Ah, the Great Feast of Pentecost...the coming of the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost is upon us. Some will dress in red to be liturgically correct. Others have spent the past nine days praying the novena to the Holy Ghost, saying from their heart, "Come Holy Ghost!" Some will gather for Confirmations with their local Bishop. Others may simply attend Mass, oblivious to the greatness of this feast. All of us are called to pray.
What is this feast all about? I think the thing that really sticks out to me this year is how the timid, fearful Apostles changed instantly into the bold and fearless preachers and missionaries that converted masses of people, baptizing them in the thousands. Oh how we need a new Pentecost among the leaders of our Church. The recent Gallup poll highlights this need by showing that 9 in 10 American Catholics say contraception is morally permissible. (Gallup) If this doesn't prove the failure of Catholic leadership and catechesis that I don't know what would. Peter was willing to confront the people of his time with the Truth, not counting the cost. Unfortunately, most leaders today are too politically correct for that.
This feast then is the great feast of courage...not just human courage but that which comes from God as an outpouring of His own power. Peter was turned from the man that fled from fear and lied in order to protect his own hide, into the fearless prophet of his time, ultimately offering his life on a cross like his Savior. This doesn't happen of man's own power, it takes Divine movement in a man's heart. Ezekiel was led into the water gradually, first knee deep, and then fully into the flow, symbolizing the immersion in God's grace. How did Peter then open his heart to God's grace, how did he go "deep"?
This question is one for each of us men, how do we open ourselves to the Holy Ghost so as to more and more become what He wishes of us? Let's look at Peter as an example of manly conversion. Here are the bullet points:
1. He acknowledges Christ - "Then he saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Peter answering said to him: Thou are the Christ." Mark 8:29
2. He is willing to do all for Christ, even foolishly - "then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things." Matthew 19:27 and "Peter saith to him: Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner said all the disciples". Matthew 26:35
3. He willingly acknowledges his sin and repents - "And Peter, remembered the word of Jesus which he had said: Before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. And going forth, he wept bitterly." Matthew 26:75
4. He confirms his love for God, multiple times - "He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him; Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." John 21:17
5. He goes with the other Apostles and the Mother of our Lord and prays - Acts of the Apostles 1:13-14
If you add this to the fact that Peter was one of the Apostles that spent the most time with Our Lord you get the picture of a man given over to God. Peter was not without his faults but he was always a willing servant of God and prayerful...like Ezekiel, he was willing to more than knee deep in God's river. This willingness and prayerfulness opened him up to be receptive to the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Now this Gift of the Holy Ghost is breathed into us both in Baptism and at Confirmation, just as Christ breathed on His first Apostles (John 20:22). Just as the first Apostles, this Gift may lay dormant for some time until we fully open up to His Grace. For the Apostles it was the first novena, the nine days from the Ascension of Christ to Pentecost. For us, the wait may be years.
As St. Augustine calls us fathers of families, "Coepiscopi" or "fellow bishops", we must be open to God's grace to lead our families. The crisis in the the modern culture cannot be solely blamed upon the ordained bishops, for ultimately our priests are only as good as the families they are borne out of . Fathers of families bear a great responsibility for the state of the modern culture, and as thus, we are called to be prophetic witnesses to a true Catholic mentality and culture. Contraception rates among Catholics will only be lowered through courage and conversion. Once us men open ourselves up to God's grace and are willing to embrace martyrdom, will we be willing to die for our families and be open to the great gift that life is. Accepting God's generous gift of children requires heroic courage and magnanimity in today's dads...it is not for the faint of heart, nor the childish adolescent fathers living for entertainment and modern sporting fantasy. Fear and childishness cannot keep us from entering fully into the river of God.
Modern men, whether they be ordained bishops administering a diocese of thousands of souls, or the newly married young man with his potentiality yet to be realized in fatherhood are called to go deep, to live fully for God, to live devout lives, to live heroic witness to Christ - while not counting the cost. To live anything less, is well, less manly...and certainly, less divine!