Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pentecost: high point of the Year of Faith?

The Solemnity of Pentecost - the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church of the Apostles gathered around the person of Mary - should perhaps be one of the greatest celebrations during the Year of Faith. It captures both the element of inner renewal, both communal and personal, of faith that is a feature of this Year, and the impulse for evangelisation that is its hoped for outcome.

I suspect that in many parishes today this significance of the Solemnity for the Year of Faith will be obscured by the celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation, rather than being brought in to focus by it. In Rome this weekend, Pope Francis has met with the new ecclesial movements and associations in St Peter's Square. Some 120 000 people are reported as joining the vigil yesterday evening ( here and here), and Pope Francis is to celebrate Mass with the movements and associations this morning. The pilgrimage for the Year of Faith has taken the same form for the new movements as it has done for previous gatherings (most recently for Confirmation candidates and for sodalities and confraternities), with participants making a pilgrimage to the Vatican Basilica focussed on a profession of faith before the high altar/tomb of St Peter on the Saturday and joining the Holy Father for a celebration of Mass on the Sunday morning. Pope Francis own appreciation of the movement Communion and Liberation has become apparent since his election. I expect that fuller reports and texts of the pilgrimage this weekend will appear in due course.

This weekend's encounter in Rome is an echo of two previous such meetings, one with Pope John Paul II in 1998 (during which the Holy Fathers reference to the co-essentiality of the charismatic and the hierarchical in the Church provided a strap line for the role of the movements in the Church) and the second with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 (Zero and I were in St Peter's Square for that one!).

Pentecost usually prompts me to look again at the books of Fr Peter Hocken (and here) that I have on my bookshelves. What are in some ways the first and last in a sequence of four - Blazing the Trail: Where is the Holy Spirit leading the Church? and Church Forward: reflections on the renewal of the Church - are the two that I dip in to most often. (The other two in the sequence are The banquet of life, about the dignity of the human person, and God's Masterplan: penetrating the mystery of Christ, whose title speaks for itself.) One thread in these books, and of Fr Peter Hocken's thinking in general, is the conviction that the Second Vatican Council represents a particular inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the Church of our times - reflecting the way in which the significance of the Council has been affirmed by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and is expressed again in the celebration of the Year of Faith to mark an anniversary of the Council. Another is the way in which he takes that general principle and develops it very specifically in relation to such themes of the Council as liturgy, Scripture, evangelisation, dialogue and ecumenism.

There is no misrepresentation of the Council to be found in Fr Hocken's writing; it offers a positive and orthodox orientation with regard to the Council documents that is fresh air when compared to the antagonism towards the Council implicit in the traditionalist critique of the contemporary situation of the Church.

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