As you know, my family moved my mom into one of these senior apartment complexes the Thursday before mother’s day.  That was the easy part.  The hard part is going through nearly 60 years of collected ‘stuff’ – to try and figure out what to do with it.  I have found a few “treasures” in the process.  A LOADED 38 caliber pistol.  Man, if I had known that mom was packin’ all these years, I would have been a much more obedient kid.  And then, in one top drawer was this envelope with dad’s handwriting on the front. (dad died in 1991) The return address read: Hotel El Cortez, in San Francisco.  It had two things inside it – what is left of a redwood leaf and this packet of seeds labeled Seeds of the SequoiaGigantea – aka, the giant redwood.

Tiny SeedsSo I planted a few of them in a small container today.  But here is the interesting part.  It will take 90 to 120 days for the seed to germinate.  So it will take 3 to 4 months for this tiny seed to perhaps begin to grow.  In the mean time, I am supposed to keep the soil damp but not wet.  3-4 months of not seeing any results.  3-4 months of nurturing and caring for a seed that is (make gesture) THIS SMALL, with no guarantee that the soil will be ‘slightly acid enough’ and I’ll find that balance between damp and wet for it to germinate.  And then to care for that sapling until it might become large enough to transplant to take root in our hot Missouri Climate.

Somehow, it feels right and important for me to do this, though, on Pentecost – because it really is not about the seed or the tree or even the connection to my father that the seed is about.  It really is an act of hope to do this – an attempt to let my nurturing of this small seed parallel what the Spirit of God wants to birth in me.

You see, I think for most of us, our experience of the Spirit is less like that “noise of a strong driving wind” as we heard in the Acts of the Apostles than it is about the experience of a seed germinating.  In hidden, quiet darkness, the combination of warmth from the sun and dampness from the earth begins to ‘coax’ the small changes in the seed.  Bit by bit, the ‘seed’ has to die – so as to shoot tendrils into the soil.  Those miniature roots wrap themselves around clumps of soil, drawing nutrients into what is left of the seed, so that it can send shoots eventually skyward that become saplings, that become trees, which in this case, would become, not the “Fr. DeSmet Elm tree” but the “Fr. Bill Sequoia Tree”.  😉

So, too, with us and the Spirit.  Though it can be experienced as a roaring wind whipping through the streets of Jerusalem, or flaming tongues of fire dancing above the heads of the disciples, isn’t our experience of the Spirit more like how John describes it in today’s gospel: the risen Lord just breathing upon us day after day?  And then that breath, breathed into us like God breathing into Adam at the dawn of creation, slowly sinks down, takes root, attaches itself to us; finding ‘ready parts’ within us to wrap tendrils of love around.  And then once it has found fertile soil within us, a willingness within our spirit that is ready to say “YES’ to that gentle invitation, it pushes up shoots into our world to help transform our culture and our world.

I think that is how most of us experience the Spirit.  Not in ecstatic moments of speaking in tongues and doing might deeds of power, but in a quiet kind of growth and love that begins with a transformed heart – that is how we experience that Spirit.  In that ‘breathing of Jesus’ over us

  • We are able to forgive a grudge we held for a long time
  • We make a pledge to the Annual Catholic appeal out of our resources because we know it makes a difference.
  • We write to our congress about the threat to religious freedom that the Health Care Mandate is.
  • We volunteer to cook a casserole for St. Patrick Center once every other month.
  • And so it goes… different gifts brought to life, none of us having it all together, but all together, we have enough.

So I’ll be keeping the soil “damp but not wet” for the next 3-4 months, and letting each moment I spend caring for those seeds also be moments of prayer when I say, for me and for you: “Come, Holy Spirit, come.  Fill the hearts of your faithful, ALL of your Faithful, and as you cause the seed to grow, so call our hearts to say yes to your breathing in us for the good of the world.  In us, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth…

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What is the Holy Spirit trying to make know through you?

If you have ever traveled to a distant country, you probably have seen this interchange happen.  Someone is asking directions or ordering at a restaurant.  When it becomes obvious that the waiter they are speaking to does not understand English – what do they do?  They speak LOUDER and S-L-O-W-E-R.  As if that will make a difference…  It is kind of laughable, isn’t it?  Yet I suspect that a lot of us have been guilty of that very thing.

I was at the ordination of three men to the Jesuit priesthood this morning.  One of the men was from Vietnam.  So, as a part of the ordination mass, the second reading was proclaimed in Vietnamese.  And the communion meditation song was also in Vietnamese.  And though the lector read wonderfully, I knew that no matter how LOUDLY or S-L-O-W-L-Y she read or they cantor sang, I would never understand.  Fortunately for me, and all those who understand only English, they provided a translation in the program.

All of which got me to thinking about one of the roles of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the first reading/acts of the apostles.  The Spirit reverses the sin of BABEL and the confusion of languages.  “Each one heard them speaking in their own language,” we’re told.  It did not take written translations on a page or someone speaking LOUDLY and S L O W L Y, but rather is the Holy Spirit’s gift to humanity.  The Spirit helps us sort out, from all the babble and all the noise – a narrative that makes sense.  One of the Spirit’s functions, as it were, is to help us hear clearly.

And what is Luke careful to tell us that Spirit helped people to hear that first Pentecost?  “Yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God…”  The Spirit’s role is to help us tune into the sound of the voice of God – calling and inviting and challenging us to be a part of THE MISSION for the salvation of the world.  And he used the 11 who had gathered, and the other followers to bring that about.  For what Pentecost tells us is that is still speaking, still trying to let himself be heard from the babble of all the noise that it out there.

So what is the HS trying to make understood BY YOU?  If the Spirit is using us, as he used those early disciples to reveal the mighty deeds of God, then within each of us is a gift, a voice, a note, a song – whatever image you want to use – that is given to us to make heard in the world.  What might that be?

  • Perhaps it is to work with our youth – either as they prepare for confirmation next fall, or in our outreach to them as members of the community at large – that God wants to make known through you.
  • Perhaps it is the call to make the social justice dimension of the gospel known by words and deeds here at St. Ann.  Then come to a meeting this Tuesday night at the rectory at 7 pm.   – consider this your invitation.  There will be at least three of us there…
  • Maybe the Spirit is calling you to give a ride to a homebound person who can no longer drive.  Let Pat M. know your availability.
  • Perhaps it is yours to organize groups of people for activities – as the Men’s club has begun doing with a few social events. But instead of social activities, the Spirit is calling you to organize for a specific need in the community – such as the community garden that Sue Reid is organizing on the lower field.  Listen for that invitation…

It was eye opening and ear opening to hear just one of those different languages this morning – and a reminder of the Spirit’s mission among us all.  Spend some time LISTENING this week –  Listening WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and allowing God’s Spirit to sort through all the babble and the noise.  And then say, with the church, – Come Holy Spirit – fill my heart, kindle in me the fire of your love – so that THROUGH ME and IN YOU, we might renew the face of the earth…

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Pastor’s Pen – May 23, 2010

Published on 23. May, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen


In good hands, continued…

If you happen to drive or walk through our cemetery these days, you’ll notice a change in the road surface. Norm Jacobs has generously donated MANY tons of white rock to re-cover the road surface. Thanks to Norm’s generosity and the hard work of Mark Kohler (and his truck) and Dave Williams, our beautiful cemetery continues to be a place of peaceful resting, both for those buried there, and those who come to pay their respects. What a gift their time and talent is to our parish.

St. Ann Catholic Church Cemetery

As always, the spring and summer months find the cemetery in need of volunteers to cut grass and pick up the fallen limbs. I am also looking for someone who is willing to do some rather serious trimming of the tall grasses that grow alongside the creek that emerges from the drainage field of our parking lot. Having done this for several years running, it is not a task for the faint of heart or body. If you are willing to help in any capacity, please let me or Bob Beckring know.

After many months of prayer and preparation, the Bereavement Ministry team is wrapping up their training and will be ready to assist those who suffer the loss of a spouse or loved one with open ears and compassionate hearts. Their final meeting is May 25 after which I will ‘commission’ them to be part of the healing outreach of our Savior to the grieving. The members of the team are Gary Uthoff, George Keller, John and Mary Schulte and Ann Beckring. Thanks to each one for this commitment to our parish community. Thanks to Ms. Teresa Roberson-Mullins for her time in training them for this work. Their service is a sign that the Spirit continues to pour out his gifts into the hearts of each generation, inspiring people to put their unique gifts at the service of the Lord and His Church.

As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost this weekend, my hope is that YOU reflect on the invitation of the Lord to continue to be His hands, His heart, His love to the world. What is the dream, what are the skills, what are the gifts that have been given to you for the good of this community? Are you willing to ‘stir those into flame’, as we hear from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy? Are you willing to pray that the Spirit uses YOU to ‘renew the face of the earth?” Come, indeed, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful…

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