Couples for Christ was one of the many lay organizations represented at the Pentecost vigil celebration on June 7.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Couples for Christ was one of the many lay organizations represented at the Pentecost vigil celebration on June 7.

June 23, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Many people want God to tweak them by changing one or two of their faults, says Father Marc Cramer.

But beyond such tweaking, they would prefer that God stay out of their lives, the pastor of Edmonton's Good Shepherd Parish said in a talk on the eve of Pentecost.

"However, God wants us to pray to be transformed," Cramer said. "The Holy Spirit doesn't come here to tweak us. The Holy Spirit comes to transform us totally and utterly, into new creatures.

"When people ask God to tweak them, funny how it doesn't seem to do a darn thing," said Cramer.

But when people pray to God for a complete overhaul, the results are amazing, he said.

Cramer gave a half-hour catechesis at a June 7 celebration at Annunciation Church marking the vigil of Pentecost.

Local prayer groups and other Catholic movements paraded with colourful banners aloft into the church as they marked the beginning of the vigil, hosted by Catholic Renewal Services.

The 15-minute procession included such groups as Focolare, the Families of Nazareth, Couples for Christ, Familia-Regnum Christi and the Union of Catholic Apostolate.

Father Stefano Penna of Newman Theological College welcomed the movements and numerous charismatic prayer groups.

Penna said he heard his own call to the priesthood through his involvement with one movement – the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace – an organization he called a "great work of the Holy Spirit."

OVERWHELMING PRESENCE

In his catechesis, Cramer said God mostly comes to us in small doses; otherwise his presence would be too overwhelming to bear.

We are "weak vessels" who cannot take in the fullness of God. All we can handle of God's magnificence is a smidge here and there, he said.

But we must be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit, he said. Prayer is the way we make room for the Holy Spirit.

The pastor spoke of the Pantheon, originally a pagan temple created to honour all gods. An ancient Roman building, it has been a Catholic church since the seventh century.

A spectacular ancient Pantheon tradition is the raining of red rose petals, which flutter down from above. Tens of thousands of rose petals tumble into the interior of the church, symbolizing the Holy Spirit's descent to earth in the form of flames on the day of Pentecost.

The falling rose petals are a striking, almost magical sight.

"What a powerful image of the coming of the Holy Spirit!" said Cramer.

Fr. Marc Cramer

Fr. Marc Cramer

"Give the Holy Spirit space so God can pour the rose petals into the temple of your soul."

PRIEST'S WITNESS

Father Matthew-Anthony Hysell, who grew up in Michigan, gave a witness talk at the vigil. He lost his hearing after contracting meningitis as a child. He learned sign language as well as how to speak. With the help of a hearing aid, he can hear a little from one ear and has become expert at lip-reading.

Hysell was raised a Baptist, but at age 12 he started attending other churches and researching their beliefs.

At age 13, after reading about priests, he decided he wanted to become one. Learning more and more about Catholicism, he concluded that the faith was not merely a system, but a relationship with Jesus. He became a Catholic at age 16.

"I was hungering for the Gospel. That's why, in high school, my nickname was Bible Boy. I was convicted of the truth of Catholicity," said Hysell.

The first deaf priest in Canada, Hysell was ordained by Archbishop Richard Smith in December 2012.

"Many people have asked me if I want to be healed of my deafness, to be cured," he said.

"I was not cured, but I was healed because I came to understand that my hearing loss is a gift so that I can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in sign language to the deaf community."