"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Monday 20 May 2013


We ran an experiment this Pentecost which didn't look as though it would be successful.   Up till now, we have received people for retreats and have allowed them to take the initiative.  We ask them what kind of retreat they want and then do our best to comply with their wishes.   Do they want talks?   We give them talks.   Do they only want to confess?   We arrange for confession.   Do they want to be left alone?   They are left alone.   Have they brought someone from outside to direct their retreat?   He  or she is offered hospitality.   This time, however, before anyone asked to stay here, we arranged the programme and then advertised.

At first, we had a great success: a group of forty said they would come.   As we don't have room for forty, they were going to bring camp beds for their children so that the adults could sleep on the available beds.   However, this offer fell through.   When they heard that we specialise with only silent retreats, they realised that this would be too much for the kids, and they withdrew their application, leaving us with only one firm person in our book.  This number grew to three in the next few days, and there it stayed.
"What will happen if we only have three retreatants?" asked one of the monks.
" We shall go ahead; and it will be so good that more people will come next year," I replied.
One of the monks phoned a friend of the monastery.   She is a charismatic and was going to go to a charismatic jamboree in another part of Lima.   She changed her plans and rounded up a group of her friends to support the monastery with their presence.   We ended up with twelve, just enough to use all our guestrooms; and about the same number came to join us for the Saturday.   It is, perhaps, the most successful retreat we have ever had, with everybody exhilerated at the end, and vowing to return at the next opportunity.   It was the combination of "charismatic" prayer with monastic silence and liturgy that made it unique in their experience.   I knew from having had a charismatic parish that even the most charismatic of people appreciate the Mass when it is properly celebrated.

It began on Friday evening with a "ceremony of light" in the monastic chapel.   This was presided over by Dom Percy who belonged to a charismatic family and to whom it comes as second nature.   There were four parts.   

The first was an explanation of the meaning of the ceremony.   Then, each person approached the paschal candle and lit a candle, saying out loud what experience in life had made him or her more aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit.   I chose monastic profession and ordination.   There were hymns and prayers of thankgivng for all we have received from God.

Then we all sat in our places in the nave and tried to identify the times when our behaviour has been most contrary to the graces we have received.   Each person blew out his or her candle when this had been done. We then made a resolution to do something in the Spirit that, perhaps, we have neglected to do, or something extra that we need to do.

Once more we went to the paschal candle, and, as each lit his or her candle, publicly promised before God to comply with his or her resolution, naming it in a prayer.   When all had lit our candles, we then exchanged them with everyone else, continuing to swop them until everybody had swopped with everybody, this to symbolise our need to share and participate for the building up of the body of Christ.   Then  Dom Percy brought the ceremony to en end with a prayer; but they went on praying and conversing with him after I left.

All the participants went to all the monks' Divine Office except for Matins.  They began with Lauds and Conventual Mass at 7.00am.   During the morning, I gave a talk on "The Holy Spirit and the Church" and Dom Juan gave a brief introduction and then prayed with them, using the "rosary of the Holy Spirit".   He and Brother Ascensio had made a rosary of the Holy Spirit for each person.   I am sorry I have no photos for that morning.  The photo above is of Dom Mario giving his talk on the "Holy Spirit in our personal life" in the afternoon.   

Again, no photos for Solemn Vespers with cope.   Our photo cover begins with the Vigil of Pentecost with Mass at 8.00pm.   There were four readings, each with its psalm and prayer, just as in the Paschal Vigil.

After the four lessons, we sang the Gloria (missa de Angeles viii) and Vigil became Eucharist.
The Vigil was quite a marathon, and we went to bed late.   After Lauds sung by the monks - the people had books and joined in at will - and a good breakfast, we ended the retreat with Solemn Mass, sung by Father Luis.
I preached:
And Fr Luis continued the Mass.  I had another later.
After the Mass, I anointed the sick who were present:

I have found that the combination of charismatic prayer and a liturgy that does not try to make the Mass as much like a prayer meeting as possible has real impact; and this was shown, once again, by the enthusiasm of the participants who repeatedly asked us, when all was over, to have more retreats like this one.   Such phrases as, "I thought I was in heaven!" and "God is in this place!" were said by several people at different times.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost.   You all know the story, and we have just heard it in the readings, how, when the the apostles were sitting together, there was a great wind, and tongues of fire fell on each one of them, and the apostles and disciples of Christ became the Church of which we are all members today.   That is what we are celebrating.

But we are not merely celebrating an event that took place two thousand years ago.   For one thing, the Holy Spirit acts as a bridge over time and place, between events that the Church remembers in celebration and the Church that is celebrating.   This has the same effect as being placed in the room where Pentecost took place, and the Church - we ourselves - receive the blessings of Pentecost as though we were there.  

 Secondly, in the Eucharist we are celebrating, we are participating in an event that is in no way inferior to what took place in the Upper Room. In the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer of the priest is the prayer of Christ to the Father, because the Holy Spirit acts as a bridge between the priest and Christ, making the priest's prayer a vehicle for Christ's prayer  In answer to this prayer the Father sends his Spirit on the bread and wine and on the people, making the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, and making the people one body with Christ.  

This prayer, asking the Father to send his Spirit in Christ's name, is the most important of its kind, because the effect of this prayer is to make the Church what it is, the body of Christ.   All genuine experience of the Holy Spirit that Christians have, even  that of Christians who do not believe in the Mass, is really an effect of this prayer: it is enough that the Holy Spirit includes them as beneficiaries in the effects of this prayer.  This prayer brings about the full effect of Pentecost in the Church: the apostles didn't get anything better!

Here we are, celebrating an event that took place two thousand years ago in the Upper Room, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles.   As the Church remembers and celebrates, the same Holy Spirit bridges the gap between the Upper Room and us; and, through the celebration of the Eucharist, we are offered the same gifts that were offered to the apostles.   In answer to the prayer of Christ said by the priest, we receive nothing less than they did.

We know that the experience of Pentecost not only transformed a bunch of disciples into the Church, it also changed their behaviour.   There was a great burst of energy, and their apostolate became a real manifestation of God's loving power in the world.

We who are in the process of receiving the very gifts of Pentecost in this Mass, do we really want to receive the Spirit? Do we need to receive the Spirit?   Are we going to fall asleep, or are we going to open ourselves to the Spirit?   When we receive Christ's body and blood, are we going to forget about him only five minutes after receiving him, or are we going to remain in communion with him and allow him to accompany us into the world outside the Church.

We are going to leave this celebration of Pentecost filled with the Spirit, bearing Christ in our hearts.   It is our vocation each of us to be a monstrance.  You know that a monstrance of silver or gold exists to show the presence of the eucharistic Christ to the Church.   Each of us is called to so live that Christ's presence within us, the Christ we receive in holy communion, is manifested by our behaviour to the world.

The Holy Spirit is continuing to write the New Testament in the Book of Life, a continuation of the the Acts of the Apostles, a book that will only be finished at the end of the world.   If we have any place in the story will depend on how receive the Holy Spirit and how we react to having Christ within us.

What a great honour, a great joy and a great responsibility to be present at the miracle of Pentecost!!

Are we going to let this wonderful opportunity pass us by?
Or are we going to accept the Holy Spirit with all our heart and strength?

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your Love. Amen.

related: click below
The Charismatic Renewal and the Catholic Church | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views 

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