The Descent of the Holy Ghost

The Descent of the Holy Ghost

By Fr McKenna O.P.

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In this Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, we commemorate:

— the coming of the Divine Spirit upon the disciples of Christ,

— and the foundation of our Holy Mother the Church.

Pentecost gloriously completes the cycle of the work of the Triune God:

— in the Creation, we worship the almighty power of the heavenly Father;

— in the Redemption, we behold with wonder the sublime mission of the Eternal Son, who said: “The Father hath worked till now, now I work.” Jesus finished in Calvary’s awful hour the work which His Father gave Him to do; and now, after His Ascension, He and the Father send down the Holy Ghost to complete the work of the Blessed Trinity;

— thus, the Holy Ghost is especially the gift of the other two Divine Persons.  His mission is the sublime work of guiding the Church, illuminating her supreme pastors, inspiring her saints, filling her doctors and her confessors with His choicest gifts, and establishing the reign of God in the souls of the faithful.

It is true that the Holy Ghost was always in the world. The Spirit of God spoke by the mouth of the patriarchs and the prophets from the beginning; but on the great festival of Pentecost He came in a different manner, being, in the language of Scripture, poured out on the disciples to fit them for their exalted office.  His advent was the especial fruit of our Blessed Lord’s sufferings and death. The world had no right to His coming; it was unfitted for His sublime presence and work.

But Jesus merited for us this heavenly gift, and went before the Father in order to plead for it in our behalf. “If I go not,” He said, ” the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John xvi. 7). Presenting His sacred humanity before His heavenly Father, Our Lord besought Him through His adorable wounds to bestow this sublime gift upon His followers.

And why was this?  Why, we may ask, was the Paraclete sent to us?  It was to perfect the work which the Son of God came on earth to inaugurate.  He had come to establish His Church, He had come to build the Bark of Peter. During His public life Our Lord had collected the materials for that vessel. He had placed its timbers in their proper order; and, to use a figure employed by the early Fathers of the Church, having completed that Bark of Peter, it was destined to sail over every sea, to brave every storm, to be tried by every tempest, to be pursued by every piratical enemy.  Men and demons would do their utmost to destroy it; but it was not destined to perish, for on it depended the salvation of the world.

On the first glorious Feast of Pentecost St. Peter’s Bark was launched — the sails of that mighty vessel were first unfurled.  What, then, was needed but a skilled Pilot to guide her course and favorable winds to fill her sails?  To-day, she commences her glorious voyage ; to-day, the divine Pilot — the Holy Ghost— is on board!  To-day, the winds of heaven fill her sails; to-day, her crew begin to cast forth their net. St. Peter’s Bark will sweep over every sea and gather in all souls destined for a happy eternity!

Let us here reflect for a moment upon the disciples of Christ, who formed the crew of that vessel. Let us consider their condition before the coming of the Holy Ghost.

In the first place, we are told that they were hidden away in an upper chamber in Jerusalem, fearing the Jews. They were timid, cowardly men; their faith was yet weak: their hearts were trem­bling within them. They dreaded to proclaim publicly the glorious name of their Master, in whom they firmly believed; nay, more, they were poor laborers — ignorant, uneducated men, little skilled in public preaching.

But lo! at the sound from Heaven, “as of a rushing mighty wind which filled the whole house where they were sitting,” a great change came over them. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” says the Scripture. That Divine Spirit appeared to them like tongues of fire, whereby their exalted mission as preachers of the Gospel was typified and emphasized. Instantly their cold hearts burned with the fire of the Apostolate! Fear and, cowardice departed forever.

The Apostles, having become in a manner new men, are now inflamed with the love of God and with the desire for the salvation of all mankind. They go forth immediately to proclaim the dignity, the power and the sanctity of that name which was so despised by the Jews, the glorious name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus-Christ. Boldly declaring their belief in His divinity, these once timid men are now willing to die martyrs for their Faith and the cause of the Blessed Master. The effect of Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Three thousand were converted — “devout men out of every nation under heaven;” for at that time were gathered in Jerusalem, in order to celebrate the Pentecostal festival, Jews from nearly every part of the world whither the Hebrews had been scattered. All these were confounded, as the Acts testify, because every man with amazement heard the Apostles speak to him in his own tongue.

In creating this material world our heavenly Father was pleased not to leave it in darkness, but placed the sun in the heavens to shed light and heat over its surface, to bring fruits and flowers to perfection. And that sun is so exalted, so far removed from human influences, that no man or nation can interfere with its light. So, in creating His Church, our Blessed Lord gave to it His Holy Spirit, which is its true Light, abiding with it forever, and conducting its children to paradise by the way of Christian perfection. Nor can men or demons prevent that sublime mission:

— Following St. Peter, the first to claim the special indwelling of the Paraclete is the supreme Head of the Church, its visible ruler and vicegerent of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost abides with our Holy Father the Pope, illuminating his counsels, filling him with divine wisdom, guarding him from error in his teachings, and, in short, making him what he is — the infallible guide for both pastors and people1.

— He, the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity, is with the Church in her councils, filling her hierarchy with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of their people2. He directs their deliberations, illuminating their intellects so as to guard their people from all error and heresy.

— He is with the individual bishop, assisting him with the work of his diocese.

— He is with the pastor, instructing and enlightening his people. He is with the priest in the administration of the Sacraments. In the words of St. Augustine: “When I baptize, it is the Holy Ghost who purifies; when I pronounce the words of salvation, it is the Holy Ghost who cleanses from sin; when I speak the words of consecration, it is the Holy Ghost who changes bread into the Body of Our Lord, and wine into His Blood.”

— The Holy Ghost is with the nun in the schoolroom, with the mother in the Christian home, teaching the child the simple but sublime truths of our holy religion. He is with the faithful, welding them together, uniting them, as the grains of wheat in the bread, into that glorious body of believers of which Jesus Christ is the Head3.

Sublime mission of the Holy Ghost! Wonderful gift of God to a sinful world! For nineteen hundred years4has that sublime Spirit continually remained with the Bark of St. Peter, bringing and preserving therein all the children of God in the unity of faith and in the bond of charity.

From these marvelous conditions and results shall not all men, not willfully blind to the light of truth, believe and testify that the Church is the spotless Spouse of Christ, the immaculate Bride of the Lamb? “By this shall all men know,” says Christ, “that you are my disciples— if you have love one for another;” and again, in the discourse at the Last Supper: “I pray for them that they all may be one, as Thou, Father in me, and I in Thee” (John xvii. 21).

Proceeding to reflect upon the work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul, we should, each of us, consider here the infinite debt we owe to that Divine Spirit for the precious graces which He has bestowed on us through the holy Sacraments:

— First of all, should we gratefully acknowledge the gift of Faith — that gift which is so inestimably precious that without it it is impossible to please God, as St. Paul emphatically declares.

Though the Holy Ghost, according to Sacred Scripture, is most prodigally shed abroad throughout the whole universe, how many are there, alas, who place obstacles to that divine Luminary and prevent its rays from penetrating their souls! Ignorance, prejudice, and the corruption of gross vices are as so many dense clouds which prevent the rays of that divine Light from illumining the soul. It is true that Faith is a free gift of God, and that God may and can, and often does, bestow that gift, even unasked, upon persons leading a life of sin. Thus, He enlightened Saul on the road to Damascus, and made him an apostle at the very time that he was breathing threats against the Christians. But, as a rule, the priceless gift of Faith must be asked of God, and the means of obtaining it must be employed by those who desire to possess it, one of those means being the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is not only the door to the other Sacraments, but it gives us a spiritual right to the Holy Ghost. It infuses into the heart of the recipient the gift of divine Faith, which is to the soul what sight is to the body; and it enables even a child, as reason dawns, to grasp the lofty teachings of the Church. Later on in the Christian life, the Holy Ghost is given to the children of God in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which, in the language of St. Paul, we become the temples of the Holy Ghost, and should (as he tells us) glorify and bear God in our body. The work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul is to form Jesus Christ in it. Hence, again says the Apostle of the Gentiles, “The Holy Ghost is laboring with unceasing groaning that Jesus Christ be formed in you.” And if, true to His guidance, the soul advances from perfection to perfection, becoming more and more enlightened, more and more inflamed with the love of God, it at last arrives at that sublime state to which Christ called all His followers when He enjoined upon them: “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

According to St. Paul, there are three ways of opposing the Holy Ghost in His action on the soul:

The first is our resistance to His divine influence when we do not cooperate with His loving designs in the work of our sanctification. He is ever laboring with unceasing groaning (says the Apostle) to form Christ in us. He is urging us to more fervent and frequent prayer, to more manly self-denial, more frequent and profitable approach to the Sacraments, more earnest imitation of our Blessed Lord, who counsels us to renounce ourselves, and daily to take up our cross and follow Him.

It grieves this Blessed Spirit of God to behold us so careless and indifferent in the great work of our own sanctification. We are like a lazy farmer who, possessed of rich soil which if well cultivated would produce luscious and abundant fruit, fails to improve his opportunities. We also fail to cooperate with our gracious Lord in producing a golden harvest. We also fail to obey Him who tells us to lay up treasures in heaven, where the rust cannot destroy, nor moths consume, nor thieves break through and steal.

— The second way in which we oppose the Holy Ghost is when we grieve Him by deliberately committing venial sin. Venial sin does not kill the soul, but it often seriously wounds it. It defiles it, and, in a manner, paralyzes it by weakening its energies and leaving it faint and sickly. Just as neglect of a trifling malady often leads to the death of the body, so venial sin too often leads the soul to mortal sin.

Alas, for the careless Christian whose life abounds in many willful venial sins! By undue indulgence of the appetite, slothfulness in prayer and other religious duties; by slight fits of anger, or of impatience; and, what is far more serious, by frequenting dangerous company, and giving the eyes, the tongue and the mind liberties that are dangerous to modesty, how often do men and women seriously wound the soul, even though they do not actually cause her death!

— But the greatest of all evils occurs when the sinner utterly quenches the light of the Holy Ghost by willful mortal sin. “Know you not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” “He who defileth the temple of God,” says St. Paul, “him shall the Lord destroy.” It is true that although the sentence of death is passed upon deadly sin, through the infinite mercy of God, its execution is often deferred. Though the Holy Ghost is driven away from the soul by one mortal sin, and the temple of God is horribly deformed and devastated, like a beautiful structure charred and blackened by fire, yet, praise be to God! the Holy Ghost does not yet abandon the unworthy Christian. By many gentle and loving means He still strives to bring back the sinner to repentance. Even as the dove, driven from its little cote by the serpent which has entered and defiled its nest, hovers around, waiting for the venomous intruder’s departure, in order to return and cleanse its nest and again dwell in its cherished home, or as the poor Irish mother, driven from the loved cottage of her youth by the emissary of the landlord, does not abandon the home of her heart, but sits by the roadside with her children till the intruder has withdrawn, and then goes back to her dwelling, rekindling the fire upon her humble hearth and making bright again her little cottage, so the Holy Spirit does not completely abandon the soul when it falls into mortal sin, but mercifully endeavors to excite it to remorse. Sometimes He makes use of sickness, of loss of temporal goods or friends; sometimes, of the sudden death of a companion in sin. Or, it may be by a mission, a sermon, or a word of advice that the transgressor is induced to enter into himself, to forsake his sinful life, and return once more to his God.

Yes, it is the Holy Ghost who, acting thus upon the sinner’s soul, urges upon him this vital change. And when at length the unfortunate one yields to this Divine Spirit, immediately like a skillful architect, divine love and mercy begin to purify and sanctify the soul, to rebuild its beautiful temple, to adorn it, and make it once more His dwelling place, causing the angels in heaven to rejoice over the sinner doing penance.

Such is the mission and the work of the Holy Ghost. We should then labor earnestly to cooperate with Him in that blessed work of our sanctification:

— Let us be fervent in prayer for this is the will of God that we watch and pray without ceasing, lest we enter into temptation.

— Frequently, too, let us approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist, for they are the great channels through which the Holy Ghost directly acts on our souls.

— Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by exposing ourselves to sin or the occasions of sin, but faithfully correspond to His graces, and grate fully thank Him for the gift of Faith, which infinitely surpasses all the riches and treasure of this world.

(From the book of Fr. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,  The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917  (written 1835)

http://www.dominicansavrille.us/the-descent-of-the-holy-ghost/

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Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 25: May 2017

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The Passion of the Church

On the evening of Holy Thursday, Our Lord had with His Apostles what has come to be known as the “Last Supper Discourse” (Jn. 13:31 to 16:31).

During the Last Supper, Our Lord ordained His Apostles as Priests and Bishops, and gave them Communion for the first time. He also announced the betrayel of Judas, who left in the night to accomplish his crime…

Being relieved by the absence of the traitor, Our Lord took advantage of these few moments of intimacy with His Apostles in order to prepare them for His imminent departure, and the persecutions to come. That is, He prepares them for the Passion, and gives them the necessary counsels to be able to endure it. Alas, they will not take heed and the prophecy of Jesus will be fulfilled: “You shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.”

As the Passion of the Church unfolds before our eyes, it is useful for us to meditate on this discourse. At a time where the “ shepherd is struck and therefore the sheep are scattered” (Zach. 13:7), let us listen to Jesus’ instructions, so that we may go through this passion while remaining faithful.

Commentary of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas composed a very profound commentary on the Gospel of Saint John. Let us just summarize here what concerns Jesus’ words after the Last Supper.

After an introduction (Jn. 13:31-38), in which Jesus states the purpose of the Passion (reestablish the glory of God by the perfect sacrifice of the Cross) and the conditions for staying united (charity and humility), He comforts His disciples with regard to the emotions which trouble them: the sadness caused by His leaving (ch. 14) and the fear of persecutions (ch. 15).

His departure should not trouble them, because it brings with it three advantages:

  • free access to the Father through Jesus, who is the “way”, and the perfect image of the Father
  • the coming of the Paraclete
  • Jesus’ own return (in a new manner)

The Paraclete will bring His “gift”: perfect knowledge of God; and Jesus will bring His: peace, a peace that can only come from Him.

Then, Jesus fortifies His Apostles against the fear of persecutions, to which the Passion was only a prelude. He starts with the beautiful “allegory of the vine”: the branches, that is, the faithful as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, need to be purified through suffering in order to bear fruit: not only fruits of (personal) sanctity, but fruits of a productive apostolate. The conditions to bring about this purification and bearing of fruit are: to “keep His words” (Faith purifies the intelligence), prayer (for this work is supernatural), and above all, a love of Jesus proven by the practice of His commandments.

Our Lord does not content Himself with speaking of His Mystical Body; He goes on to explain to His disciples the source of these persecutions: the world, ennemy of Our Lord. The world is united in its hatred, just as the Church is united by charity. The hatred of the world for Jesus’ friends is a reason for consolation: it makes them similar to their Master. In addition, sustained by the Holy Ghost, they will use it as an opportunity to witness to their Faith, even at the price of martyrdom, when necessary.

Chapter 16 adds a few precisions. Regarding persecutions, the Apostles will have to suffer not only from the part of pagans, but also from the Jews, who will “put them out of the synagogues”, and will put them to death “thinking they are doing a service to God.” Regarding the (physical) absence of Jesus, the three Divine Persons will intervene to console the faithful: the Holy Ghost will convince the world of its sin, Jesus will bring perfect (interior) joy, and the Father will from then on listen favorably to all prayers said in the name of Jesus, by those who love Jesus.

A veil of sorrow passes over Jesus’ face at the thought of the impending defection of His Apostles, but right away He promises them peace, and encourages them: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.”

Application to the Present Situation

In the present passion of the Church, we must first be convinced that God has allowed it only to bring about a greater good (without doubt, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima). We must also do all we can to abide in charity and humility, which are the indispensable conditions to receive the help guaranteed by Our Lord.

Because of the crisis in the Church, we no longer benefit from the habitual spiritual aids of times past, in particular the facility to go to Mass and receive the sacraments. We must therefore try by other means to develop our interior life, the life of union with the three Divine Persons present in every soul in the state of grace.

Let us set aside each day a time of meditation to better know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is “the way, the truth and the life,” in letting ourselves be guided by the Holy Ghost. Even outside of this time specially reserved for prayer, we must put ourselves habitually under the influence of this divine and invisible “guest” of our soul (“You shall know him, because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you”), in following His inspirations when He invites us to do an act of charity or make a sacrifice. Lastly, it is important to remain in the peace of Jesus, consequence of order and justice in our life, according to the definition of Saint Augustine: “serenity of mind (order in our intelligence), tranquility of soul (order in our passions), simplicity of heart (order in our will), concord with God and neighbor.”

With regard to persecutions, seeing as Jesus warned His Apostles that they would have to suffer from the part of the Jews (something which was particularly painful for them), let us not be surprised if we must suffer at the hands of members of the Church, subject since Vatican II to the influence of the world, that is, the anti-church (Freemasonry, communism, anti-Christian globalism, etc.).[1]

The tribulations inflicted upon us by the world, and the privations we must endure in order to preserve ourselves from its influence, will only serve to sanctify us, to console the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to save sinners, and, in a mysterious way, to prepare the victory of Jesus and His Holy Mother: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.”

[1] One of the most powerful means the world uses today to kill the divine life in souls, is internet. 90% of youth consult pornographic websites. Regardless of the question of impurity, screens are anti-contemplative, because they captivate the senses and inhibit the noblest operations of the mind: judgment and contemplation. The remedy? : meditative reading.

Community Chronicle

December 22nd: High Mass in thanksgiving for the 800th anniversary of the approbation of the Order of Friars Preachers by the Holy See. “It is a pious and precious tradition of the Order of Preachers, handed down by its earliest historians, that it owes its existence to a special intervention of the Most Holy Virgin with Her divine Son. She had the inspiration; She is its Mother, Patron and Queen. She takes pleasure in calling it “My order”; the sons of Saint Dominic are Her sons, and they vow obedience on the day of their profession to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” (Fr. Langlais O.P.)

December 25th: Christmas. With the help of the seminarians of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort Seminary, we are able to sing the three different Masses of Christmas.

January 15th: This year being the 500th anniversary of the revolt of Martin Luther, presented as a hero by the conciliar church, the Friary begins a series of sermons on the Council of Trent, “the most beautiful and precise synthesis of Christian doctrine in opposition to the errors of Protestantism” (Fr. Jean-Baptiste AUBRY, Cours d’histoire ecclesiastique).

March 7th: Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Bishop Faure celebrates a Pontifical High Mass, during which he confers the tonsure to four seminarians, the orders of porter and lector to Brothers Louis-Bertrand and Agostinho, and the orders of exorcist and acolyte to Brother Alain. Each new step is a deeper participation in the sovereign priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

March 25th: The Annunciation. On this day when Our Lady clothed Our Lord with the “habit” of His humanity, our postulant Godefroy receives the religious habit and the name “Augustin-Marie”.

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The new Brother receives the kiss of peace.

April 23rd: Father Marie-Dominique is at Saint Malo-du-Bois to represent the Friary for the habit-taking ceremony of Miss Collins (Ireland) in the Institute of the Sisters of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix.

May 5th-8th: Father Angelico replaces Father Ballini in the south of Ireland for weekend Masses. A public 15-decade Rosary (prayed on every First Saturday in the streets of Cork) was attended by a fervent group of faithful, and accompanied by the distribution of Rosaries and booklets on the message of Fatima. A good initiative to imitate!

May 11th: Father Angelico is in Vienna, Virginia, to represent the Friary at the episcopal consecration of His Excellency Bishop Gerardo Zendejas, and his first Pontifical High Mass the next day.

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The four bishops consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the first Pontifical High Mass of Bishop Zendejas

News from our worksites

The project of a new school/parish cafeteria is now officially under way. The architects have submitted the plans, but ground has not yet been broken. This new building will not only be used by the primary school and Boys’ High School, but also for a wide variety of parish activities: (conferences, parish library, sewing room…).

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Future cafeteria and parish building

The growing number of students and parishioners has rendered this project necessary due to government safety regulations.

Meanwhile, the architects are still studying the restoration of the two “guard towers” at the Priory (the manor house where the Boys’ School is located). The buildings will be used for classrooms.

These two ambitious projects would be out of the question, were it not for the generosity of our loyal benefactors. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for all your support in the past, and we thank you in advance for your continued help!

For timely articles and spiritual reading, please go to our website:

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