Congregational Letter
Volume III, Letter 8

Pope Francis

THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Gift of Wisdom: enables us to desire and value the things of God.
The Gift of Understanding: helps us grasp the truths of our faith more readily.
The Gift of Counsel: helps us to tell right from wrong and gives us proper judgment.
The Gift of Courage: gives us the strength to follow God’s will.
The Gift of Knowledge: helps us to be aware of and respond to God’s plan for us.
The Gift of Piety: inspires reverence, devotion and obedience to God out of love.
The Gift of Fear of the Lord: inspires awe at God’s majesty and dread of offending Him.

The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay
closed in ourselves, in our own group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?
Pope Francis, Pentecost 2013

Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:

May we be filled with the Holy Spirit! Pentecost—we know the story. We know the disciples were huddled together in one place, probably out of fear. The room was somber. They remembered His emotional promise of an Advocate. They were obediently waiting for some time not knowing what to expect. Suddenly the quiet room was disturbed. A strong, driving wind like that of a tornado filled the house. Tongues of fire suddenly appeared, parted and rested on each of them. A powerful scene, and a frightening one. The Advocate had arrived. The Holy Spirit would change the lives of the disciples forever. Filled with the Spirit, they were no doubt very surprised.

But when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you to all truth. (Jn 16:12)

Do you remember the last time you felt “filled with the Holy Spirit?” Take a moment to re-create the scene. What was going on in your life at the time—a family reunion, an anniversary or a Jubilee celebration, the wedding of one of your children, a Christening, the funeral of a parent or close friend, or the help you offered to someone in need? These life-giving moments are special. They tell us the Spirit of God is in us. We feel the Spirit within. These moments can surprise us. In his homily for Pentecost 2013, Pope Francis asks us a powerful question worthy of our reflection, “Are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit?” God’s surprises continue today.

Pope Francis goes on to say, “It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, who helps us recognize the truth.” We know from our religious practice that Christ sends us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the truth Jesus taught. To be His disciples we have to seek His truth. We know the Spirit enlightens us, encourages us, enlivens us and inspires us to seek and live by the truth Jesus gave us. One of my favorite spiritual writers is Fr. Anthony Gittins, CSSP. Fr. Gittins points out that the Holy Spirit also disturbs. But why does the Spirit disturb? Partial answers lie in the prayer no doubt learned as children:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew
the face of the earth…. Amen.

The Holy Spirit guides us as disciples to live the truth of Jesus’ world. To kindle in us the fire of love, we have to be open to letting the Spirit lead. The Holy Spirit inspires us to renew the face of the earth. That is a difficult task. It was difficult for Jesus and it cost Him his life. To renew the face of the earth is to choose to live the truth of Jesus’ world. Many times we let the Spirit lead us. However, there are also times when we resist the Spirit. At those times, the Spirit disturbs us and points us to Jesus’ world.

My personal reflection brings back incidents where I let the Spirit lead me, and the times the Spirit disturbed me because I was resisting Jesus’ world. One instance that occurred when I was a Principal stands out for me. A real tragedy brought me in contact with a student named Greg. He fell from a balcony at an out-of-control party, had broken his back and was paralyzed for life. I let the Spirit lead me to listen to the parents in their distress and to encourage Greg. The Spirit gave me the words to speak to them. I truly felt the Spirit’s presence during my visits to re-hab. Greg’s recent death at age 48 brought the whole situation back to me as though it happened yesterday.

There were many times, however, I didn’t let the Spirit lead me. I was too busy, caught up in my own agenda, too comfortable or too afraid. On a visit to Bolivia in 1989 I definitely felt the prompting of the Spirit. What the Brothers and Sisters were doing in Carmen Pampa was definitely renewing the face of the earth. I was in great conflict. Fear of leaving the familiar and having a rather comfortable life at St. Xavier including lifelong relationships were the resistors. I was asked a number of times to use my talents to renew the face of the earth in positions within the congregation. I resisted for similar reasons.

Jesus knew what He was about. He proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news…” (Lk 4:18) How does good news disturb? Jesus knew the secret that the religious leaders of the day did not want to admit. Jesus knew that “we are all made in God’s image.” The words of our Fundamental Principles represent what Jesus was about:

You were created by the God of love in His image and according to His likeness, to be a unique expression of that love. It is through you that He desires to manifest His love, through word and deed, to all you meet in your journey of life. (FP)

I frequently ask myself whether I live in Jesus’s world. Where is the evidence? Do I treat others as being created in the image and likeness of God? Is my world, like Jesus’, one in which the first will be last and the last first? Or is my world populated with those who have power and titles, privilege, social status and wealth? Where are the poor and marginalized in my world? Many times the Spirit disturbs me with His questions. Are the poor and marginalized only found in nice sounding documents and aspirations? Where are they in my here-and-now life? Are they a part of my (our) reality? Do I (we) live in a true community of equals “where there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) Does our world have the “in group” and the lesser group—those on the margin? In working to bring about Jesus’ world, the Holy Spirit has to disturb us in order to urge us to action.

In the keynote address to the Conference of Religious Formation a few years ago, Fr. Gittins talks of four ways that Jesus ministered. First, Jesus looked for trouble—that is, He went out of his way to encounter those in trouble and those in need, especially the poor and marginalized. Pope Francis calls us to be the Church of the poor. How are we doing? Secondly, Jesus invited all to the table. He excluded no one from fellowship at the table. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mt 9:11) Who do we invite to the table? Who is excluded? Third, Jesus was a servant—He gave us the example of washing his disciples’ feet. Finally, Jesus crossed religious and cultural boundaries when such boundaries ignored the dignity of the human person.

The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God…He impels us to open the
doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel and
to communicate with the joy of faith our encounter with Christ.
Pope Francis, Pentecost 2013

I truly pray that we, as the Xaverian family may grow in our “attentiveness, simplicity, flexibility and openness to the common, unspectacular flow of everyday life.” It is there that we will encounter the Spirit of Christ who enlightens, encourages, enlivens, inspires and even disturbs—if, like the disciples on the first Pentecost, we dare to open the doors and go forth with the joy of the gospel in our hearts and on our faces.

Who has the key to the door?

In Christ’s Spirit,

Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X. | General Superior

 

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