Who is the Holy Spirit?
In December of 2016, Papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamassa preached his first Advent sermon on the second "post-concilior" period. With the passage of fifty years since Vatican ll, we've ended a period "characterized by problems with reception" of the litiurgical changes and entered, the Franciscan Capuchin theologian declared, "new innovation in theology and the life of the church with a specific name: the Holy Spirit."
His is a radical, provocative and compelling statement, is it not?
Before moving on to my subject, "Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit," we've got to stop and ask ourselves, "Who is the Holy Spirit?"
"What do we know about Him?"
The third Person of the Trinity, right.
The effusion of the Love between God the Father and His Beloved Son, yes.
But do these help us understand this third Person?.
A read of the catechism's definition of Baptism, offers comprehension of the Holy Spirit's power and majesty: When baptized, each of us is left with an indelible spiritual mark.
“No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. Through the sacrament, the Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of eternal life…Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.”
The second post-concilior period
The second 'post concilior' period is a far from evocative phrase. And yet all of Christianity has entered a " new innovation in theology and life of the church with a specific name: the Holy Spirit." When I learned this astounding fact, it explained much of what is happening in our beloved Catholic Church.
Papal Preacher Father Cantalamassa explains:
We can say that the intuition of St. John XXIII about the Council as “a new Pentecost for the Church” found its actualization only later after the conclusion of the Council, as has so often happened in the history of the Councils...In the coming year, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church will occur
It is one of the many signs—the most noticeable because of the magnitude of the phenomenon—of an awakening to the Holy Spirit and charisms in the Church. The Council had paved the way for this reception, speaking in Lumen gentium of the charismatic dimension of the Church alongside the institutional and hierarchical dimension and insisting on the importance of charisms. In his homily for the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday in 2012, Benedict XVI affirmed,
Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit.
The new theology is no substitute for traditional theology but rather inclusion of what has been lacking: affirming the Holy Spirit as the "light of dogmas." And exhorting the Creed 'from the ground up.' By that the priest means renewed appreciation of the Holy Spirit as third person of the Trinune God. Observing that Protestant theologian Karl Bath named this renewed emphasis on the Holy Spirit as Third Article Theology. the Papal Preacher emphasizes the universality of the doctrrine. This develpment has occured throughout all of Christianity.
Eloquently, the Papal Preacher explains the 'unknowablity'of the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit, nevertheless, will always remain the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects. He is like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we can see the effects of its passing. He is like the light that illuminates everything around it but remains invisible.
This is why the Spirit is the least known and least beloved of the three Persons, despite the fact that he is Love in person.
Although we know we should accept what's happening as God's will for us, we kvetch. About too much rain, not enough, or too hot or cold. And all too often, about whether the priest and/or parish is too liberal or too orthodox. And so for each of the popes I've 'known' since converting to Catholocism, John Paul ll and Benedict, people complained.
The simmering negativity about Pope Francis erupted into a raging boil with his New Year's missive on blessing 'irregular' couples--same-sex married men and women. Reminiscent of his apparent softening on the church's stance on reception of the sacraments by divorced Catholics, the resulting cacophany of shock and outrage has been deafening. Countless priests, scholars and a few bishops are claiming that Pope Francis has comitted heresy and cannot remain as pope.
It feels like fear
This reaction on the part of so many faithful feels like fear. And we each know the source of fear, don't we?
Relecting on myself while an atheiist, my antagonism to religion, to the devoutly religious, the anger and rage I felt was a cover for my fear. And I wonder if that fear could be applied to the changes and confusion that our current Pope is suggesting.
Let me explain.
Atheism wasn’t something I chose because it was cool. I lost all belief…everything became a sham, Christmas, Easter, all the prohibitions I’d grown up with. And I couldn’t explain what happened to anyone because I didn’t know. So I made up reasons and over time, believed them. I’ve had years to think about it all and understand that what I expressed as anger was actually fear. Of the consequences of my behaviors, bad decisions and the lying to myself that became habitual.
Of the fact that I didn’t belong.
I don’t think I’m unique in preferring anger over fear. Anger provides a feeliing of control, false, of course but superior to fear. In fact, hang on because I’m taking a huge leap here, all this dismaying reaction to Pope Francis’ declaration on blessings might emanate from fear. Americans are weird about sex, more so, I believe, than other cultures. There’s a reason the “sexual revolution” happened here rather than France.
And so when our Spanish-born Pope Francis and his advisors compiled a document based on the old testament’s view of blessings, and encouraged parish priests to look out for same-sex couples looking to get right with God, to help them, we uptight, still quasi-puritanical Americans freaked.
And we suspicious, frightened, devoutly Catholic faithful, thought, "Our Pope is leading us astray!"
So did I-until I read the document for myself
My first response was "This is it! The Pope's saying marriage is no longer bewteen a man and woman!" Because priest writers I admire were implying that as the intention of Fiducia Supplicans.
But then I took the time to read this lucid, beautiful document.
The Church is thus the sacrament of God’s infinite love. Therefore, even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing, stretching out his hand to God, as Peter did in the storm when he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Mt. 14:30). Indeed, desiring and receiving a blessing can be the possible good in some situations. Pope Francis reminds us that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.” In this way, “what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead.”
Fiducia Supplicans isn't a difficult read- if we're open and willing to see our church as the field hospital Pope Francis proclaimed it to be.
Theorlogian Joseph Ianuzzi explains precisely what is happening here.
The secular media has a track record of perpetuating a false narrative of the Church to the dismay of many Christians who often fall prey to dishonest reporting. Indeed, no sooner had the Vatican released its FS Declaration than the secular press, faster than the truth got its boots on, distorted the Declaration’s message by putting into the mouth of the aging Roman Pontiff words he never uttered. Such false headlines, emerging from the press and reiterated by far-right and far-left secular, Catholic and Christian journalists read, “Vatican Approves of Gay Unions with its Blessing,” “Pope Endorses Same-Sex Marriage,” “Sin is no longer sin in the Catholic Church,”etc. To better grasp the magnitude of the spiritual harmgenerated by false journalistic reporting, consider its foreseen consequences by both St. Don Bosco and Pope Pius XI.
Father Joseph Ianuzzi Clarification Fiducia Supplicans