MESSINA: And after the fire came a gentle whisper

June 14, 2022

It was a new day. They were gathered together when suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Tongues of fire parted, resting upon each one as they received the Holy Spirit. The Advocate arrived to give courage and strength to the disciples; to give birth to the Church.

We love the fire and wind, the drama of Pentecost! We can imagine the roaring sound emanating from the Upper Room, reaching the ears of those gathered in Jerusalem, both drawing and confusing them. And then the next new day arrived, the wind faded, and the Apostles walked forward shepherding the Church entrusted to them.

Pentecost signals the end of our 50 days of Easter feasting, and our hearts rejoice. For Christians, endings and beginnings are joined; Crucifixion-Resurrection, Ascension-Pentecost, death-new life. Our faith assures us that endings always open the way to new beginnings.

This belief is the heart and impetus of the Synod underway in the Archdiocese and Church. The whole community has been invited to listen, share experiences of faith, and propose ways to live the Gospel in this new day as we continue to shepherd what has been entrusted to us.

It was an ending and beginning two years ago when the Cenacle Sisters entrusted their ministries, including the Spiritual Direction Institute, to lay leadership. The ending and the circumstances that led to the transition resembled strong winds that filled the entire house. It was dramatic (and traumatic) for the sisters, for the many whose faith they had nurtured, and for the hundreds formed there in the ministry of spiritual direction. And when the new day came, it arrived, not like Pentecost, but like it did for Elijah; after the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

Unlike Elijah, who had prayed for death, the Spiritual Direction Institute prayed for life. We listened and continue to listen for the gentle whisper. Like the Apostles, we returned to our Jerusalem to discern and respond to the signs of the times. The diversity in faith and culture, pluralism, and the secularization of our era did not send us cowering back into a cave.

Although there is no single tongue we speak or hear, our shared Christian horizon, however, it is articulated, is eternal life with God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Spiritual direction, like our faith, is incarnational. Although one can learn much from training manuals and lectures, we are formed and transformed through living and witnessing together. Ten students received their Certificates in Spiritual Direction last month in the 34th graduation of the Spiritual Direction Institute.

The next new day and the day after for these spiritual directors will be devoted to accompanying others throughout the Archdiocese in their spiritual journey. They will be followed by the students who, God-willing, complete the program next year and the year after that, as long this program continues to be Spirit-filled, responding to the needs of the time.

While the Synod appropriately appeared to resemble a strong driving wind, most times, we are beckoned to each new day, as the Spiritual Direction Institute has been, by a gentle whisper. The winds that appear in our life, whether they arrive dramatically or gently, are invitations to listen and share, to be filled with courage and strength.

Walking together, sharing our life of faith, our endings and our beginnings, we participate in giving birth to the Church. May we rejoice in the gift of each new day.

Kathleen Messina is the director of the Spiritual Direction Institute at the Emmaus Spirituality Center.