Monday, June 6, 2011

So, What Does Pentecost Mean to Catholics Today?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A great question came in today from a friend of mine:
Another Catholic question, Leslie. Pentecost??? What does it mean to me today?? I swear I'm going to do this to you all year and in that you will make me a better Catholic.
Well, as you know, I love Catholic questions, and I am honored to be a little part of your spiritual journey, my friend! You make yourself a better Catholic for asking good questions and wanting to grow in your faith! Alright. Pentecost. Here's the scoop:

So, Jesus had died on the Cross, a bloody and horrific death, and the Disciples and Blessed Mother were really bummed, to say the least. But then Jesus rose from the dead and remained with them for forty days, which was a most unexpected and excellent surprise! Then Jesus told them that He had to go, but not to worry because not only would he be back at a day and hour unknown to all except the Father alone -- He was also going to send someone to remain with us until He got back. And that someone was known as the Advocate or Consoler -- a.k.a. the Holy Spirit!

So the Disciples and the Blessed Mother gathered together in prayer (for nine days - the first 'novena'!), and they waited for whatever it was that Jesus had promised. And then after the nine days of prayer, there they were, gathered in the Upper Room, and guess what happened?
Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, 2 and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, 3 which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, 4 as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2: 2-4).

BAM! PENTECOST happened! The Holy Spirit was out-poured, and the Church was officially born!

Have you read the book of the Acts of The Apostles? It comes right after the four Gospels in the New Testament, and it is a real action adventure! The deeds the Apostles could do with the power of the Holy Spirit are truly awe-inspiring.

Now, all of this finally brings me to your question -- what does Pentecost mean to me today?

Reflecting on what Pentecost means in my own life, I think that I primarily experience Pentecost in these three ways:
  1. A celebration of the Church's birthday (can you say 'cake and ice cream'???)
  2. A renewal of the promises I made at baptism and confirmation, and a request for all of those gifts of the Holy Spirit that I was given through those sacraments to be stirred up in my life and in my heart, so that I may more fully live the faith and be a witness for Christ. (Because that same Holy Spirit who came to the Apostles came to each of us when we were baptized and confirmed, so we have full access to the same level of gifts, powers, and graces!)
  3. An opportunity for renewal and grace for the entire Church, which is in great need of the Holy Spirit's power and gifts.
Oh, and to help with the birthday party aspect, check it out -- I just found this link to make your own Tongues of Fire Stick Cookies!

Now, some people only associate Pentecost with those Christians who call themselves 'Pentecostals' or certain types of prayer that are known as 'charismatic' -- praying in tongues, praying over others, being 'slain in the Spirit,' etc. As a point of clarification, 'charismatic' is anything that relates to a 'charism,' or a gift of the Holy Spirit. So in that sense, we are all called to be charismatic, to be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has given us these gifts, and we'll be judged on whether we hid them or used them for His glory and the good of the community. Not everyone is given the same gifts, but we are all given some gifts for the benefit of the whole body:

1 Corinthians
Chapter 12

1 Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.
3 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
4 As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.
So no, not everyone has to speak in tongues, but yes, some will be given that gift. I know a lot of people who have shared with me that they are actually a bit afraid of being open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, because they don't want to have to speak in tongues or do other 'weird' things. I always find this a little funny, though an honest fear, and my advice is to be not afraid! God is not going to give you a gift you don't want, but being open to whatever gifts He has in mind for you is not going to make you weird. Let's just be honest here -- we're probably all at least a little bit weird anyway, so we might as well be weird with God. That's my motto!

In conclusion, I think that Pentecost is a great opportunity to celebrate the Church's birth, and to ask God to pour out His gifts and graces for ourselves personally, for our families, for our communities, and ultimately for the whole world!

Thanks so much for your question, my friend, and I hope this has been helpful.

A blessed Pentecost preparation to all, and to all a goodnight!

Peace and all good,


  1. GREAT post! I'm saving this link! :-) Miss you, Leslie!

  2. Thanks so much, Lacy! I miss you, too, and it's always good to see your smiling face here in the blogosphere. :)

  3. Wow!!! That is awesome!! You make it sooo easy for everyone to understand....I was raised Penticostal, no I go to a non denominational Full Gospel Church...we pretty much believe everything you just said!.....are you sure you are Catholic??...Just Kidding Leslie!

    Really like what you had to say!

    Donna Kalem

  4. Hey there, Donna! Great to hear from you on here. Thanks for reading, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! I think it's easy to lose sight of how much all Christians still hold in common, so thanks for your reminder, Donna! :) Have a happy Pentecost!

  5. I know this is a late response but I wanted to think you for this. This really helps me because I am getting ready for Confirmation and I realized that I didn't even know what Pentecost really is about. So thanks again!

    1. Wonderful! So happy to have helped you as you prepare to receive the full outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at your confirmation! I will pray for you, and please keep me in your prayers as well. Be blessed! :)

  6. Hi Leslie, I was so happy to read your article I am a catholic and very proud to be one. For some time now I have been receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and wanted guidance with this. I met a priest and asked what this all meant I got very vague answers nothing that really explained what you did. After reading your article everything you mentioned even the part of “weird” I even asked why me? I have the gift of tongues I can never understand what I speak. Thank you so much for making it so easy to understand.
    God Bless

    1. Bernadette, thanks so much for your kind comments! I will pray that God blesses and guides you in your journey, and sends you some great spiritual companions to help you in your journey of faith. Every gift God gives us is for the benefit of the Church in some way, so don't give up on finding a priest or trained lay person who can help you as a spiritual director; they're not always easy to find, but if you pray God will help you find the right person in time. May this Easter season continue to shower you with special graces! Pax Christi, Leslie