May 18, 2013

“Come Holy Spirit. Enlighten the hearts of your faithful people...”

By Father George Rutler

There is some sense to calling Pentecost the birthday of the Church, but it can be somewhat glib. You might say that the Church was born when Christ was born, or when water and blood, Baptism and Eucharist, flowed from Christ’s side on the Cross. You might even say that the Church was born with Adam and Eve and came to maturity when Jesus, the new Adam, and his mother Mary, the new Eve, greeted each other in the unrecorded instant before the break of Easter dawn. What we can say with precision is that on Pentecost the bond of love between the Eternal Father and the Eternal Son filled the Church. When Christ prayed the night before he died, he spoke of that unifier which is the Holy Spirit: “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26).

The Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI is to put to work the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are given in Confirmation: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They give life to the Seven Holy Virtues and defeat the Seven Deadly Sins. He who has never been tempted by those sins would be an oyster or a rock rather than a human. Perhaps the most underestimated sin is sloth. It is not simple laziness: sloth is spiritual apathy that dampens ardor for serving God in our short lifespan. An example of this is an individual who recently complained about Pope Francis canonizing the 813 martyrs of Otranto, since it might be taken as an affront to Islam. We cannot pretend that they were martyred by wild Methodists brandishing water pistols, but the real problem is that slothful souls cannot understand why anyone would give one’s life for Christ. Rather, Pope Francis said, “As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and that he give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”

In our corner of the Church, which is New York, sloth is more subtle than heresy or blasphemy or wrath. Notwithstanding all the good things in our archdiocese, it is significantly below many other areas of our nation in attendance at Holy Mass and in priestly vocations. This is not what one would expect of a people filled with the Holy Spirit. With the beauty of worship in our parish, and the springtime of vocations exemplified by two of our young men being ordained this month, we too may risk becoming smug, a condition as ugly as it sounds, forgetting that there is much more to do. “Come Holy Spirit. Enlighten the hearts of your faithful people.”

Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City.


  1. Father Rutler, I have a question and an idea that might be good enough to help.
    Question: How closely related are sloth, complacency and presumption against the Holy Spirit? Would the devil want people to start with being complacent, move on to sloth and end up in hell because of presumption?
    I heard a priest once say in Mass that if someone has not called you a religious fanatic lately (today?) you are not living your faith correctly.
    God says in 2Thessalonians 2:10; “for those who are perishing because they have not accepted the (true) love of the (whole) truth so that they may be saved.” I add (true) and (whole) because they must be there although not stated explicitly by God.
    What does it mean to truly love the whole truth other than we should seek to know it and understand it the way God wants it understood and we should do all we can to help others love the whole truth also.
    When someone proposes to us an idea concerning something they believe God wants everyone to believe, we have only two choices:
    1. Listen attentively and show that we truly want to believe everything God wants everyone to believe by honestly asking God and the other person for any evidence that God wants us and everyone else to believe this idea and come to accept this “faith” and reject anything contrary to it. or
    2. Show that we do not really care if God wants us to believe this idea or any other idea, show that we are too concerned with other (worldly) concerns and that we do not truly love the whole truth (whatever that is) that God is revealing for us to believe.
    There is no middle ground. We either choose to turn to God and whatever He wills, or we choose to turn our backs on God and tell Him (explicitly or out of habit implicitly without thinking), “You may want me and everyone else to believe this idea, but I do not give a darn what you want. You can go jump in the lake for all I care.”
    God is truth and He wills to share Himself, all truth, with everyone. God does not expect us to know all truth in this world, (only in the next world where “partial knowledge ceases” CCC314) but, He will bless us only if we keep on trying, keep on working, keep an open mind and receive an “E” for humble effort giving all glory to God for loving us in spite of our sins of commission and omission.
    How sad it is, not as it should be, if parents (current and future) do not teach this by word and example. How good it is if current parents and future parents resolve today to do a better job at truly loving the whole truth so that they may be saved. How good it is if we will to and start to work today to believe everything God wants everyone to believe and we reject the ploy of the devil encapsulated in the prayer, “God make me Holy, (help me to truly love You Who are all truth and to work to believe everything you want everyone to believe), but not today”. How sad if someone says implicitly, “I do not care to know any more than I do concerning what God wants everyone to believe.”

  2. Would God be pleased if all ministers of all faiths worked together to help all parents teach the above by word and example by placing signs at each entrance to their church along these lines, perhaps: “If your mind and heart are closed and you are not working to know and believe everything God wants everyone to know and believe; you do not have a living faith.”
    How sad it would be if a priest or minister could quietly, gently, without pointing a finger, remind every parent (present and future) of their responsibility to demonstrate the true love of the whole truth so that they MAY BE saved, and the minister says “I do not care if such a reminder may help someone, I am not going to do it”?
    Should all ministers unite in a public way stating that they each believe that “God, who is all truth, is revealing Himself and wants everyone to believe certain things and everyone should be seen working to know and believe whatever God wants everyone to believe and we each believe that if anyone continues to seek the whole truth they will be led by God, through the verifiable facts and God’s questions (that each of us is eager to share with anyone) to God’s answers and to the one faith that God wants everyone to accept.”
    Would many ministers refuse to join in such a public statement once a few started it?