And so we come to that time of year again. It is Pentecost, the third greatest feast in the Christian calendar, but one that has only vestigial importance in the contemporary mind. I wonder if anyone under the age of seventy ever talks of ‘Whit Sunday’ these days, or even ‘Whitsuntide’? Until 1971 Whit Monday used to be a holiday in England, when it was replaced by the late May bank holiday, thus sweeping away another of our ancient traditions.
In the quiet suburb where I live, we are having an all night vigil on the eve of Pentecost, before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. This strikes me as an excellent idea, for there is much to pray for at this time of year.
First of all, the Pope, as he starts his ministry.
Secondly, we need to pray for evangelisation, something that Catholics are not particularly keen on, but need to be much keener on. Let us remember the disciples gathered in the upper room: they viewed the holiday crowds in Jerusalem with dread, assuming them to be hostile. But the Holy Spirit came, and transformed their perceptions: the anonymous crowd became a potential congregation, and the timid disciples became bold proclaimers of the Word. That is the sort of transformation that the contemporary Church needs.
Thirdly, we need to pray for vocations, and we need to realise that these do not grow on trees. We will only have vocations if we have clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching and Catholic practice, especially in the place that these two are most visible: at Mass.
So that is a lot of praying that needs to be done!
I have also noticed, alas too late, that the eve of Pentecost clashes with the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, something has got to give, and there is always a cost to discipleship.
I first watched the contest in 1971, when I was allowed to stay up late to do so. This was the year when Malta first entered and came bottom. I was very young, but the disappointment was very hard to take, even then. And over the years I have hoped that one day Malta would win. Now, 42 years later, is it possible that her time has come? I have not listened to all the songs by any means, but the Maltese entry, sung by Gianluca Bezzina, strikes me as excellent. Just what the doctor ordered – and of course, the man singing it is a doctor!
Have a look here and judge for yourself. It is nice that the Daily Mirror is supporting Gianluca; now he’s got the unshakeable allegiance of this paper, he must be unstoppable.