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Sermon for Pentecost Sunday


abbé Jayr Dear Pilgrims,

Pentecost has something of a stirring song sung around a camp fire. The camp fire, a wonderful moment for a scout. Comradeship, singing around a night fire. Fire is fascinating, it has a life of its own, like a living person. Fire is alive but we cannot hold it.

And so it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives. Like fire, He brightens, He lights up face, He burns, He soars high into the sky. But He is beyond our grasp. It’s exhilarating, The Holy Spirit is the fire and we are the wood.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of the least known of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Sometimes the Holy Spirit makes Himself known in great and lavish style, violent gusts of wind, tongues of fire, apostles full His Spirit, preaching, conversions. The Holy Spirit springs forth, transforms all, communicates but is unseen. The Holy Spirit remains invisible and volatile. He comes and He goes, we never see Him. It is His way of doing things.

The Holy Spirit oversees but is never seen. We see His actions but we never see Him. However He is all present. Ever since Pentecost He with the Church, He shapes the Church, makes her fruitful and through the Church He goes out to the whole world. He is in us and He only asks to be known, to manifest Himself in his own special and betimes unsettling way. His role is not to make Himself seen but to make us see. He hides Himself so that other things can be seen for their real value. He shows us what is the love of the Father and of the Son, for it is He who is this very love.

This is why the Holy Spirit presents himself as a fire. The Holy Spirit inspires but is ourselves who think, the Holy Spirit fortifies but is ourselves who act, the Holy Spirit teaches but it is for us to speak. The Holy Spirit raises up those who place their trust in Him, He enlightens them and brings them to act in Him.

The Holy Spirit, the flame of Pentecost, is the opposite of Babel. Let us remember the Tower of Babel. It was a work of pride, not of obedience. It was human intelligence, drunk with its own self and pitched against God. Punishment followed, God scattered the Proud and scrambled their language. Pride renders understanding impossible. There is a mysterious but real link between Babel and Pentecost. Babel is passion and the loss of intelligence.

The tower is a break down in speech, forsaking the word of God for the word of man. This pride will be its own downfall. Pentecost is the opposite of Babel, it is language rediscovered. The apostles preach in tongues, in a multitude of languages. Everyone understands them. Language becomes the servant of the Word and the tongues of fire are the witnesses. Intelligence, improved by wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, submits itself to God

We march today under the patronage of the Cristeros martyrs. What characterizes them is their courage, the virtue of the soldier who risks his life in battle. Courage is also endurance, holding firm in difficulty, being obstinate and patient, very much part of these three days of pilgrimage.

The Society in which we live today is trying its best to eliminate endurance, only the present and the immediate exists. Everything. Right away. Right Now. Instant and without effort.

Nowadays courage and bravery are very much needed. The faithful need courage if they are to be able put up with dry and dead parishes and priests who have lost their calling. We are in the darkness and have no way of knowing how long this trial will last. I think of the missions of the Institute of Christ the King in the bush in Gabon where our priests give of their very selves without counting the cost.

To be a Christian is to partake in this endurance. We are here in this life as on a battle field and we have to fight courageously. Without fleeing or looking away but rather looking towards our captain, Jesus, Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, He who always overcomes. He perseveres, He desires the will of His Father and our salvation.

Often when we wait for something that fails to happen we have a tendency to be impatient, to get annoyed, to say that the time has come to give up and try something else. But the Desert fathers believed that the Royal Road to Holiness is to stay where you are and to await God. One of them said ‘if a bird abandons his nest the eggs cannot hatch’. If you abandon your post your faith will go cold and crumble away. The Christian is he who combats and who keeps watch, awaiting God.

Saint Catherine of Sienna presents us Jesus Christ as a vulnerable and patient soldier. He leads a battle from the Cross, persevering right until the end. To be a Christian is to partake in this endurance. The Holy Spirit is not some kind of powerful celestial Superman acting out on a cosmic stage and who erupts into our universe like some hero from a Western. The Holy Spirit comes from the inside, from the very depths of ourselves. As Saint Augustin said, He is closer to us than we are to ourselves He comes to us as a child comes to his mother, in the very intimacy of our soul.

Mass reminds us that the Lord is with us. This gives us courage. We are not alone. The Lord is with us for He is risen from the dead. The Lord is with us for He has sent us His Spirit. We fight fear by refusing to be isolated, by being in communion. By virtue of our baptism this courage belongs to all Christians, not just to priests. The joy, freedom and happiness of being a Christian gives us a share in the life of God. We are witnesses of the resurrection of the Word. Courage is the virtue that allows all the other virtues to flourish.

Chartres Pilgrim, it is time to benefit from this spiritual halt that is this Pentecost Mass, to fill up our soul’s rucksack. Inside you put first a deep desire. The desire that comes little by little for what you want to do with our life. Ask yourself the question, both on a human and supernatural level, what do you want to do ? What kind of love lives in you ? What do you have as an ultimate goal in life and what occupies your thoughts. A passion for something that is realistic and realizable ? Friends? The giving of yourself ? The desert ? A family to found ? The truth to pass on ? Love to give ? What do you want to do ? What do you want to be ? Do you have the courage to admit it to yourself ? Do not be afraid of your most deepest desires. The only ones to be eliminated straight away are those adolescent myths and dreams that are never realizable. They are only a form of escapism from both yourself and from the combat that is life. Like the around the world cruise to interrupt your studies or the desire to be a Carmelite when you are the mother of seven children ! For the rest it is rare that our desires lie or mislead. It is simply a question of rectifying them, purifying them, using common sense and placing them before the Cross.

Young man, young woman, do you have the courage to ask yourself about the priesthood or the religious life ? Are you afraid of being press ganged ? The Lord does not pressgang, He does not enroll by force. Ask Him the question sincerely, ‘Lord, do you want me ? The Lord does not press gang, he enkindles desire, he lights the flame in your soul, that flame that makes you happy, or then again He doesn’t light the flame and nothing happens.

You have to take care of this profound desire for it is be realized. Our Lady would not have been the mother of God if she had not so desired it, longed for it and hoped for it.

Look well after your deepest desire and make it grow. Take this very seriously, you want to do something with your life that is big, beautiful and true. These three days of Christianity are to remind you of this, the real purpose of your life.

Second resolution. Have the courage to talk, to talk about it with someone else. The simple act of emptying your rucksack is liberating. When something is said the fear, the weight and the dreaming are taken away. Counsel must be sought. And counsel is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The opinion of another is always useful. It’s helpful, it frees the soul. Nothing is more important than being able to speak, to be listened to and to hear.

Looking for counsel leads quite naturally to the question of a spiritual director. This is a precious aid that nowadays we are rediscovering the virtues of. He is not some kind of guru who makes decisions for the individual. He is less of a master, more of a guide. He has the authority and the impartiality of a father. Like God the Father in Heaven, he is demanding, but this is so as to bring us up in the freedom of the children of God. And it is because he is father that he avoids authoritarianism and endless childhood. In a word he is a pearl of great price. Saint Francis de Salles said he is one in a thousand.

The orientation of an entire life, a vocation, is not some abstract thing. It is flesh and blood, it has a history. You do not marry a wedding, you marry a person. You should not dream your life away, you must live it as a road to holiness, this is so much more truthful.

Dear pilgrim, there you have what to fill your rucksack with. But don’t forget, you have taken three days for God. So take time, not to do nothing, take time to mature, to deepen, to change your life, to take advice and to live with the project in mind before undertaking it. As they say, ‘time tears down what is not built with it’.

There you go Pilgrim, you can tie up your rucksack. Ah yes, I nearly forgot. Could you also take opportunity of this Mass to ask yourself why are we marching.

To accomplish some sporting exploit, twinned with a spiritual exploit and some wonderfully friendly people ? Or with some dreadfully unfriendly people, a triple exploit ? Not at all ! To obtain a certificate of good Christian behavior valid for a year ? No again ! To lift up your spirits before going back to the land of work and the dreariness of life ? Yet again no !

I ask you this question because I am amazed at the general pessimism in the world today. Everything is lost. We end up dreaming of a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to protect ourselves from everything, because we are afraid. This pessimism is unhealthy, as much on the human level, as all despair is an absurdity, as on the supernatural level as it reveals a very real absence of faith in Providence. A desert father was asked what must you do to become courageous, he replied, ‘stop complaining’ !

So, why are we marching ? Whatever may be the deeper reasons, they all come together in the essential, in what we have as an ultimate goal during this Pentecost Pilgrimage, ask the Holy Spirit for each one of us, for our families, for our countries.

How do we do this ? The User’s Manual, is in today’s Mass, before the readings for the Mass for Pentecost Sunday. ‘Veni, veni’. Come, send, fill. This is directly addressed to people like ourselves : empty, poor, cold, complicated and stained.

‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’. Stop complaining and lamenting about the moral collapse in our country. This is of no use, or rather, it is of use if that makes us sing ‘Veni !’, pray ‘ Veni !’, march ‘ Veni !’. May our lucidity always be accompanied by hope, may we always avoid the trap of perfectly pagan despair.

Without the Holy Spirit what are we ? We are quite simply corrupted. Without His divine power there is nothing in any man that is not corrupted. I quote from the hymn, and it’s quite some list, we are stained, soiled, dry, wounded, stiff, frozen, warped, depressed, in tears and in the dark.

The Holy Spirit knows us well. And the Church invites us to forever request the remedies of the Holy Spirit, wash, bath, enlighten, heal, straighten, warm, console, a complete nursing programme ! He is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is a gift that the Heavenly Father never refuses when asked for. It’s written in the Gospel ! Ask Him, and if we are not in the mood to ask Him, ask Our Lady of Hope to form in us that prayer that He is waiting to hear, for God is the master of the Impossible. And today we are celebrating the 25 years, the 25 candles of our pilgrimage, 25 flames soaring into the sky !

AMEN !

Abbé Jayr
Institut du Christ-Roi Souverain Prêtre




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