Pentecost Sunday: Father Stéphane Pouliot

May 15th, 2016

Pentecost Sunday

Father Stéphane Pouliot


Tonight (this morning), we are celebrating the climax of the Easter season with the solemn feast of Pentecost.  My own brother who has in 2010, professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as a consecrated celibate in the religious community of Marie-Jeunesse, in Sherbrooke, QC, has spent the past week on retreat along with his religious brothers and sisters to prepare himself for this most sacred day.

The tradition of praying a novena, nine days before this Feast of Pentecost, is rooted in the very retreat that the disciples were commanded by Jesus to make in Jerusalem before receiving the Holy Spirit.

We may not have this year prepared ourselves very intentionally for Pentecost.  We may have thought that there was so much to do, so many interruptions to our routine, so many responsibilities demanding our immediate response that, well, here we are, Pentecost is here, and we may be in no shape to receive the Grace of God.  Is it now too late then?  No, it is never too late.  For one, we can learn from this year’s experience, and be better prepared next year.  But we can also acknowledge that the Church has deployed a great deal of effort in the past few minutes at helping our hearts be better disposed to receive the Holy Spirit.  She, our beloved Mother Church, has given us an account of the first Catholic Pentecost, to help us see that now that Jesus has carried our earthly reality into Heaven with his Ascension, the next step is to insert the reality of Heaven into our earthly dimension with Pentecost.  The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the room where Jesus celebrated the first Mass is no small event.  A violent wind fills the entire house where they are sitting (cf. Acts 2:2).  They see individual tongues, as of fire, resting on each of them (cf. Acts 2:3).

And lo, behold, they now begin to speak in languages unknown to them, because the Holy Spirit wants the whole world to know Jesus (cf. Acts 2:4).  The eruption of the Holy Spirit in the world of the disciples changes their perspective.  Before this moment, they were concerned about their safety, about what people would think of them, feeling guilty of having deserted Jesus, confused as to what to do now that He has disappeared from their sight with His ascension into Heaven.

In 1969, Sister Jeanne Bizier was in Rome on behalf of her religious community, very much aware of the changing times.  Her religious congregation’s chief mission was teaching students in the classroom.  But 5 years before, the government of Quebec had seized control of education, and without regard for the Catholic parents and children of the province, was determined to impose a new curriculum, one which would no longer be driven to make disciples of Jesus.  Rather, it would chiefly focus on forming young minds for the job market place.  By 1969, with the reality of religious sisters teaching in the classroom no longer welcome by the government, young women were hesitant to join a teaching religious congregation, and Sister Jeanne knew that something had to be done to renew the ever relevant call to consecrate one’s life to Jesus.  Her presence in Rome was a real plea to God for an answer.  What is to be done?  Something must be done, but what?  She was hoping against hope that she could meet with Pope Paul VI, and have a private audience with him.  The chances of that happening were slim, and yet she persevered.  She had questions for the Pope, but would she get to meet him?  Between meetings, in a hallway, providentially, she met the Pope, and the encounter changed her life.

When Paul VI saw her, he fixed his eyes intently on her face, and said passionately: “Daughter of the Church!”  She returned to Quebec and in the days that followed her encounter with the Pope, the Sisters of her congregation would report that she only had to speak, and their love for the Church would be kindled anew in their hearts.  Their low morale, or skepticism about the future of their congregation, or of Catholic education in Quebec, was giving way to a bold love for a Church whom many were running away from.

This story of Sister Jeanne Bizier shows us that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was not only for those present in Jerusalem 33 years after the birth of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit counsels us against discouragement, refreshes us from within when we are weary and heavily burdened, gives us a restful peace in the midst of anxiety, and in prayer, guides us home when our busyness has separated us from the One who really matters: Jesus.

Bishop Robert Barron says that “the Holy Spirit never comes without gifts”.  Those gifts bear to be once again desired: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.  We need wisdom from the Spirit in order to prioritize, to let Jesus be at the centre of our lives.  We need understanding from the Spirit in order to know how to implement this wisdom in our day-to-day schedule.  We need knowledge from the Spirit in order to not only accumulate book knowledge about God, but to come to know God’s heart.  We need counsel from the Holy Spirit in order to know right from wrong, according to God, but also see clearly where we need to go next when God slams shut some doors, and opens a new unexpected door, thereby revealing His plan to us.


We need the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit in order not to faint in adversity, when we are on trial, when our very faith is ridiculed by family members, or by coworkers.  We need fortitude from the Holy Spirit not only to defend the faith, but also to spread it.  As Archbishop Prendergast told me recently at the March for Life in Ottawa: “Are you keeping the faith?….You need to give it away.”

We need the gift of piety from the Holy Spirit in order to see God as my Father, the Church as my family and my enemy as my brother or sister.  We need the gift of piety in order to consider life sacred from conception until natural death, and we need the gift of piety in order to heal our broken hearts and families.

We need the Holy Spirit’s gift of fearing the Lord in order not to foolishly discard the 10 commandments as irrelevant.  We need to fear the Lord to avoid being deceived into believing ourselves infallible when it comes to making choices.  We need to fear the Lord in order to properly appreciate how much bigger than us is God’s perspective, and how liberating is the Lord’s narrow way, versus the enslavement of our famously popular social re-engineering of marriage, and of human identity.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).”

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful gathered here and now.  And kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.