The Holy Spirit, and All that Jazz


Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP

“What makes the lady of eighty go out on the loose? What makes the gander meander in search of the goose? What puts the kick in the chicken, the magic in June?”  That’s Elmer’s tune!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing (doo wab-di wah-doo-wab-di-wah…)” That’s Duke Ellington, speaking in tongues?

I never know, when I begin putting thoughts together, where the scriptures and the Spirit might lead. Today, it seems to be jazz! We’ve just celebrated the Big Flare of Pentecost Sunday, ending a liturgical season of great rejoicing. The wind, the flame, the fire. The punch, the spark, the drenching, the preaching of Jesus Risen to all the nations. And then it’s Monday, and the daily office returns us to week one, ordinary time. Does it feel a bit flat to you? Time again to settle in for the long haul?

God’s truth is that Ordinary does not mean “Humdrum.” We have entered into the season of the Spirit, the time after Pentecost, when all  Christian disciples get our marching orders. “Go forth.” And the Spirit goes to work. The Word of grace becomes flesh in and through us. In the Spirit’s domain, we are taught—again—the effort and the delight of discipleship, the power that blossoms from our powerlessness.

The Spirit labors in our dailyness, a source of strength for the long haul, hope when optimism can carry us no farther, the joy in community. And there is the unexpected moment, a new lightness, a bit of a kick, the surprising turn when any conversation can become a revelation, where any road can suddenly become a dance floor, where any ordinary you or me can become a Word or Work of mercy and compassion. A whisper, a breeze, a spark—there is the untamed Spirit who keeps the tune going, who tickles our toes, who tends the fire and enlivens the air we breathe.

Listen, listen, there’s a lot you’re liable to be missin’…Sing it, swing it…”

The Spirit comes to continue the explosion of Christ-energy, the never-ending Easter event—both in the yearly rhythm of the liturgy and for all of time stretching between the First Pentecost and the Last Advent. Breezing, flowing, glowing among us to ensure that we Christians never let Ordinary Time get too predictable, too heavy, to let the message grow stale, to let the tunes go flat….to collapse in frustration, to be overwhelmed by the weight, the enormity, the complexity of human woe.

“Don’t hold back the work of the Holy Spirit,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians. He knew. At any given moment, we will be yanked to our feet, shaken awake, swung around, fired up, and taught to whistle. The only thing to be taken for granted is the surprise of grace.

Is it any wonder that there are Dominican “ladies of eighty”, or seventy, or sixty, out on the loose? That they are preaching the Gospel in all manner of ways and places to all manner of folk? That the tunes and the lyrics of Dominic, our joyful brother, our preacher of grace, continue to soar and swing through the ages and into our midst?

Ordinary time? It “don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”….so catch the Spirit, the kick, the magic in June, and let loose (“doo-wab-di-wah”) a bit of Divine Jazz for the life of the world.


Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

13 responses to “The Holy Spirit, and All that Jazz

  1. Jan, loved your blog, your way of phrasing things and the connection between Jazz and the Holy Spirit. I bet Duke Ellington enjoyed it too.

  2. Jan, this is the preaching I needed to hear today! Thank you! The Spirit has surely given you a gift for all that jazz! It is a pure breath of Spirit.

    So, as Paul says, don’t hold back! Blessings

  3. Well Done Jan….. we crossed paths once upon a time at Ursuline…… Thanks for this reminder of the power of the Spirit to whisper through the silence of the trees, and/or in the roar of the bonfire on a Midsummer Night’s Dream….

  4. Jan,
    You continue to delight with your fresh perspectives on our Christian way of life. I’m moving back to New Orleans at the end of this month where Jazz seeps out of the sidewalks. The Spirit’s never been tamed there, or anywhere; however, Jazz isn’t omnipresent like in the Big Easy. Keep singing out Good News.

  5. Thanks, Jan! Love the “tongue-in-cheek” message, and especially the enthusiasm! May it continue in you, in me, in all of us!



  6. One of your best, Jan! Thanks for sharing your best with me for the last 50 years. Many more to come I trust. ❤️

  7. Sr. Enjoyed your article
    , and the references in music. I am an 84 year old associate and keeping going to the beat of the Holy Spirit. Bunny O’Brien, ct associatr

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