Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon for Pentecost 2019: "Television and the Internet are invasive weeds on our soul, occupying the place that belongs to the Holy Spirit."

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, June 9th, 2019) 

Mansionem apud eum faciemus.
We will make our abode with him.
Jn 14:23

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

Today, the Church celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, who were gathered praying with Mary in the Upper Room. The narrative of this event is taken from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel is taken from the discourse after the Last Supper, and recounts the Lord’s words to His disciples:

If any one love me, he will keep my word. And my Father will love him and We will come to him and will make our abode with him. (Jn 16:5-7)

Jesus adds the promise of a Defender, “the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name”. His role will be to teach the Apostles and bring to their remembrance all the words of Christ. 

This morning, I beg leave to point out the most topical character of this feast. What are we expecting from this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, from His presence, in our lives, our families, our communities, our countries? One thing, and one thing only: that He should make of all these places His abode, according to the promise made by Jesus to those who love Him.

Yet, is it indeed necessary to beg for the coming of the Spirit? Today, knowledge reaches us through media such as the television, the internet… Those are the competitors of the Holy Spirit. They can make their abode in us, to such an extent as to arouse in us an unquenchable need. The tawdry nature of a manifold and superficial knowledge dazzles our intelligence. As compared with that, an in-depth knowledge of God, of a few close persons, seems to be but a poor surrogate.

Is there any room left, then, in hearts thus buffeted by sensations, news, polls, for a true abode, namely, a stable place, a founding place, a place from which life can draw its flavor? And in case there should be some room left, what place are we talking about? A practically unreachable hovel, smothered under the brambles of our dirty tricks, or a huge palace, with large and well-lit rooms?

The choice is ours. An antiphon sings about Mary: “Whereas I was utterly little, I pleased the Most High.” If we wish to make the Spirit welcome, we have to seek how to please the Spirit. Neither the television, nor the internet, build up our beings according to the Spirit, nor do they make His gifts bear fruits in us. They are like invasive weeds, overgrowing the place which by rights is that belonging to the Spirit.

So as to draw the Holy Spirit, let us begin by carrying out with humility the fruits He wishes to complete with magnificence. St. Paul lists them in the Epistle to the Galatians (5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits of the Spirit seem to be so lacking in the world which is called the post-modern world, this so sad world. 

Yet, as we know, these fruits stimulate every true society life, every human life. Through His presence, the Holy Spirit gives life and fruitfulness. He gives joy. The feast of Pentecost, for that matter, takes its roots from the Jewish feast of harvest, which brings up towards God the people’s thanksgiving for the gift of food. Wouldn’t our world still need the food and grace coming from Heaven? Where God gives the wheat, where God gives the grace, there is the true joy.

In the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, addressed to the young people and to the entire people of God, the Holy Father wrote: 'Ask the Holy Spirit each day to help you experience anew the great message. Why not? You have nothing to lose, and He can change your life, fill it with light and lead it along a better path. He takes nothing away from you, but instead helps you to find all that you need, and in the best possible way. Do you need love? You will not find it in dissipation, using other people, or trying to be possessive or domineering. You will find it in a way that will make you genuinely happy. Are you seeking powerful emotions? You will not experience them by accumulating material objects, spending money, chasing desperately after the things of this world. They will come, and in a much more beautiful and meaningful way, if you let yourself be prompted
by the Holy Spirit.' (n. 131)

The Holy Spirit is therefore the patient craftsman of all holiness and all fruitfulness: the fruitfulness and holiness of Mary, the fruitfulness and holiness of the Apostles and the Church.

Since the beginning of Eastertide, instead of the Angelus, as well as every night after Compline, the Church sings the Regina Cæli. In its prayer, we acknowledge that through the Lord’s resurrection, God has given joy to the world, and we ask through the intercession of Our Lady to reach the joyfulness of eternal life; it is these same joys that we have asked at the end of the sequence of today’s Mass: “Give merit and virtue, give final salvation, give joys that never end.” On the day of the Annunciation, the spiritual joy of the hope for the Messiah, which Mary shared with her people in a particularly intense way, was transformed through the action of the Holy Spirit and through Mary’s “Yes”, into the joy of fruitfulness and of the fulfillment of the promise by the coming of Jesus.

Monastic history bears witness to the fact that monasteries do not die because of State persecution or poverty. They die of wounds against love, of repeated “Noes” that render the action of the Spirit barren. The same goes for our families according to the flesh, and also for our nations. Whereas we lament the situation of Christians in our countries, let us remember that. Can we discern in our families the signs of the Spirit? Are we working to make the Spirit welcome in them, so that may be renewed the face of our families, our communities, of the earth?

May our hearts filled with hope blaze with the fire which the Lord has come to cast on the earth, and which He ardently wished to be kindled. Let us fervently desire that this Spirit should spread. He is
He Who gives life, Who gives unity to the body. Let us set to work. Let us receive Him during this blessed octave, with the fruits of His presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the jewels which it is now our remit to receive in us, and to spread tirelessly around us.

Come, Holy Spirit! Amen, Alleluia!