Spirit that the Church has the power to forgive sins.
3. The New Evangelization
He thanked Catholics who participate in the New
Evangelization — the efforts to re-Christianize sectors of society that have
drifted from the faith.
He set an even bigger goal. The goal, he said is “that vast
horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to
all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our
There are many ways to participate in the New
Evangelization. The Register exists to report on those ways. In this issue, for
instance, find on the previous page a list of places you can go to spread the
The Church in the United States was blessed to have a papal
preview of Pentecost Mass. And in his words, we are blessed to have a preview
of what the future will look like if we respond to the Holy Spirit.