Unpacking the faith is a lifelong journey

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula spends time with new members of the Catholic Church and others gathered for “Mass and Mystagogy” June 5 at St. Mary Church in Riverside.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

RIVERSIDE — On Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Thomas Zinkula and a small group of Catholics, ranging from new to cradle Catholics, participated in “Mass and Mystagogy” to unpack what happened 50 days earlier during the Easter Vigil. Mystagogy provides an opportunity to explore the depths of the mystery of the faith and to come to a deeper understanding of one’s life in Christ.

The afternoon of prayer, reflection and fellowship began June 5 with Mass at which Bishop Zinkula presided in St. Mary Church. Deacons Frank Agnoli and Dan Freeman assisted the bishop, along with Kay Temple, a Liturgy Office volunteer.

Bishop Zinkula’s homily for Pentecost Sunday explored one of the mysteries of faith, the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics. “Breath is the very symbol of life and has been since ancient times,” the bishop said. “In the second Creation story in the Book of Genesis, the first human creature becomes a living being only when the Creator breathes the breath of life into his nostrils. At Pentecost, the risen Christ breathes new life into a frightened group of disciples, which recreates them into bold proclaimers of the Gospel.”


The bishop observed that many people who “pray in a contemplative manner focus on their breathing to allow God to bring their awareness of the Spirit within and around them. They breathe the Spirit in and breathe the Spirit out. The Spirit is always present to us, but the question is whether we are present to the Spirit. Are we like disciples in the upper room with the doors locked? Have we locked up our minds and hearts to keep the Spirit from barging in and disrupting the comfortable but boring lives we have constructed for ourselves? As Jesus breathed on the disciples, he said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ Are we open to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit?”

Breath is one symbol of the Holy Spirit, fire is another, which Bishop Zinkula explored through a story about Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. One evening, Pascal experienced the symbol of fire in his mind and it left him with feelings of certitude, joy and peace of the God of Jesus Christ. The bishop asked Catholics gathered, “Are we open to such an experience of the Holy Spirit — Jesus Christ breathing fire into our hearts, our minds and lives?”

After Mass, Rosina Hendrickson of Chicago-based Liturgy Training Publications opened the reflection time singing a hymn, “At the Pulpit, Font and Table.” The hymn speaks of the common priesthood, which all Catholics share, and that participation in the sacraments lead Catholics to service and evangelization.

Hendrickson asked the gathering to reflect on the life-giving water blessed at the Easter Vigil and its meaning in their lives. She urged them to respond to the call of St. Paul VI to be witnesses to the faith. She asked them what it means to be eucharistic people.

She led the group through a reflection on five symbols of the Easter Vigil: water; the white baptismal garment; light; sacred chrism; and bread and wine.

Sharing an insight about the baptismal garment, Hendrickson said, “My garment should be dirty … with the work of baptismal living’’ — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and dying, visiting the prisoner.

Zaden Elliott, a neophyte, especially appreciated reflecting on the symbols of the Easter Vigil. The afternoon of prayer, reflection and fellowship “helped me to review everything that happened at the Easter Vigil and collect my thoughts fully,” said Elliott, 17. He received all three sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist during the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Parish in Fairfield.

Karen Crossland, coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) for the Fairfield parish, also appreciated the afternoon, liturgy with the bishop and being able to accompany Elliott.

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