PROVIDENCE — In 2021, the Solemnity of Pentecost arrives just as the Diocese of Providence and the rest of the United States begin to emerge from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s that sense of new birth and renewal,” said Father Joseph A. Escobar, the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence.
Like several other parishes across the diocese, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, which has a large Portuguese community, has been preparing for Pentecost, when the Church celebrates the presence of God in the midst of its people through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“It’s really been seven weeks of preparation since Easter. Seven different families have had the Crown of the Holy Ghost and with it; they pray the Rosary every night,” Father Escobar said, referring to a traditional Azorean-Portuguese devotion to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Spirit is important in the life of Our Lady of the Rosary Church and its families, said Father Escobar, who added: “They brought these traditions with them from the Azores, and have kept them alive all these years.”
Observed 50 days after Easter, Pentecost marks the occasion when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying in the Upper Room at Jerusalem. At Pentecost, the Church was “made manifest” to the world through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes in Paragraph 1076.
In the same passage, the Catechism says the gift of the Holy Spirit “ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes’” again.
“In a lot of my preaching, I emphasize that we need the Holy Spirit, about the necessity of the Holy Spirit,” said Father Jay Finelli, the pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton.
“There was a time in the Church when theologians would say Pentecost is over,” Father Finelli said. “Well, it’s not because if it’s over, then we don’t have sacraments either. We’re dependent on a constant outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
“The main thing” about the Holy Spirit, Father Finelli said, is that He is the sanctifier who helps make the children of God saints. “It’s the constant work of our lives, striving for holiness,” Father Finelli said. “Everyone in the church is called to holiness. We depend on the Holy Spirit.”
Father Finelli credits his priestly vocation to the Holy Spirit. He encountered the Holy Spirit in a tangible manner through the Charismatic Renewal, a movement in the Church where the Holy Spirit’s “charismatic gifts” of prophecy, healing and tongues are made manifest. Father Finelli said his encounter with the Holy Spirit through the Charismatic Renewal eventually led him to the tabernacle and a more contemplative prayer life.
“It’s kind of come full circle for me, in that it led me to the traditional (Latin) Mass, where I find a deep peace,” Father Finelli said, adding that many young families who attend the Latin Mass in his parish also arrived at the traditional liturgy through the Charismatic Renewal.
“For me, there’s kind of a melding of the two,” he said. “Some traditionalists look at me when I talk about charismatic gifts as suspect, but I believe in the gift of tongues. I believe in all those gifts and use them all. We need the old and the new. That’s a true renewal of faith.”
At St. Charles Borromeo Church in Providence, a major center of the Charismatic Renewal in Rhode Island with a large Spanish-language community, the Solemnity of Pentecost has been a time for large parish celebrations.
“More than ever, we need right now the help of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Father Jaime Garcia, the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church. In preparation for the solemnity, the parish has been praying a novena.
“We start every night with a Mass where we have about 100 to 150 people,” Father Garcia said. “We praise Jesus. We get together as a community and pray for the whole world. We pray for the Church, for our diocese, our communities and for our families.”
The late Father John “Jake” Randall — the former pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church — promoted the Charismatic Renewal in Rhode Island and established it in the parish. Father Garcia said Father Randall introduced him to the movement through the Life in the Spirit Seminar ministry almost 40 years ago.
“And my life changed,” Father Garcia said. “It helped me to grow as a person and as a member of this community.”
Father Michael Najim, pastor of St. Pius Church X in Westerly, said he also prays daily for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in his life.
“With the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as Catholics, I think we don’t take advantage of tapping into them as much as we could,” Father Najim said. “These are such spiritual gifts that the Lord has given us, and he wants us to tap into the power of those gifts.”
In Paragraph 1831, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
“In particular, the gift of fortitude is important in today’s culture, to be courageous and to be fearless, to proclaim the Gospel,” said Father Najim, who also noted that the Holy Spirit brought about unity at Pentecost. As told in Acts, pilgrims from different nations understood the apostles preaching in their own language.
“There’s so much division today, and the Holy Spirit never brings about division. The Holy Spirit always brings about unity,” Father Najim said. “We have to pray for deeper unity. The Holy Spirit helps us to be unifiers. I think one of the ways the Holy Spirit accomplishes that is by allowing us to show people the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.”
As pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Providence, Father Francesco Francese says he seeks unity through communal worship and the prayers in the missal.
“There are treasures in our liturgy that we can make great use of,” Father Francese said. “It’s important for the Church to be able to go out and preach to all nations, having that power to do so, in languages that would have been new to (the apostles). The Church is always in more need of that.”