Friday, June 16, 2017

Homily for Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Homily for the Solemnity of

Corpus Christi
June 6, 1999
Deut 8: 2-3, 14-16
St. Joseph’s, Passaic, N.J.
O.L. of Pompei, Paterson, N.J.

On June 18, solemnity of Corpus Christi, I'll be traveling to Quebec go represent the Salesians at the SIGNIS conference there, starting on the 19th. Here's an old homily.

“The Lord your God … fed you with manna…” (Deut 8: 3).

During the Easter triduum 2 months ago, we heard how God brought the Hebrews out of Egypt:  how the angel of death passed over their homes, whose doorposts were marked by the blood of the paschal lamb, while they were eating that lamb indoors; how God parted the Red Sea and brought them over it, then drowned the Egyptians in it.

Last week we heard how God called Moses up Mt. Sinai a 2d time and renewed the covenant with him and the Hebrew nation; we heard the Lord describe himself as “merciful and gracious, rich in kindness and fidelity”; we heard Moses beseech the Lord to come with them on their journey thru the wilderness (Ex 34:4-9).

Today, at the end of that long journey, at the end of 40 years of wandering thru the Sinai desert, Moses reminds the people how God has indeed accompanied them, especially by feeding them every day with the mysterious food called manna, which neither they nor their ancestors had known when they were slaves in Egypt.

Why does the Church have us read this passage from Deuteronomy today, on the feast of Corpus Christi?  To remind us of how God has acted to save us also and to remain with us—all symbolized in the wondrous sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood.

For the Eucharist is the blood of the paschal lamb marking our doorposts—our lips, which figuratively open the way to our souls.  The destroying angel must pass over all those signed by Christ as belonging to him.  The waters of death cannot drown those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb.

The Eucharist is the new covenant between God and us, a lasting sign of God’s mercy and fidelity, the sign of his body nailed to the cross and his blood shed to redeem us, his body risen and ascended to heaven for us.  As we make our journey thru the wilderness of life, assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, our God who died and rose for us comes along with us.

God began to accompany us in a very personal way when his only Son was begotten in the womb of the Virgin Mary when she said “Yes” to the angel Gabriel, “Yes” to God’s plan.  The Son of God continues to accompany us on our life’s journey as he is begotten, so to speak, under the form of bread and wine at every Mass when the priest says, “This is my body; this is my blood.”

What the Hebrews ate in the desert for 40 years resembled bread, and so they called it “bread from heaven.”  It nourished them for their journey.  What we eat each week—perhaps each day if we are especially fortunate —begins as bread but becomes something else, something far more nourishing.

Like the apostles, we all become the companions of Jesus.  Companions means, literally, those who share bread together.  How true that we share bread with Jesus, who has made of himself for us “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51).

St. Paul refers to “the bread that we break” and “the cup that we bless” as participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16).  Nutritionists tell us we are what we eat.  We are the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  We participate in his own divine life.  What company to have on our way thru the desert!  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood,” he tells us, “remains in me and I in him…and will have life because of me” (John 6:56-57).

If the daily manna sustained the Hebrews until they reached the Promised Land, we may be sure that “the living bread” of Jesus’ body and blood will sustain us until we reach our promised land, the place which Jesus has prepared for us, an eternal dwelling, with him and his Father (John 14:2-3).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blessed Francis Kesy and Companions, Martyrs

Blessed Francis Kesy and Companions, Martyrs
Optional Memorial, June 12
by Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB, and Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, SDB

Your humble blogger was traveling to his new assignment on June 12-13, and packing for the move in the preceding days (besides carrying on with parish ministry), so is tardy with this post.

On June 12 the Salesian Family celebrates the liturgical memorial of the martyrs Blessed Francis Kesy and his four companions, who were members of the Salesian Family as leaders in the Salesian youth center in Poznan, Poland, and were executed by the Nazi occupiers on August 24, 1942, on account of their commitment to pastoral work at the Salesian church and youth center of Mary Help of Christians in Poznan.

(Bollettino Salesiano)
All five of the youths were fully committed to their human and Christian development, and all five were involved in working with their peers, sharing similar interests and personal and community projects. Arrested within days of one another and imprisoned briefly in different places, they were then put into the same prison and suffered martyrdom the same day and in the same way. Fr. Juan Vecchi, the Salesian Rector Major (1996-2002), spoke about them in this way on the occasion of their beatification: Each of them had his own particular biography, which then became intertwined with that of the others in the common Salesian setting, which prepared them in a human and spiritual way to embrace martyrdom.

Francis Kesy, 22, was sensitive and frail, often in ill health. But he was cheerful and good-natured. He loved animals and was always ready to help others. He wanted to become a Salesian. During the Nazi occupation, he was unable to continue his studies and took a job in a factory. He spent his free time at the Salesian youth center, where he was a great friend of the other four and led youth groups and activities.

Edward Klinik, age 23, self-conscious and quiet, became much livelier after joining the Salesian youth center. He was a conscientious and methodical student. Among the five he stood out because of his deep commitment to every kind of activity. He gave the impression of being the most serious and thoughtful.

Jarogniew Wojciechowski, 20, was outstanding among the others: he was a contemplative, with a tendency to look into things more, trying to understand what was going on. He was a leader in the best sense of the word. He was known for his good spirits, his commitment, and the good example he gave.

Chester Jozwiak, 22, was irascible by nature, but spontaneous, full of energy. He was in control of himself, consistent, and ready for sacrifice. There was no doubt about the hold he had over the younger children. He was clearly striving after Christian perfection and was making good progress in that direction. One of his fellow prisoners wrote: “He was good natured and had a character with a soul as clear as crystal.... I could see that his heart was free from any stain of sin, from any wickedness. He shared with me one of his concerns: that he should never fall into impurity.”

Edward Kazmierski, 23, was noted for his sobriety, prudence, and kindliness. At the Salesian youth center, he was able to develop his special musical gifts. The religious spirit he had acquired in his family quickly blossomed into Christian maturity under the guidance of the Salesians. While in prison he showed great love for his companions. He willingly helped the older ones and was completely free from any feelings of hatred toward his persecutors.

These young men give outstanding proof of the strong formative influence of the Salesian youth center, when there is opportunity for co-responsibility, when the educational approach is personalized, and when the Salesians are capable of guiding the youngsters along the path of faith and of grace. They were arrested in September 1940 and imprisoned in Fortress VII in Poznan. They were then moved first to the Neukölln prison, and later to Zwickau, where they were questioned, tortured, and put to hard labor.

Two notes show that we are dealing with giants of the spirit: “God alone knows how much we are suffering. Prayer has been our only support in the depth of the nights and days.” “God has given us this cross, and he is also giving us the strength to carry it.”

On August 1, 1942, they were condemned to death for treason. They stood to hear the sentence, which was followed by a long silence interrupted only by the exclamation of one of them: “Thy will be done.” They were condemned simply for belonging to Catholic organizations, which it was suspected might give rise to resistance to the Reich.

Before they died they were able to write to their parents. Reading these lines, one is astonished by a perception of greatness. A good example is what Francis wrote: “My dearest parents, brothers, and sisters, the time has come to say good-by to you. It’s August 24, the day of Mary Help of Christians.… May the Good Lord take me to himself. Don’t have regrets that I am leaving this world so young. I am now in a state of grace, and I don’t know whether in the future I would remain faithful to my promises.... I am going to heaven. Farewell. There I shall pray to God.… Pray for me sometimes.… I’m going now.”

They were taken into the prison yard in Dresden and beheaded—on a day when Salesian communities were keeping the monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians. Their martyrdom crowns the range of youthful Salesian holiness. “We point to them as intercessors, as well as models of the highest ideals” (Fr. Vecchi).

In Mary Help of Christians Church in Poznan, the five are venerated as intercessors on behalf of young people who have moved away from God and the Church, imploring for them the grace to return to Christ. In the young martyrs we can see representatives of the ideals of young people from Catholic schools with the vision and the strong desire to serve their country with dedication in all areas of life, in the name of God’s love. They are the most convincing proof of the validity of Salesian education.

Francis, Czeslaw, Edward, Edward, and Jarogniew are models for the young people of today because of their defense of the value of life and human dignity, and their opposition to false ideologies. Today’s false ideologies include racism, fanaticism, absolutism of the state, discrimination, and exploitation of the poorest and most vulnerable. These young men staked their whole lives on God, Jesus, and the Gospel as the sources of happiness and life.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Homily for the Feast of the
Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017
Ex 34: 4-6, 8-9
John 3: 16-18
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.

Amid the press of packing for departure from Champaign as well as carrying on normal pastoral duties, I resorted to recycling a homily for the feast of the Holy Trinity (from 2014). I did tweak it a little bit.                                                                         
“The Lord passed before Moses and cried out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity’” (Ex 34: 6).

We’re taught that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the core dogmas of our faith, perhaps the most fundamental of our beliefs.  The Creed that we profess every week and our baptismal profession are structured around the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This fundamental belief distinguishes Christianity from the other religions that believe, as we do, in the one God who created the universe, rules it, and will judge us all at the end of lives, viz., Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism.

Yet we can’t explain this fundamental doctrine, only define it—3 Persons in 1 God—and profess and celebrate it.  Great theologians have tried to understand and explain the Trinity—e.g., St. Augustine in the 5th century, St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, and Fr. Karl Rahner in the 20th century.  But finally we can only say, humbly, I believe even tho I don’t understand.

One aspect of the Holy Trinity that we can grasp is that God is love.  The Trinity involves relationships—Father and Son, and their personal union that is a 3d Person.  Their love overflows, as it were, to involve us:  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

That love seems to be the focus of the readings this morning—the “take-away,” if you will.

In the 1st reading, God has summoned Moses to climb Mt. Sinai to meet him.  As you know, God had called Moses personally to his role as liberator of the Hebrews, and God maintained an intimate friendship with him.  The word “love” isn’t used to describe that relationship, but “friend” is (Ex 33:12,17).  Moreover, it was to Moses that God 1st revealed his own name, in the apparition at the burning bush (Ex 3:14).  His name is YHWH, a mysterious Hebrew name that may be interpreted in various ways:  “I am,” “I am who I am,” “He who is,” “I am he who causes what is,” “He who brings into being whatever comes into being.”

In most modern translations, that proper name is rendered LORD with all caps, and so it is in our passage today.  “God stood with Moses there and pronounced his name, ‘LORD,’” i.e., YHWH.  And the Lord YHWH tells us more about himself:  “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”  He comes to be with Moses, to be with Israel, to be their kind and merciful protector, to stand by them faithfully, to save them from the oppression of the Egyptians.

This is the God who sends his only Son to take human deliverance 3 steps further.

The 1st step is to deliver his people not merely from earthly slavery but from spiritual oppression, from alienation from God and from our fellow human beings, from sin, and even from death, the ultimate result of sin.

The 2d step is to deliver all of humanity, and not just a single nation, from that oppression.  “God so loved the world,” not “God so loved Israel.”
The Holy Trinity and the Saints
from the breviary of Mattia Corvino

The 3d step is to bring those whom he saves thru the Son into a close relationship with himself:  a fellowship, a communion, membership in the divine family.  Moses’ intimate relationship with God prefigured that communion of heart and will opened to us by Jesus.  In Christ this communion is extended to every man and woman who “believes in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

God is 3.  He is relational.  He is a community.  In his graciousness and mercy, he draws us into his community; he shares with us his love; he makes us family.

Fr. Tim Zak Appointed Provincial

Fr. Tim Zak Appointed Provincial

On June 9 the Salesians of the New Rochelle Province were informed that Fr. Angel Fernandez, Rector Major, has named Fr. Timothy Zak as provincial.  Fr. Tim, vice provincial since July 1, 2015, had already been interim provincial following the resignation of Fr. Steve Shafran in March of this year.

Fr. Tim was born in Stoughton, Mass., in 1962. He made his novitiate in Newton, N.J., in 1982-1983, made his perpetual vows in 1989, and was ordained in Boston on May 26, 1991. After ministry in various province works, he was appointed director of the youth center in Orange, N.J. (2005-2007), director and pastor at St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago (2007-2013), and pastor of Holy Rosary Parish and director of the Salesian community of Port Chester (2013-2015) until his appointment as vice provincial.

 The Rector Major’s letter follows.

Direzione Generale Opere Don Bosco

    Via della Pisana 1111 – 00163 Roma

                     Il Rettor Maggiore

June 8, 2017




My Dear Confreres:

It gives me great pleasure to announce to you that with the consent of the General Council I am appointing as your provincial for the 2017-2023 period

Fr. Timothy John Zak, SDB

I wish to thank him for accepting this appointment with a spirit of Salesian availability, obedience, and deep love for all of you.

I want also to take this opportunity to thank him for the gentle yet steady leadership he has been offering the province during the time of Fr. Steve Shafran’s illness and absence.

And finally I wish to thank you, dear confreres, for the serene manner in which you are living this delicate moment of transition in your province’s history.  This was evident in the high percentage of your participation in the consultation, in your very instructive and illuminating comments, and in your near unanimity in recommending that Fr. Tim Zak be your next provincial.

We continue praying for dear Fr. Steve Shafran.  May the Lord through Mary Help of Christians help him to continue healing.  And may the good Lord, through the intercession of your patron St. Philip the Apostle, abundantly bless your new provincial and your whole provincial community, especially the young people to whom the Lord sends you.

Looking forward to my visit among you next year, I send a warm and fraternal embrace.

P. Ángel Fernández A.,SDB

Rector Major

Relic of Don Bosco Stolen from Colle Don Bosco

Relic of Don Bosco Stolen from Colle Don Bosco


Pilgrims to Colle Don Bosco venerate Don Bosco’s relic in the basilica built on the site of his birth. Photo by Andrea Cherchi – Turin.

(ANS – Turin – June 5) In the evening of Friday, June 2, the relic of St. John Bosco -- a fragment of his brain -- that had been placed along the rear wall of Don Bosco Basilica at Colle Don Bosco in Castelnuovo Don Bosco was stolen.  

“We’re very upset, as will be many devotees who will learn what happened. We are confident that Don Bosco can touch the heart of whoever has done this and make him retrace his footsteps, just as Don Bosco was able to transform the lives of the young people whom he used to meet. We are also sure that, although you can steal a relic of Don Bosco, as has happened, you can’t steal Don Bosco from us and the many pilgrims who visit these places every day,” said Fr. Ezio Orsini, rector of the basilica.

Three days after the sacrilegious robbery, while investigators continued their investigations to find the stolen relic, the Salesians of the Colle Don Bosco community, who staff the basilica, expressed their gratitude for the attention, prayers, and signs of solidarity received via email and other messages.

Fr. Luca Barone, director of the community, made special mention of the support expressed by Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, the Rector Major and his vicar, the regional councilor, and the provincial as just some of the “many from all over the Salesian world” who “have expressed their sympathy.”

Archbishop Nosiglia
On Saturday, June 3, Abp. Nosiglia urged all the priests of the archdiocese to remember the Salesian community during the Masses of Pentecost. “The news of the theft of a relic of St. John Bosco from the shrine of Castelnuovo is one that you would never want to hear,” the archbishop wrote. “It makes us think there must be a profound moral misery in whoever would take away a ‘sign’ that has been left and preserved for the devotion and the faith of everyone.

“The Church of Turin is close to the Salesian community,” the archbishop’s message continues. “Don Bosco was a priest of this diocese. Only two years ago, we celebrated, along with the exposition of the Shroud and the visit of Pope Francis, 200 years since his birth.”

After exhorting his priests to remember the Salesian community in the Masses of Pentecost, Abp. Nosiglia invited those who took the relic to return it “immediately, and without conditions: so that this painful page can be turned, and we can duly continue to honor Don Bosco’s memory in the very place where he was born.” [Ed. note: The basilica was built on the site of the Biglione farmhouse, in which John Bosco actually was born, although that fact was not discovered until some years after the construction.]

Meanwhile, the Salesians report that the Carabinieri are investigating the case. Fr. Orsini, confirms that pilgrimages of the faithful continue devoutly and calmly.

We're Outta Champaign

We’re Outta Champaign
Province decides to withdraw from ministry in Champaign, Illinois 😢
Photo by Dave Devall
In mid-May the Salesians of the Eastern Province announced that the Salesians would withdraw from their ministries in Champaign, Ill. The decision was made after months of prayer and discernment, in dialog with the diocese of Peoria.

Since 2013 two Salesians have staffed Holy Cross Parish and one has served on the pastoral staff of the Newman Center at the University of Illinois’s flagship campus (about 45,000 students).

The June 10-11 weekend was the Salesians’ last weekend in the parish. The parishioners offered all three Salesians a farewell reception on May 21 after the 4:00 p.m. Sunday Mass.

Photo by Dave Devall

Blogger doesn't remember who used his camera to take this shot.
Photo by Dave Devall
In his letter announcing the province’s decision to the parishioners and members of the Salesian Family, Fr. Tim Zak wrote that the decision was guided by priorities set by the Salesian Congregation at world level, reiterated by the province’s 2016 provincial chapter.

Those priorities include both apostolic effectiveness and the fraternal life of the Salesian communities throughout the province.

Fr. Zak’s letter noted that the 4 Salesians who were assigned to Champaign between 2013 and 2017 have all loved the people they served and worked hard to minister faithfully to them, and they have known the parishioners’ and students’ love, support, and appreciation. The Peoria Diocese and local clergy likewise appreciated their ministry.

Those 4 Salesians were Fr. Dave Sajdak, pastor (2013-2017), Fr. Bill Bucciferro with the Newman Center staff (2013-2017), Fr. Joe Santa Bibiana, director and parochial vicar (2013-2016), and Fr. Mike Mendl, director and parochial vicar (2016-2017).

The Salesians leave a physical legacy with the parish and its parochial school: a stronger preschool program with a new building and various building renovations. They leave the spiritual legacy of devotion to Mary Help of Christians and St. John Bosco, and of the Preventive System. The Salesian Cooperators remain to keep Salesian spirituality alive in Champaign. The confreres found many trusted and valued friends and hope those friendships will endure.

The Salesians have assured Holy Cross’s parishioners of their prayers during and after the transition and encouraged all concerned to look to the Risen Jesus as the source of our life and strength.

Here’s a photo collage from the 2016-2017 pastoral year.
When FMA Sisters Theresa Lee (kneeling) and Loretta DeDomenicis visited Champaign in the winter,
the Kisting family hosted a social for the local Salesian Family.

On the feast of St. John Bosco, the Salesian Cooperators hosted a modest social for the parish after the last Sunday Mass. Included was a little skit about Don Bosco's multiplying breakfast rolls one morning, and a Salesian finding his vocation by witnessing that. Fr. Mike plays DB, Bailey McMahon is a penitent, and Mary Shelden brings word that there's no bread in the house. Photo by Sue Berndt.
The Easter Vigil is the high point of the Church's liturgical year. At Holy Cross this year, Deacon Bob Ulbrich assisted Fr. Dave Sajdak with the paschal candle. Photo by Dave Devall.
We had a terrific RCIA class this year. At the Easter Vigil, 4 new Christians were baptized by Fr. Dave (including one 8th grader from our school), and 7 were admitted into full communion with the Catholic Church. All 11 were then confirmed and made their 1st Communion. Here, Fr. Dave baptizes Angie Schweighart, one of our preschool teachers. Photo by Fr. Mike.
Between September and March, Fr. Mike and Linda Atherton led 5 Boy Scouts from Troop 9 thru the Ad Altare Dei program. Kaleb Leininger, Jack Williamson, and Anthony Frasca were ready to receive their medals and certificates at a parish Mass on April 23. Ian Clapper and J.D. Sexton received theirs a few weeks later, also at a parish Mass. Photo by one of the parents with Fr. Mike's camera.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Blessed Stephen Sandor, Salesian brother and martyr

Blessed Stephen Sandor
Salesian Brother and Martyr
Memorial, June 8

Story and photo from

Stephen Sandor was born in Szolnok, Hungary, on November 26, 1914, the son of Stephen and Maria Fekete, the oldest of three brothers. His father worked with the state railways, and his mother at home. Both gave their children a deep religious spirit. Stephen studied in the city, gaining a diploma in metallurgy. As a youngster he was admired by his friends and was happy, serious, and gentle. He liked hanging around with his friends and was a leader among them, like John Bosco among the young people of Chieri. He helped his younger brothers study and pray, giving them his own example. He was fervent at the time of his Confirmation and promised to imitate St. Peter, whose name he took for Confirmation.

Knowing Don Bosco through the Salesian Bulletin

Stephen served Mass every day at the Franciscan church and received Communion. Through reading the Salesian Bulletin, he came to know about Don Bosco. He immediately felt attracted by the Salesian charism. He spoke to his spiritual director, expressing a desire to enter the Salesian Congregation. He spoke to his parents about it. They did not give permission and sought to dissuade him. But Stephen finally convinced them, and in 1936 he was accepted at the Clarisseum School, where he made an aspirantate of two years. At the Don Bosco print shop, learned how to be a printer. He began his novitiate, but it was interrupted by military service.

Model teacher and apostle

In 1939 Stephen resumed his novitiate, and he made his first profession of vows on September 8, 1940. Asked to teach at the Clarisseum, he immediately began to teach technical courses. He was also assistant at the youth center, something he did competently and enthusiastically. He fostered the Young Catholic Workers. His group was recognized as the best in the Movement. Following Don Bosco’s example, he became a model teacher. In 1942 he was called back to military service and earned a silver medal for valor. He organized an oratory at the front, encouraging his young friends in a Salesian style.

Bro. Stephen (far right) with his altar boys at the Clarisseum School.
At the end of World War II, Bro. Stephen involved himself in rebuilding society morally and materially, especially in the case of poor young people whom he gathered around him in order to teach them a trade. On July 24, 1946, he made his perpetual profession as a Salesian coadjutor brother. In 1948 he was certified as a master printer. When they completed their studies, Bro. Stephen’s students were employed by the best print shops in Hungary. 

Secret martyrdom

After the Communist takeover of the government in 1947, a period of persecution of Catholic schools began, and they had to close. Bro. Stephen was working in the print shop, but he had to escape and hide in Salesian houses while working under a false name in a chemical factory and continuing his youth and catechetical work secretly.

In July 1952 he was arrested at work, and his confreres never saw him again. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, it was learned that he had been tried as a traitor on account of his religious activity and hanged in prison on June 8, 1953. His cause of martyrdom was opened at Budapest on May 24, 2006, and he was beatified on October 19, 2013.

Carrying out the beatification rite in Budapest, Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Vatican’ s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said that Bro. Stephen’s death, far from being an “improvised heroic gesture,” had followed a life of “perpetual self-dedication.” He said religious persecution creates “a gulf between human beings,” whereas martyrs build “bridges of fraternity, forgiveness, and acceptance through their sacrifice.”

Homily for Solemnity of Pentecost

Homily for the
Solemnity of Pentecost
June 4, 2017
Acts 2: 1-11
John 20: 19-23
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 4).

From a medieval Liturgy of the Hours, ca. 1485
The Scriptures today offer us 2 versions of the gift of the Holy Spirit from Jesus to the Church.  We’re very familiar with both versions, St. Luke’s in Acts and St. John’s in the scene of Jesus’ appearance on the nite of his resurrection.

In either case, the risen Jesus sends the Spirit upon his apostles gathered in the upper room.  He sends the Spirit, it seems to me, for 2 purposes.  The 1st is to bind his disciples to himself, to our heavenly Father, and to one another.  The 2d is to enable them to carry on his work of human redemption.

Theologians speak of the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son.  The Spirit is also the bond of love in our Christian lives.  This unity among believers is symbolized in the Pentecost story from Acts in the wondrous ability of all the listeners to understand the apostles’ preaching, regardless of their different languages:  Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, Farsi, and Lord knows what else.  The Spirit forges us all into one holy people of God, one universal communion of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  “In the Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

We’ve been given the same Spirit that came upon Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism in the Jordan.  At that time the Father voiced his pleasure in his beloved Son (Matt 3:17||).  The Spirit makes us, as well, beloved children of the Father, members of God’s family.  We are sealed or stamped as God’s own people, marked for an eternal destiny, heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ.  That gift of the Spirit was given to us in Baptism, was confirmed in our 2d sacrament of Christian initiation, and is renewed every time we commune with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus.  We are one with all true believers in Jesus Christ in our time, in past ages, in time to come—this grand communion of saints bound together by the Holy Spirit.  As Fr. Dave would say, “How wonderful is that?”

On Easter nite, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), his Spirit, upon the disciples, huddled so fearfully in the upper room (20:19) where 3 nites earlier they’d all celebrated Passover.  With his Spirit he transmitted to them his mission of redeeming the world.  They were to go forth in the power of his Spirit and forgive sins, reconcile sinners to God (20:22-23).  That, pure and simple, is the work of the Church:  to reconcile sinners with the Father and the Son thru the Holy Spirit—not in any inherent power of bishops and priests to forgive sins but by the commission of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.  In the power of the Spirit, the Church preaches the Gospel of Jesus and the Church celebrates the sacraments of Jesus in order to reconcile all of us with God, to fill us with God’s love—also called “grace”—to put us into that peace with God that Jesus bestowed upon his disciples on Easter nite.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come!  O most blessed light divine, shine within these hearts of thine, and our inmost being fill.  Heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew; wash the stains of guilt away.  On the faithful who adore and confess thee, evermore thy sevenfold gift descend; give them thy salvation, Lord; give them joys that never end.  Amen!” (Sequence)