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Spirit in The Church

Last Sunday we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. After completing the mission given Him by the Father, Jesus returned in glory to the right hand of God. As He bade good-bye to His disciples He entrusted them with a task: To make disciples of all nations. The task was daunting and His followers felt alone. Jesus assured them of His presence with them.

 

In John’s gospel, in His last talk to the disciples Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphans.” I understood the full impact of that word, “orphan”, when I lost my mom fifteen years ago. My dad had passed away several years before and now I felt all alone in the world. I felt like an orphan. Jesus told His followers that they would never be alone. He would be with them. He is with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

He is with us in the Eucharist, His “real presence” among us. He is with us in His Word, the Sacred Scriptures. He is with us in the Church, His extension in space and time. He is with us in a very special way through the gift of His Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit in the Church Who continues to sanctify the Church and all her members. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the sacraments become powerful channels of God’s grace.

Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of Pentecost, the official birthday of the Church. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the frightened apostles overcame their own sense of guilt at abandoning Jesus and flung open the doors and windows of the Upper Room to bear witness to the Risen Lord. It is by the courage infused in them by the Holy Spirit that they crisscrossed the civilized world and preached the Good News to all peoples. The guidance of the Holy Spirit enabled the baby Church to evolve and become what she is today.

In recent years, the Church has passed through a very difficult and yet momentous phase in her history. The sins of the priests and the failure of bishops to protect children have weighed heavily on the minds and hearts of Catholics. The scarcity of priests makes some people anxious and concerned for the future. The dwindling number of younger Catholics and decreasing number of Church weddings also make us wonder about what is to come.

In order to restore our faith and strengthen our hope, I would like to point out two truths about the Holy Spirit and the Church.

First of all, the Holy Spirit is present in the Church always and guides her every step. Jesus said to His disciples that He would be with them till the end of time. We must be careful not to decide when the Holy Spirit is present and when He is absent in the Church. Even though most Catholics believe in the presence of the Spirit, some choose to ignore or even deny His presence during certain periods of her history. Extremists on either side of the spectrum claim to be the final arbiters of the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church. For instance, there are Catholics on the extreme right who have serious difficulty with the Second Vatican Council and the reforms that it wrought. They would like to claim that the Holy Spirit was absent at that time. On the other hand, those on the far left were shocked by the election of Pope Benedict and questioned the choice of the Holy Spirit.

If we truly believe that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, we must affirm that the Holy Spirit never abandons us. Every period in the Church’s history – however holy or sinful, however turbulent or calm – is filled with hopeful signs of the Spirit’s presence. We cannot choose to accept only certain periods of the Church’s life as guided by the Spirit. We are not the final arbiters. We do not call the shots. God does. Our only viable response is humble submission to the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, the Church was founded by Jesus Christ. It is His Church and not ours. Jesus assured Peter and the apostles: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” No one will be able to destroy her. If we look closely at the history of the Church, we will discover that no period was without controversy or problems. The Church has always faced challenges.

The story is told that Emperor Napoleon was talking to one of the Cardinal delegates from the Vatican. The emperor threatened, “I will destroy your Church!” The cardinal was unmoved. The emperor insisted, “I will certainly destroy your Church!” Then the cardinal responded, “Your Majesty, we have been trying to destroy the Church from within for the last nineteen hundred years and we haven’t yet succeeded.” The very fact that the Church has survived every form of persecution from her enemies and every threat of wrongdoing on the part of her own members is ample proof that this Church is divine.

Let us pray for the Church. Let us pray for the leaders of the Church that they will always submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Please do pray for us priests that we may be holy.

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Phone: (847) 825-7605
Fax: (847) 825-5186

Mass Schedule

Sunday

7:30 a.m. - Upper Church
9 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
10:30 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
12 p.m. - Upper Church
5:30 p.m. - Upper Church

Monday - Friday

6:25 a.m. - Upper Church
8:30 a.m. - Upper Church

Saturday

8 a.m. - Upper Church
4:30 p.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel