ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Calling on faith in the Holy Spirit’s presence amid civil unrest and a global pandemic, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis celebrated Pentecost May 31 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.
“We have to believe that the Holy Spirit will once again bring peace,” the archbishop said, addressing his homily to a congregation less than a quarter its usual size as the people of the archdiocese practice social distancing to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Mass also was livestreamed, the archbishop gratefully noted.
“It’s so important to remember that the Holy Spirit will guide us through this difficult time. As we suffer through the great sorrow that’s in our hearts at the death of a man who should not have died,” the archbishop said, referring to the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African American who cried out that he could not breathe as a Minneapolis police officer who is white pinned him to the ground with his knee.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers who were at the arrest scene also have been fired. A bystander filmed the incident and shared it on social media, sparking days of riots in the Twin Cities, around the country and overseas.
All of the faithful, the archbishop said, need to pray to know how to respond to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in this time of great suffering.
One year ago, Pentecost marked the beginning of a two-year process of prayer and consultation that was to culminate with an Archdiocesan Synod Assembly on the pastoral needs of the archdiocese, on Pentecost weekend 2021. Because of the pandemic, the timeline has been extended and the assembly now is slated for spring 2022.
One year ago, a special Vigil of Pentecost Mass was celebrated at St. Peter Church in Mendota, Minnesota, with a packed congregation, powerful singing and charismatic groups calling on the Holy Spirit to inform the synod process, the archbishop sad.
“Hard to believe that was a year ago,” the archbishop said. One year and a series of 19 prayer and listening events and 11 focus groups later, it seems in some ways like more than a year, but in other ways “it seems just like yesterday that we gathered,” he said.
Even in the midst of the pandemic, the synod process received a special hour of prayer in the cathedral after the May 31 Mass, with Latino and other groups leading songs from around the archdiocese and shown live on a video screen at the cathedral. The archbishop remained to pray and thanked charismatic groups for participating via livestream, including People of Praise, Christ the Redeemer and St. Paul’s Outreach.
The archbishop noted a mural of the dove of the Holy Spirit in the apse of the cathedral, surrounded by symbols of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
“How important that we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, so we might be instruments of solace in the midst of woe,” he said. “We have to give thanks for how it is that the Holy Spirit leads us to go forth into the world to be that salve, to be that instrument of God’s peace, to be the very caress of our church as we reach out to those who have been affected in any way by the illness or by the troubles in these days,” he said.
Noting that the day’s reading in the Gospel of John tells of Jesus blessing the apostles twice with “peace be with you” as he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, the archbishop said the Spirit’s peace is promised to all believers.
The archbishop said a litany of Pentecost prayers refers to God as the Father of the poor, and he noted how poor he has felt — not economically, but in terms of knowing how best to help others in this time of great need.
“And yet, it is the Holy Spirit who has such concern for us in our poverty, who has such concern for those whose lives have been so affected by loss of job or otherwise by the COVID-19 pandemic, those who have lost their livelihoods in the midst of fires and looting,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is there, close to us, for sure.”
As Jesus ascended into heaven, he was only willing to do that because he knew the Advocate would be coming, who would continue to guide the church, the archbishop said.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit must be remembered and relied upon in responding to civil unrest and the challenges of the pandemic with a righteous anger but also a great joy in the sense that “God never leaves us orphans,” the archbishop said.
“We give ourselves to the Holy Spirit this evening,” the archbishop said, “that he might use us to do great things in this local church.”
Ruff is news editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.