Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May every gift and consolation of the Holy Spirit fill your heart, now and always! In these days between the great feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, we reflect in a special way on extraordinary and supernatural, yet still quite tangible, presence of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Church. We have seen the working of the grace of the Holy Spirit in the conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation of our young people and we pray that the Holy Spirit may continue to play an important part in the lives of our young who are graduating college and high school. Please pray for them, these young are the hope of the future.
Last Sunday I completed the spring schedule of Confirmations at St. Joseph Parish, Milford with St. Mary’s parish, Spirit Lake. Thank you to all the catechists, teachers and sponsors who prepared the young people for confirmation. May the Holy Spirit bring life and joy to all.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has ascended into Heaven, and has taken His rightful throne as King over all the universe. Yet He has not abandoned us, but remains with us in so many ways. He is with us in His Word, the word of Scripture, which still has so much to teach us. He is with us in our solidarity with the poor (see Mt 25:40), meaning here poverty in all its senses, not merely financial poverty. He is with us when we gather to praise God and to beseech His mercy (see Mt 18:20). He is with us as we strive to live the full, rich meaning of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Holy Orders. He touches our hearts directly when we hear His words of absolution in the sacrament of Confession. Most especially and profoundly, He is “really, truly, and substantially” present in the Blessed Sacrament, His own body and blood, soul and divinity, which we are privileged to receive so often. Again and again, He stoops down to our brokenness to lift us up, cradling us on the infinite love of His most Sacred Heart. And because He has ascended to the heavenly Throne, when He lifts us up, He does not merely set us upright in this world, but raises us even to be with Him in Heaven, anticipating even now the fulfillment of every promise of salvation.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit, God the Love of God, is sent to us. He, too, is both with us every day in this life, and at the same time raises us to share in the infinite divine Love, God’s own perfect nature and being, in the life to come. We praise Him as “the Lord, the Giver of Life.” God the Holy Spirit, the Person who is the divine Love itself, truly gives us every gift. He gives us a living body, not any mere lump of matter. He gives us a living mind, a freedom of understanding and of choosing that marks us out as unique among all His creatures. He gives us a living soul, a capacity for imitating His love and His goodness that transcends any kind of simple self-interest. He gives us the new life of the New Adam in our Baptism, and seals this new life in Confirmation. He gives us the living Tradition of the Church to foster our new lives. He gives us the “living water” of faith, hope, and love. Most importantly, He gives us the desire to love God, as St. Augustine famously prayed, “My heart is restless, O God, until it rests in you.”
HUMILITY AND MODESTY
In my October pastoral letter I discussed, the praise and the worship of God the Holy Trinity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the most central, most important, and most profound aspect of our lives. I called for us to renew and deepen our devotion to the Holy Eucharist, wherein Christ our Savior makes Himself most tangibly and most truly present to us. Our reverence for Him in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament must strive to match the depth of His generosity to us, in stooping down to meet us.
Our reverence should first be interior. Humility is the virtue that encompasses interior reverence, because only true humility allows me to see myself simultaneously as a sinner in great need of repentance and mercy, and as a beloved child of God, destined for the beatific vision’s perfections. In humble faith, I can kneel with gratitude before my Lord. In humble hope, I can stand at the altar of sacrifice, joyfully offering myself along with Christ’s great offering. In humble charity, I can offer the Word and the Love of God to the poor without the taint of self-righteous judgment. But without humility, I cannot offer true or full reverence to God.
What is within our hearts is also shown by our exterior actions and behavior. Reverence also must have an exterior effect, and modesty is the virtue that encompasses this. At the practical level, how we dress and how well we observe the Eucharistic fast – and chewing gum just before or during Mass is certainly against the intention of this fast – matter very much. Such things not only express the quality of our reverence and devotion, but also form interior life, both for us and for those who see our example.
In many ways, we live in an immodest society, and the virtue of modesty today is held in very low regard. We are immodest in our speech, and often we look for undue praise when we boast of our achievements and flatter our desires. We are immodest in our eating, most of us eat too much and much of what we eat is unhealthy. We can be immodest in our dress, trying to be fashionable and trendy. We sometimes wear clothes that are dirty or too revealing and immodest even to Mass. Our casual daily summer attire is not appropriate for this great celebration of our faith. Coming to Mass should always be special and we need to dress appropriately for this special time of worship.
In our reverence for Christ our Lord, and in our respect for one another, we must not settle for the vice of immodesty as the norm. The virtues of humility and modesty are gifts of the Holy Spirit, part of what we celebrate this Sunday on the Solemnity of Pentecost. Let us be grateful for these gifts and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are rich blessings; let us use them always for the greater honor and glory of God.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
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