Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

May 30, 2007

The Winds of Pentecost

May 27, 2007

The Gospel of Pentecost Sunday speaks of the wind that blew into the upper room, through the minds of the disciples of Jesus, and later when they went out into the streets, through the minds of that kaleidoscope of exotic Middle-Eastern people: Parthians, Medes, inhabitants of Mesopotamia (today’s Iraqis), and others. A new spirit was born in the hearts and minds of multitudes then and in the centuries to come across the world. Like a keyboard click on a computer, windows on a new world were opened. In every age, writers from a multitude of nations and cultures have chronicled the effect of that wind on their hearts and minds and its continuing transmittal to others.

The whisper of this wind is experienced by each individual in a unique way. We are not shaped as identical cookies to be put in a jar. My own ears were attuned and made ready for this experience of a new spirit by baptism and having a believing family with prayers and regular Sunday Mass. In high school and college, the new wind made itself evident through a galaxy of writers and the visions of artists put into physical forms from the crucifixion graffiti on catacomb walls to Michelangelo’s Transmission of Life depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and then, nearby, his all-embracing Last Judgment. The torrent of art through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance transmitted the new spirit through paintings and statuary that told of Old Testament prophets and incidents and then the New Testament experiences of Jesus from an incredible number of painted Annunciations down through the Stations of the Cross and the fifteen incidents from the mysteries of the Rosary.

The spirit came to us through the incarnations of spiritual experience through music and the ears. Ancient Latin hymns, the chaste, simple rhythms from medieval times on solo instruments, the enormously complexities of Monteverdi and other Renaissance masters, the rhythmical Masses of Mozart, the power of Beethoven’s, and, in modern times, Penderecki’ making discord meaningful – all these show many individual and cultures touched by the spirit. We are in good company!

Finally, it was the writers, who opened the windows of Pentecost and let the winds of the spirit reach our intellects: GK Chesterton, Belloc, Martin Cyril D’Arcy, SJ, John Courtney Murray, SJ, Thomas Merton, Paul Horgan, Romano Guardini; the poets - Francis Thompson and Gerard Manley Hopkins; the novelists - Graham Green, John Steinbeck, Evelyn Waugh, and Willa Cather; many from the French Catholic revival: Francois Mauriac, Leon Bloy, Paul Claudel. Jacques and Raissa Maritain, George Bernanos, de Lubac, and others.

There was substantial support to these blowing winds from the radio with Fulton Sheen and Peter Marshall and from the motion picture world with personalities like Gregory Peck, Ingred Bergman, and Spencer Tracy portraying noble priests and nuns.

Many of my discoveries of these literary, musical, and artistic figures were shared and added to by a high school classmate – a friendship that lasted until his death in a 1974 commercial airplane crash that took him and his two youngest sons of his eleven children. In high school years and later when he was in medical school and then, in time, when he had become prominent in the academic field of medicine, we frequently got together to discuss our literary and artistic discoveries and share enthusiasms, helped by the stirring of numerous martinis. His influence perdured beyond his death. If faced with a crucial decision to be made, I would ask myself, “How would Jim react to this?”

On this Pentecost Day, these are the influences that I recall that helped channel the winds of the spirit. It might be of interest to retrace your own path and leave it on our “comment” button to be shared with others.


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