As I post it is the eve of Pentecost, the Feast of the Coming of the Holy Spirit and the New Creation and the birthday of the Catholic Church. The exact year of Pentecost is not entirely certain but 33 AD has always been everybody’s best guess. So I want to wish Holy Mother Church a happy 1,981st birthday. It is a good day today what it really means to be Catholic and to consider the length and breadth of the centuries that the Church has endured. What an institution that we are so privileged to belong to! Let us consider the lives of some of the first Catholics. Three thousand were baptized that first Pentecost. So let us think of a seventy year old man that day in the streets of Jerusalem who heard the words of the first pope preaching from the Upper Room and was moved by the Holy Spirit to accept baptism. Let’s consider his life and the world that he knew. If he lived in the Mediterranean basin his first memories would have been of life in the Roman world after the assassination of Julius Caesar. His parents would have recounted to him as lived experience the wars between Caesar and Pompey that fractured the Roman Republic. They would have told him of Caesar’s unlikely triumph over his opponents and his rise to mastery of the Roman world. They would have spoken to the child in hushed tones of his assassination on the Senate floor in the way that some of our parents once spoke to us of John Kennedy’s assassination: even though information traveled much slower in that age they likely would have recounted where they were and what they were doing when they heard the first news of that earthshaking event. When the boy was six years old he would have heard news that he didn’t understand of Octavian’s defeat of Marc Antony at Actium that turned the Mediterranean Sea into a Roman lake and the future Augustus’ own private swimming pool, a feat which had never been accomplished before and has yet to be repeated. The young man growing into adulthood would have experienced the prosperity, the golden age as it were of the new Empire at its dawn after the civil wars had concluded. As this man was getting on into middle age he would have received the shocking news of Publius Quinctilius Varus’ ill fated attempt to cross the Rhine and the annihilation of his three legions. And now in his old age he heard the words of Simon Peter from the Upper Room and was baptized.
This is our heritage Catholics. He was just as Catholic as we are and we are no less Catholic than he. It is well to remember this in a culture and society that are rapidly aging and decaying and approaching senility. What happened five minutes ago is portrayed as ancient history and what we had for breakfast this morning we can no longer remember. We, as Catholics, are part of in institution that has endured now for just about twenty centuries. There is nothing like it in the world. It was old already when the Roman Empire fell, older still when Islam stormed out of the desert, ancient already when the First Crusade was launched, and positively primal when Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet she wears those twenty centuries well and is still as fresh today as when she was born that Pentecost, because that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit remains with her. Do not forget this Catholics.
Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.