Imagine, for a moment, your home around Christmas. See the glistening tree. Envision the Nativity set. Breathe in the peppermint-spiced…everything. Feel the shredded gift wrap beneath your slippered feet. In the background, hear the endless list of sacred hymns performed by less-than-sacred, secular artists. Reflect upon this most incredible gift. Contemplate our Blessed Mother holding our Savior as Love softly exhales mercy into a sin-ravaged world.
Imagine, next, your home on Good Friday. It’s quite solemn. Your stomach growls from the fast, but your soul quickly embraces the very minor suffering. Signing yourself with the cross has a different feel on this day. The tabernacle is empty. The skies are gray. You’re overwhelmed by your sin, God’s grace and the sacrifice not only of a Son but also the unfathomable act of love on the part of the Father. Still, you fall to your knees grateful for what this moment means to eternity.
Finally, imagine your home on Pentecost where the hanger that holds your best red shirt (364 days a year) now sits empty. What was your experience of Pentecost?
Maybe you were awoken by an antiphon to the Holy Spirit, from the liturgy’s Pentecost sequence. Perhaps you leapt down the stairs to find your father at the kitchen table speaking in tongues and your mother making homemade “Paraclete Pancakes.” Maybe you stayed up late each of the 50 nights prior, editing the premiere music mix of songs that had the word “Fire” in the title. Perhaps you and your siblings acted out the scene from the Upper Room, using action figures and dolls, sending every miniature, plastic missionary abroad to share the truth with toys throughout the house. It’s possible, too, that you went door-to-door inviting neighborhood families of all denominations to your home parish for a blowout bash of epic, Apostolic proportions!
Or maybe the Liturgy Committee put out red linens, the lector butchered half of the names of the cities in the Mediterranean world (in all fairness, Acts 2 can really be tricky), 1/3 of the assembly donned red shirts and the Priest unleashed a fire-filled homily about the Spirit’s life to an assembly looking half dead.
Is this closer to your typical experience of the Feast of Pentecost? Are your teens and parish “fired up” when the Spirit’s fire falls or do the cradle Catholics in the pews reach for extinguishers out of a desire to remain comfortable? How do you typically celebrate the movement of the Holy Spirit in your daily life?
As in years past, the Life Teen Staff prayed long and hard about what our next annual theme would be. In the process, the Holy Spirit continued to lead us back to the same place – Himself. So, in 2011 the Life Teen movement is going to dive headfirst into the love and the power of God, unpacking our theme, “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit).
Our Holy Father has called the Holy Spirit, “The soul of our souls.” In contemplating the Holy Trinity, we are swept up into the greatest mystery of our faith, immersed headfirst into a Love the depths of which no earthly mind can fully fathom and few earthly hearts – but by the grace of God – dare plumb.
While the Bible affirms that “the Spirit speaks in sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26), it seems that many of us are speechless when it comes to speaking about Him. Why don’t we have more to say? Why don’t we celebrate this Third Person of the Holy Trinity with more boldness, gratitude and ferocity? Where do we even start?
Catholics often inadvertently “compartmentalize” the Holy Trinity, I think. We mentally place God the Father in Heaven, Jesus in the tabernacle and the Holy Spirit in the broom closet. Fearful of where the Spirit will lead us or of what fully surrendering to the Holy Spirit will require, we choose the safer option – to “concentrate on” Jesus. We forget that it is only “by the Spirit” that we can even proclaim Christ’s Lordship (1 Cor. 12:3).
I’d say imagine your world without the Holy Spirit – but you can’t. It’s impossible to do so because a world devoid of the Holy Spirit is a world devoid of Divine Love, devoid of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and devoid of any hope of salvation. We call that “world,” hell.
And since we cannot conceive of what a world would look like without the Holy Spirit, let’s pause for a second and look at just a few of the “things” that the Holy Spirit is responsible for. The Holy Spirit…
…reveals Jesus Christ
…builds up and sanctifies the Church
…changes bread and wine
…is given to the apostles and in apostolic succession
…leads the Church on her missionary path
…is the source of the Church’s life and holiness
…cleanses us from our sins
…converts the human heart
…helps and sustains our faith
…inspires and transmits Revelation
…leads us to and in prayer
…is working for our salvation
And these are just to name a few!
In the coming year, we’ll be calling upon the Holy Spirit to unleash the full power of the Sacraments that have been conferred upon us and confirmed within us. Life Teen and Edge programs throughout the world will be walked even deeper into the life of the Spirit. We’ll offer you resources, trainings, experiences and encounters designed to help all of us – teens and adults alike – to more fully surrender and more perfectly unleash the Spirit of God in our lives, homes, parishes and dioceses!
First and foremost, we want to call everyone in Life Teen – in this movement of the Holy Spirit – to deeper and deeper prayer. “It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church” (CCC 2672). It is our greatest prayer that in this universal language of our universal Church, teens attending Life Nights in two dozen countries across the globe will be united by the Holy Spirit, prepared to walk into a world donning more than a red shirt or a spiritual song, but ready to unleash the fire of God’s love to a world desperately in need of it…just like those who left the upper room.
Veni Sancte Spiritus!