Pentecost, The Birthday of the Church

By Sister Diane Heiss, SDSH

Holy Spirit by Isabel Piczek, St. Catherine Laboure Church, Torrance – photo taken by a Sacred Heart Sister 

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, happy birthday to you …” Who among us has not sung this song at some point in our life, or been serenaded by it? It is such a familiar melody that we can effortlessly sing it. Today, Pentecost Sunday, is the birthday of the Church, so it is appropriate to at least hum it to ourselves, if nothing else.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told the apostles to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father (the coming of the Holy Spirit, Lk. 24:49). They remained in prayer along with Mary the mother of Jesus. (Acts 1:13-14)

Chapter 2 of Acts recounts the story of Pentecost when the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit and preached to the crowds. Pentecost, a Greek word meaning “fiftieth” was a Jewish holiday occurring fifty days after the offering of the barley sheaf during the Passover feast. (For a history of this holiday, refer to In the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, it was called the “Feast of Harvest” and “Feast of Weeks,” celebrating the grain harvests and the giving of the Law, or Torah, by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was one of three major religious holidays at which all Jewish males were required, seven weeks after Passover, to visit the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews from throughout the world were present, with all understanding the preaching of the apostles in their own language (Gift of Tongues). Consequently, many accepted the gift of faith and 3,000 were baptized that day.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also the mother of His Mystical Body, the Church. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He turned to Mary and the disciple whom He loved, saying to Mary, “Woman, behold your son” and to John “Behold your mother.” (Jn. 19: 26-27)

It was at this moment that Jesus entrusted each of us to Mary as her beloved children, and Mary to us, for us to honor, love, and obey her.

It is therefore appropriate that in the same way that we celebrate the birthday of her son, Jesus, at Christmas, we celebrate the birthday of her son’s Mystical Body at Pentecost. In 2018, Pope Francis designated the ancient devotion to Mary, Mother of the Church, as a world-wide Memorial on the Monday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.

Mary, Mother of the Church and our mother, pray for us.

 Read the account of Pentecost found in the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke (Acts 2:1 – 41) and share memories of your Confirmation.
 Prepare a prayer service including a Litany of Gratitude and Petition, with each person taking turns to say aloud an aspect of our Church for which they are grateful and then praying for the needs of the Church.
 Pray for all those receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation during the Easter Season (the 50 days from Easter Sunday to the Feast of Pentecost), and when the opportunity presents itself, attend a celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
 Invite a relative or friend who no longer practices our Catholic faith to join you for Mass, and then out for coffee and donuts or other treat.
 Pray the Litany of the Holy Spirit.
 Bake a birthday cake at home and have a “birthday celebration” for our Catholic Church
 Attend Mass tomorrow to honor Mary, Mother of the Church.

Published in Orange County Catholic paper 5/14/2024 – Click for original article