This week marks the end of our 2015 glorious Easter season, as we both individually and communally prepare our hearts once again for the feast of Pentecost and the inpouring of the Holy Spirit. This week we sing with ever more fervor and intensity: “Come, Holy Spirit”…”Send Us Your Spirit”…”Fill Us with the Fire of Your Love”…as we, like the early disciples, wait and pray for God’s transforming Spirit to “fall afresh on us.” Pentecost, often referred to as the Birthday of the Church, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, transforming Christ’s fearful and waiting disciples into preachers on fire with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, love, and reverence, loosening their tongues and igniting their courage to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, Risen Savior. It was the day this motley crew burst from the dark womb of their hiding place and, born anew by God’s Spirit, became Church. O Happy Birthing! Happy Birthday, Church!
Associate Jane Brown, OPA, who serves as Parish Minister at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri, shared with us her experience and reflections on this past Easter also being a Birthday Celebration:
As our Pastor lit the New Fire at the Easter Vigil, and then the Paschal Candle, a little girl exclaimed: “It’s just like a Birthday!” After chuckles from the Congregations, Father continued with the next prayers, beginning with, “God, knowing this is not a Birthday candle….” The community once again chuckles and then we are on our way to wait for the Resurrection of our Lord. We hear the stories of our Faith from the Scriptures, we raise our voices in glorious celebration. We call forth those who are asking to become the newest members of our Catholic Faith Community, and invoke the Saints to continue to pray for us. …Later, as I was praying, long after the Vigil was finished and the reception was over, I thought to myself that the little girl was “Right on” with her analogy when the Paschal Fire and Candle were lit. The night was truly a Birthday celebration of sorts: rising from death to new life, Jesus comes forth from the tomb in victory; dying to self and rising to new life in the waters of Baptism, given the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, fortified with the Eucharist, our neophytes were ‘born again’ to new life with Christ in our Church. All of us together are called to be born again of water and the Spirit. In so many ways, Easter is truly a birthday celebration of our Faith.
Easter for our congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Peace – Sisters and Associates in Mission – is also our Congregational Birthday. After six or seven years of intense conversations as a cluster of seven separate congregations, on Easter Sunday 2009 we each made the leap of faith together becoming a new reality, then burst forth from our Founding Chapter as a newborn union, with a new identity, a new name, a new Leadership Team, and a renewed energy to “preach the Risen Christ with a new fire.” This past Easter 2015, our community gathered in celebration of our sixth birthday and for our Second General Chapter.
Among all these reflections on birthdays, comes the ugly realization that there are millions of children, women and men – imprisoned in modern day forms of slavery through human trafficking, or robbed of their homes and heritage by war, oppression and persecution – people who long for a return of their rights, for their own rebirth in freedom, healing and happiness. This Pentecost as we pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, dare we ask ourselves “what can I do” to make possible a new “birth”day for these our “sisters and brothers?” March for Freedom in Columbus, Ohio, suggests: remember them in our prayers, educate our families and communities, raise awareness of this reality, and support anti-trafficking organizations. – A very good way to start.