Come, Holy Spirit! Allelujah!! Allelujah!!
Our readings for this Pentecost Sunday are here.
These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the
- June 9, 2019 Noon Mass
- May 15, 2016, 10AM Mass, and
- May 19, 2013, 10AM Mass
The poems Fr Dennis references in these years are:
- 2019 homily — How to Soothe by Laura Grace Weldon
- 2019 homily — Portrait in Nightshade and Delayed Translation by C. Dale Young
- 2016 homily — Horses by Jim Harrison
- 2013 homily — Three Dollars Worth of God by Wilbur Rees [Trigger/Offense Alert]
- 2013 homily — String Quartet by Carl Dennis
In 2019 and 2016, I didn’t collect any notes, mistakenly thinking since 2013 was a “complete” capture of homily and poem the latter years notes wouldn’t be missed or topped. I’ve included a few snippets that I recall regarding the poems, or are at the least consistent with what Fr Dennis offered.
In 2019, we reflected on —
Fr Dennis re-used Laura Grace Weldon’s How to Soothe poem from Divine Mercy Sunday as an example of the Spirit as comforter. The second poem, Portrait in Nightshade and Delayed Translation by C. Dale Young, shared a more complex aspect of the Spirit and Jesus of moving us in and beyond our own understandings — often without knowing the path, just our humanity. And, as we are wont to forget our humanity and the humanity of others in a blur of accomplishments, goal-settings, and self-focus, this unbidden reminder of our humanity is a precious gift of the Spirit.
In 2013, we reflected on —
- How Wilbur Rees’ poem captures that feeling of when Spirit asks too much, or when we have fallen asleep.
- Fr Dennis had altered the poem, originally written in ~1971 and using solidarity with people of color and immigrants as signs of our “not-so-challenging-or-close-to-you-o-God” limits and conditions on God’s Love, and switched it to “homeless.” In a brief reading of a poem during the homily it would be difficult to explain the original language and context. Our parish hosts a Daytime Warming Center for a month in January and supports a variety of local ministries of homelessness, so the example of a “homeless” person as God stretching us was a better fit for the brief moment of a homily. Also, our parish has a strong accompanying and advocacy with immigrants, particularly those of Latinx identity.
- As usual to his kindness mode, Fr Dennis did not make any mention of this. After the fact, when I found the original version of the poem, I noted the original text and the spoken change he had made. I did not ask him about it. D2 pastored for a time in a predominantly African-American parish in Columbus, was known for his kindness and easy goingness, and had clearly and seamlessly incorporated Black theology and culture within his practice of Catholicism. I didn’t ask him because all my experience of him already told me he had found the word change to be the appropriate edit to walk closely with his best friend, Jesus, and call us to reflect on how to do the same in our relationship with Christ. Too many words for how he handles Christ’s Love simply.
- The second poem, String Quartet, captures the sense of tongues and how the Spirit made a unity of them, in contrast to the babble of the Tower of Babel. We know we are in concert with the Holy Spirit when we are called and act in One Love, One Voice, and One Listening. This is a Spirit in community of body and hearts, and on our lips and tongues.
On a popular culture note, in the current Obi-Wan Kenobi series, young Leia asks “Old Ben” “What does the Force feel like?”
He replies with an analogy — “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” This was no small question as Leia had just been abducted across the galaxy as a 10-year-old and placed in a dark room and/or had her head covered.
“How does it feel when you turn on the lights?”
She says, “Safe.”
“Yes, it feels like that,” Obi-Wan replies.
In Ignatian spirituality, the sense he describes is called consolation. That in abiding in the Love of God, even in challenge, we have the peace … the “safety” if you will, of knowing we are in and with Christ, in Spirit. Consolation has been thought to explain the stories of Christian martyrs whose countenance was filled with radiance and peace at their deaths (St. Stephen, Acts 6:15, Ste. Jeanne d’Arc). I also think of US Rep. John Lewis (RIP), when asked why he was smiling in one of his civil rights arrests booking photos: Because I knew I was on the right side of history.
Unlike the STAR WARS universe, Christian Spirit is not a body measurement (no midi-Chlorian counts, sorry), nor is it a light switch, nor a wizardly incantation (no matter how much I like the consolation-type explanation of the Expecto Patronum charm that Lupin offers).
It is the silent deep joy of being in Communion with Love Loving, a communion which may bubble out of us humans in all kinds of wonderful and unique ways. Come, Holy Spirit!
The images for this weekend are one wondrous peony from my garden and the Peony Garden at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Nichols Arboretum. It is celebrating 100 years with ~200 plants and 10,000 blooms at peak season. Watching the peony and the people blooms intermingle with the buzzy flying things, four-footed friends, and each other — peacefully (albeit some of us need masks) was one of the most Spirit-filled and treasured “normal” moments in quite a while. Beauty rang out in all directions, filling us all. And, in that, not unlike the wonder of Pentecost for all those present.