Sunday, May 20
By Father Tom Hurley
(I really need to preface my remarks on this Pentecost Day by just expressing my total, 100% empathy and reverence for those among us who struggle with fertility issues. This is something that I’ve witnessed in my own family and as a priest I have journeyed with many couples throughout my years in ministry who carry the incredible challenge of failed pregnancies. The only reason I bring this up is because I’d like to borrow the metaphor of fertility as it applies to the life and birth of the Church, as it applies to this Feast of Pentecost.)
I’ve never been a big fan of talking about the “birthday of the church” as it refers to Pentecost and yet I realize that such a theological stance is popular and perhaps accurate. I know that many preachers around the globe will use that kind of comparison today from their pulpits today and good for them. But other theologians will argue that the real “birth” of the church happened on Good Friday when “blood and water” flowed from the side of Jesus, thus marking the birth of something new, or a new body itself: the church. Instead of arguing who’s right on the actual birth, I’d like to go back to the moment of conception and fertility.
We are told that the moment of the Annunciation, when Gabriel came to Mary, that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would be with child, thus revealing to us the fertile power of the Spirit. It seems to me, then, the fertile gift of the Holy Spirit struck again when, as tongues of fire and a driving wind, the spirit of the Risen Christ, came upon those first followers and called them to “birth” the mission of the Gospel. I’m not a doctor but I think it’s pretty simple biology that before there’s birth, there has to be fertility and gestation. So I would argue that Pentecost is not the celebration of a birth, but rather the feast of fertility and the openness to being born again by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Meaning, what will we give birth to this year?
Several years ago, those who were here making up the church of Old St. Patrick’s, gathered together in one place (as we hear again today in the Acts of the Apostles) and we proclaimed that we wanted to become pregnant with a thing called “Kinship.” Inspired by the passionate words of Fr. Greg Boyle and contemplated by those in leadership here in this community, we opened ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit might guide us, or “incubate” us, in how we would grow in our identity as the Church of Old St. Pat’s today. Such a time of pregnancy brought us to “being” church in KINSHIP with a neighborhood called North Lawndale on the near west side of the city. Guided and cared for beautifully by our own Vince Guider, our birth as a kinship church has been powerfully fulfilling for many people and so many bonds have been formed because of this relationship. Such great accomplishments have been made in the areas of education, service, shared worship, youth athletics, and employment opportunities. Like any development, we are still toddlers and likewise still learning how to grow in our Kinship model of church.
I know that in the coming weeks, you will hear more about opportunities to keep growing in this “body” of kinship. Many of our good people have developed an “Orientation Session” on what this kinship model is all about and how can we better affiliate ourselves as members of Old St. Pat’s in relationship with the North Lawndale community. I am looking forward to experiencing this kinship orientation in the coming days with members of our Board of Advisors. I really want us to grow in this model of church. We stand on fertile ground!
On this feast of Pentecost, may we allow ourselves to be more open to where the Spirit is both impregnating us and sending us to be Christ’s Body in the world. What’s new that will be born in us this year?
Thank you for the outstanding joy and energy you bring to this experience of Church here at Old St. Patrick’s. How privileged I am to be with you on this journey.
A blessed Pentecost to you,
Father Tom Hurley
PS: Many have been asking about my 25th anniversary as a priest, which is officially May 22. Because of Fr. Wall’s 50th anniversary celebration, I didn’t want to overwhelm Old St. Pat’s with two such events so close together. So please mark the date of September 9th and we will celebrate OUR shared experience of Church together for these 25 years.