While way too many people in the Catholic blogosphere were way too concerned with whether Father Alberto Cutie should have left Holy Mother Church so quickly, or whether Judge Sonia Sotomayor was sufficiently Catholic (Massgoer or just occasional Massgoer?), or just how much of a liberation theologian Miguel Diaz is, or whether any of the bishops were going to take punitive action against a Catholic college in Indiana, the Holy Spirit was patiently doing her work. (Oh, and don't get all hot and bothered about that "her." Ruah in the Hebrew, I am reliably told, is feminine. So is Sophia, as in Wisdom. So why not a "her" for the Spirit? It's not a him, is it? And it is, most likely, not a bird. Anyway, "her work.")
What prompts this? Well, I've spent the last few days directing a weekend retreat here at Eastern Point Retreat House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts (home of the Gorton Fisherman, setting of The Perfect Storm, not to mention Captains Courageous) and was reminded, once again, that the faithful are faithful and the Holy Spirit is busy. Now, I won't break any confidences (and certainly not get remotely close to breaking the seal of the confessional), but whenever I leave the narrow confines of the blogosphere, and medialand in general, for the world of ministry--whether doing sacramental ministry at my local and vibrant Jesuit church in New York, offering spiritual direction to a few adventurous and trusting souls, giving an evening talk at a far-flung parish and meeting enthusiastic parishioners, or doing retreats here at my favorite place in the world (see above photo for why) I'm reminded that the Holy Spirit is still quite in charge, thank God (if you can thank God for God).
In other words, despite all the absolutely scandalous infighting in the Catholic church lately (um, need any examples? I didn't think so) babies are baptized, children receive their first Communion, adolescents are confirmed, couples are married, the dead are buried, the Mass is celebrated and people are generally happy to be Catholic.
This weekend I'm spending time with a wonderfully diverse group of devoted men and women all seeking to find God in their lives, and, guess what?--God is finding them, and finding me, too. God tends to do this, no matter how contentious, fractious or resolutely unchristian our church becomes over matters political or even theological. Not to say that the news stories in that first graf are unimportant (those stories touch on celibacy, the place of religion in the political arena, Christology, the Holy See and abortion.) Rather, our infernal internal battles cannot prevent the Holy Spirit from working in the church. Thank God for the Spirit.
Pentecost was a big surprise to the disciples. All those languages? To say nothing of the "tongues of fire" (whatever that looked like). The Holy Spirit is always surprising, rarely (ever?) conforming to our expectations. Bold, energetic, vibrant, shocking, alarming, unexpected, transformative. Cf: the lives of the saints. Cf: the Second Vatican Council. Cf: anything that renews your enthusiasm about the church. But you know that already. What I tend to forget, though, is how consistent it is. The Spirit is always at work in the church and in the lives of believers. And while ugly suspicion, rampant mistrust and widespread contumely in the church--especially between warring "factions"--is a continuing scandal, the Spirit moves beyond all that, into the hearts of believers.
It's Pentecost every day in the church. The Spirit is speaking. But are we listening? Or are we too busy blaming to hear her?
James Martin, SJ