For the Domestic Church
A Family Celebration of Pentecost
“On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a Divine Person: of His fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §731)
The day of Pentecost is truly an occasion for a celebration! The tradition of special celebrations and feasting on Pentecost is very ancient for example, we read that “Arthur, the good King of Britain, whose prowess teaches us that we, too, should be brave and courteous, held a rich and royal court upon that precious feast day which is always known by the name of Pentecost”. (Yvain, Chrétien de Troyes. trans. W. W. Comfort)
Although festive observance of this “precious feast day” has nearly disappeared in our culture (other than at Mass), it is a tradition that we think is long overdue for revival in Catholic homes today.
In many places, Confirmation takes place on Pentecost often at the cathedral, with many children being confirmed at the same time. If there is a Confirmation in your family, there will, of course, be a special celebration of the occasion.
Unlike Christmas or Easter, however, with their familiar narratives and many customs and symbols from many cultures and regions and perhaps because it is not really possible to visualize the Holy Spirit Pentecost is not as easy to explain to young children as holidays like Christmas and Easter.
The great liturgist and pastor Monsignor Martin Hellriegel told of the customs for celebrating the feast of Pentecost in his family in Heppenheim, Germany when he was growing up. This practice could easily be imitated by Catholic families today. Monsignor Hellriegel wrote:
Pentecost was another special occasion for the Hellriegel family. As on each major feast day, the family dinner was served with the best linen and silverware. The centerpiece for this day was a large candle as a symbol of the Spirit with red streamers going to each place at the table. The streamer going to the place of the father was of double width, indicating his role as head of the family. Seven large rosebuds represented the seven gifts of the Spirit. (Martin B. Hellriegel: Pastoral Liturgist, Noel Hackmann Barrett. St. Louis: Bureau of the Catholic Central Union of America, 1990.)
Monsignor Hellriegel came to the United States in 1906, at the age of fifteen, where he studied for the priesthood. As longtime pastor of Holy Cross in St. Louis, he deepened the appreciation of all his parishioners for the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year. (He taught the entire parish to sing Gregorian Chant at Sunday Masses and respond to the prayers of the Mass before this became common practice. He also initiated the revival of the Easter Vigil in the United States.)
The Hellriegel family’s celebration of Pentecost can be an inspiration for our own festivities.
Pentecost Activities for Families
• Say the Pentecost collect (opening prayer) before the blessing before meals. (See below.)
• Recite with the family the Regina Caeli (or Coeli), which replaces the Angelus from Easter through the Pentecost season. (See below; also, prayer cards of the Regina Caeli in Latin and English are available from WFF.)
• Begin the Novena to the Holy Spirit today. The Novena is included in this issue of Voices, and is also available in brochure form (it may be ordered from WFF).
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
A good way of teaching young children about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to have them cut out seven flame shapes from red paper and write on the paper flames the names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
These gifts of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the book of Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-3)
Explain what each of these gifts means, and ask the children to think of examples of how each of these gifts is needed in living the Christian life according to God’s will. The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit”. (CCC §1830)
Use the seven paper flames the children made as table decorations, or tape them to the refrigerator or the back door until the children learn them all.
The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit:
The fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Catechism tells us, “are perfections formed in us as the first fruits of eternal glory”. (CCC 1832) The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit are: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control, and Chastity. (See Galatians 5:22)
• Ask older children to read aloud passages concerning the Holy Spirit from the Catechism (§683-741) or the Compendium of the Catechism (§136-146).
• Lead the children in praying the Regina Caeli as a bedtime prayer.
The Pentecost Cake
Pentecost is really the birthday of the Church. Children do understand birthdays and birthday cakes! Why not ask them to help make a special cake for Pentecost with candles and decorations? This cake would be good, too, for Confirmation celebrations, for by the sacrament of Confirmation we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The cake can be a home-made or store-bought layer cake with white icing. (The ruffle shown surrounding the cake can be purchased from a bakery.)
The central large candle represents Christ our Light, who promised to send the Holy Spirit. It is surrounded by twelve white birthday candles, representing the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. (Note: the large candle can be an ordinary 8" taper.)
The seven hearts (icing or candy) and seven red ribbons radiating from the cake represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (The hearts could be replaced by red icing roses.)
Twelve strawberries (or red cherries) represent the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.
If the children help decorate, this is an ideal time to review with them the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Before the cake is cut, let all the children blow out the candles “with a mighty rushing wind”!
Serve the cake with vanilla ice cream with strawberries or raspberry topping to carry out the red and white theme.
Alternative: If the cake project seems too ambitious, a bouquet of a dozen red roses (representing the twelve apostles and the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit) would be a lovely centerpiece. Surround the bouquet with twelve votive candles or tea lights, if possible. A red tablecloth could be used, with seven flame shapes cut from white paper, each labeled with one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, written with red marker and placed around the centerpiece.
Collect for Pentecost
O God, by the mystery of Pentecost you sanctify your universal Church in every race and nation;
Pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth, and, with the divine grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, now fill the hearts of believers once more. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
(“Queen of Heaven Rejoice”)
Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia!
For the Son thou wast privileged to bear, Alleluia!
Is risen as He said. Alleluia!
Pray for us to God. Alleluia!
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia!
For the Lord is truly risen. Alleluia!
Let us pray:
O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life: Through the same Christ our Lord. +Amen.
Related page: Pentecost
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