In His Own Language

but they were confused because each one heard
them speaking in his own language.

ACTS 2: 1-11

Pentecost Sunday stirs up many memories.   As a child, the Holy Spirit was most evident in the form of my dad’s Pentecostal relatives.  I had one uncle who was a Pentecostal minister in the Church of God.  My grandparents and some relatives attended a Church of God congregation in my dad’s home town.   I always knew at some point in the service, the adults would begin speaking words that made no sense to me.  Of these adults, eventually, at least one if not more, would find their way to the floor.  In this spiritual swoon, other adults would hover — waving paper funeral home fans.   I always looked around curiously at what was transpiring around me — never feeling anything really.  Are we done yet? It seemed like a small penance to endure while we were visiting relatives.

My dad recalled this man in his church  — this poor brother would come down to the altar regularly to be prayed over — he just couldn’t seem to get “sanctified by the Spirit”, no foreign tongue would escape his mouth.  My dad can only recall once in his life that he felt an authentic presence of the Gift — a woman stood to speak a message of the Holy Spirit in a foreign tongue.  Another, a visitor that day, began weeping — this person stood and said the message was for her — it was in perfect German.  The person who delivered the message did not know German.  But; what did I hear mostly?  The relatives would point to the Pentecost scriptures and explain themselves away as having a “personal prayer language.”  Okay.  All I knew was that my family was Baptist and we were less “saved” on account of our lack of this Gift of Speaking in Tongues — we were not sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  Again — never really feeling anything  — should I care?  In the Bible, the people understood the words that were said to them — the Apostles spoke in known languages for a reason — this was crucial to the evangelism of the Good News.

Aside from the day I walked the aisle in my Baptist Church to make a profession of faith and request baptism — my day of Pentecost was the Sunday I attended my very first Catholic Mass.  With a background in scriptures, the Gospel literally came to life in front of me — everything that was said — I recognized scripture after scripture.  I recognized the context around which some of the responses are taken.  Today, I ask myself, would my conversion have been so profound — so immediate — if it had mostly been in Latin.  I don’t think so.  To have disrupted my experience by reading translations in the Missal would have somehow hindered the Spirit.

I’ve always been a conservative in my worship style.  By default then, I’ve befriended some conservative Catholics who prefer Latin.  I’m curious — I’m respectful.  I enjoy the Latin that is used, but, if I’d heard ‘Angus Dei’ instead of ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ at my first Mass — I would not have dissolved into tears of Spiritual happiness.  I understand the value of Latin — the words have meant what they’ve meant for a long time.  I’m not claiming linguistic expertise here.  I am delighted as I recognize the Latin roots in words of different languages that share meaning.  I understand the value Latin plays as a common language.  But, I also think it is possible to celebrate authentic liturgy that respects the Church while at the same time meets the needs of the local parish.

It was said in Mass today that the distance between faith in your head and faith in your heart can be a very long distance.  For me,  understanding some Latin is an academic pursuit — I got my own 1962 Missal — But, my own language, that is in my heart.  I am convinced that, in the heart, is true Evangelization and Christian unity.

Come Holy Spirit

Veni, Sancte, Spiritus

Note:  the header photo of my blog is of the Holy Spirit window in the Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City


Jesus Freak Sundays

I was going to write on something totally different today–until I got in my car after Mass this morning.  My rosary CD started skipping so I popped it out of my player — just needs cleaning.  Oh what to fill in slot 6 of my 6 CD player — I scanned the other CDs in my holder — yes, “Jesus Freak” — nothing like celebrating the birth of the Church with DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak.”

I like to imagine being an original first person witness to the teachings and miracles of Christ.  I’m sure I’d be standing on my tip toes trying to see over and around the taller people in the crowd — trying to see His face — hear His voice.  The overly righteous part of me thinks that any way.  I may have thought it was all crazy.  It is one thing to be a follower of someone you can see and hear.   It is a much different thing to follow someone who claimed to be God — who was crucified and died before many witnesses — who was  resurrected from the dead on the third day — who was seen walking around with many witnesses after having raised from the dead.

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday and today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  Jesus’ mission went truly supernatural.  The miracles almost seem nothing compared to this — even Lazarus was just a dress rehearsal — “Resurrection of an entombed dead person: Take 1.”  If it was Jesus that put a face on God, it was the Holy Spirit that gave God breath.  Just as God breathed into Adam’s nostrils and gave him life — God gave life to the Church in the breath of a mighty rushing wind. In some cosmic way, the Trinity was present at the onset of creation in Genesis.  In another way, the Trinity was present at the baptism of Jesus.  My uncle took my picture when I was submerged in my Southern Baptist baptismal pool.  God sent down the Holy Spirit like a Dove when his Son was baptized.  Supernatural.

In the Catholic Church, we sign ourselves with the Trinity — In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We are baptized into the Christian faith by these words of the Trinity.  And, if in life we strive to live up to our baptismal promises — to profess something of the Trinity — the dead rising — and maybe a virgin birth — we may indeed be labeled — Jesus Freaks.   So, I reveled in this loud music in my car all afternoon today.

Jesus Freak Lyrics — yes, you need to read them.  Gotta love a locust eating saint.