Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Holy Spirit gives courage to those who believe

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published June 12, 2014  | En Español

Strange things quite often happen to people who are fearful. They might hear unfamiliar sounds that frighten them or see imaginary things that scare them. We generally learn to overcome our fears as we grow older, but some of these fears do manage to follow us into adulthood.

The Solemnity of Pentecost is the commemoration of the Church’s triumph over her fears through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first disciples were gathered together in a locked room filled with fears about their future now that the Lord had entrusted His Church to their care. Enter then the Holy Spirit, who gave those first frightened disciples the courage and the direction they needed to leave the locked upper room and to engage the world outside.

Pentecost begins the long tradition of facing our future with courage—in spite of any fears that we might have.

The Hawthorne Dominican Sisters came to Atlanta in 1939 with the dream of opening a home for those who were facing terminal cancer. These wonderful nuns were planning to help those people face their futures comforted, cared for and loved. These sisters did not ask if the people were Catholic—and there were not many Catholics living in Atlanta in 1939—they simply opened their hearts and this new home to people who needed to be comforted and strengthened during the final days of their earthly journey.

I suspect that those pioneer sisters might have been slightly apprehensive as they embarked upon that new adventure, but they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were able to overcome those fears.

Every time that I have visited the Cancer Home, I have been encouraged by the gentleness of the staff and sisters as they comfort the residents who were confronting their own futures with cancer. The effectiveness of the care that is widely offered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home has won the hearts and the respect of the people of Atlanta of all faiths and those with no professed faith.

For 75 years, the legacy of these Hawthorne Dominicans has grown in public esteem. We celebrated that legacy with a Mass and a reception at St. Peter Chanel Church last Saturday. About 20 of the Hawthorne Dominicans came to Atlanta to observe this wonderful anniversary. They were joined by a large number of their supporters, benefactors and staff members in praising God for these 75 years of service and care for those whose lives are cherished even in the closing days of their earthly journey.

On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis invited Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas (the presidents of Israel and Palestine, respectively) to pray for a future that would be blessed with peace. Francis is not naïve, and he knows that great minds and courageous hearts before him have confronted the issues that continue to bring violence to this part of our world.

Yet Pentecost is the day that the Holy Spirit once worked miracles, and he invited that same Spirit to begin a new miracle in our own time—equal, if not greater perhaps, than the gifts of tongues and courage that marked the first Pentecost. The participants were probably frightened by the awesome task that lies ahead of them, but then so were those first disciples as they opened the doors of the room and went into the public square to announce Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead.

May Israelis and Palestinians dare to open the shuttered doors to a future that may—just may—hold peace as the reward for those who overcome their fears and venture forth. That was Pope Francis’ prayer, and it should be ours as well.