Saturday night Matt and I went to dinner with some seminarian friends from two other dioceses out east. The food was great. It was also a bitter sweet evening as we say farewell to two priests from the group who'll be returning home after completing their studies. On our way home we were walking through St. Peter's square not even paying attention to where we were when two young Italians asked us how they could acquire tickets for the Papal Mass the next day. As we were helping them, another young person walked up and asked one of the priests to hear his confession. So in a span of 5 minutes in what we considered to be a routine walk back from dinner, Papal Mass tickets were acquired and confession was heard. It is easy to forget or take for granted the opportunities given to us here in Rome.
Then this morning I went to the Pentecost Mass at St. Peter's Basilica presided by the Holy Father. I didn't go early to try to get a good seat. Sure enough I arrived later and the central nave was already full, but interestingly enough I was ushered along with some others outside of the basilica. We walked outside of the church on the right-hand side until we re-entered the basilica from the right transept. Sure enough there were plenty of seats and I was sitting about 10 rows back in the right transept. I felt guilty. Here I came later than I should have and still managed to find a great seat. Before Mass started an usher asked me to move forward to an empty front row seat about 20 feet from the right side of the altar with the Sistine Choir right next to me. Then I felt even more guilty sitting in a plush front row seat with a velvet kneeler in front of me. Oh and I didn't even bring my camera since I was planning on sitting in the back.
The Mass was very beautiful. The great feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, is so powerful. The Holy Father's homily was especially good today (as it always it of course). He pointed out that Pentecost is a feast of unity. A unity that comes from the Holy Spirit which overcomes the division and disunity that we read about in the story of the Tower of Babel. Most striking was a question the Holy Father asked us which I'll paraphrase: "It is true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communication, of information, of transmission of news, but can we say that the capacity of understanding each other has grown or maybe paradoxically we understand each other less and less?" In today's world we have access to more information than ever before, yet the disunity and misunderstanding of Babel persists. The Holy Father answered his own question by turning to Sacred Scripture which teaches us that true unity, true communion is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who like the first disciples 50 days after Easter were given a new heart and a new tongue to love and to speak in unity. Babel is overcome and transformed by Pentecost.
Another point of his homily this morning that stuck me was his reflections on today's second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. St. Paul contrasts the 'works of the flesh' with 'the fruit of the Holy Spirit'. Pope Benedict pointed out that St. Paul uses the word 'works' in the plural when referring to disunity and division. Whereas St. Paul uses the word 'fruit' in the singular when referring to unity and communion. Though St. Paul lists several fruits, such as joy, peace, love, he refers to them in the singular as the 'fruit of the Holy Spirit'. I'd never thought of that before.
All in all a beautiful day. Just one more week of classes until exams begin. Though I have to admit the weather has been so nice it will be hard to study. I'll just have to bring my notes with me and study outside.
I'll update this post with a link to the English translation of the homily as soon as it is posted.