I am sitting at the Rome airport waiting for my first plane for the long journey home. It is going to be a very taxing day with all the layovers and flights, but I feel incredibly grateful to have had the time to be here and to have met several other priests from the United States.
This was my 7th visit to Rome. Upon each visit I go away with a lot of things to pray about. This trip was no exception. God had several very special blessings for me along the way in spite of the irritations associated with traveling in a different culture. One of the older and wiser priests I met during the course kept telling me that we would never have the New Evangelization (which Blessed Pope John Paul II kept talking about) until we had the “New Pentecost”. I totally believe that. I was sharing last night with one of the priests after we celebrated Mass, that outside of ordination being one of the greatest blessings in my life, Baptism in the Holy Spirit was just as an important grace and it has totally changed my outlook on life, my faith, my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, His Church, in fact, everything!
I recalled during this time in Rome the powerful prayer meetings we used to have at St. Augustine Catholic Community at the University of Idaho. I learned so much about the role of the Holy Spirit in my life and the importance of fellowship with other Catholics. A special word of thanks to my friend, Matt Beck, for inviting me to “Community Night” in the fall of my first year at the University of Idaho. He had gone the week before me and cleverly didn’t tell me anything about it. I think he wanted to see the shock on my face as I experienced my first Charismatic Prayer meeting. (I remember him having a rather mischievous grin on his face as people lifted their hands, prayed out loud, and some in a strange language I couldn’t understand.) Part of me wanted to bolt and run to the door because I had never seen anything like this and it scared me. In spite of this initial reaction, part of me also noticed immediately the joy and freedom to worship God that was so present with “no strings attached.” I was greatly attracted to that and always wondered about the Psalms that talk about lifting holy hands to God and shouting out your praise and joy. I had never seen anyone do that in Mass and wondered if such expressions of faith (like I had seen some Christian television programs) were authentic. I returned to the prayer meeting in the weeks ahead and got a little more comfortable each time, although I sat glued to my chair. Within a few weeks it was announced that the prayer group was having a Life in the Spirit Seminar. I signed up and the rest is history. I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit within a few weeks and things began changing in my life. I have had the privilege of being a part of many Life in the Spirit Seminars over the past 15 years. In fact, our parish community is about to start one in a few weeks.
It is a tremendous grace to see the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives leading them out of fear and into boldness and most importantly, the experience of JOY! There is a great lack of joy in the world today and sadly, in many parts of the Church. Once again during this trip, I got to kneel at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII to join my prayers to his prayer at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.
“Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in our time, as though for a new Pentecost, and grant that the holy church, preserving unanimous and continuous prayer, together with Mary the Mother of Jesus, and also under the guidance of St. Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.”
This grace is needed in every nook and cranny in the Church today. As I tell the Confirmation candidates frequently, “Lord Bring it On!”