The Flame: November & December, 2006

Dear Readers of The Flame,

The turning point in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Story” took place through the “Ghosts” of Christmas past, present and future. As we approach the holiday season, I want to briefly reflect on how I have recently seen the Holy Ghost manifest Himself, past, present and future.

The past I want to mention is the recent past. Last month I led a group of twenty eight pilgrims in the footsteps of St. Paul through Greece and Turkey. The work of the Holy Spirit was evident from the beginning. Our initial plane out of Cleveland was cancelled. After some discussion, and much prayer and singing (I think the breakthrough came when I was singing “Shout to the North”. From verse three: “by His grace again we’ll FLY!”) the Holy Spirit performed His first miracle. With a different carrier and a different route, the twenty six of us coming from Cleveland landed in Thessaloniki, Greece only 45 minutes later than planned! Other highlights of this pilgrimage included: celebrating mass at the house of Mary near Ephesus (western Turkey), renewing our baptismal promises where St. Lydia, St. Paul’s first convert in Europe, was baptized (Acts 16:11-15), and standing where St. Paul stood before the proconsul Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17).

The Holy Ghost of Christmas present is our helper during these often stressful times. It is ironic that the days of the year most focused on Christian truth (Thanksgiving and the nativity of the Son of God) are also the ones filled the most distractions. The Holy Spirit helps us in two ways: by giving us a fresh appreciation of the realities we celebrate as well as the discipline we need to weed out the distractions of these seasons. Events that may help in this regard include:

Finally, the Holy Ghost of Christmas future points us to the year 2007. As I mentioned last month, this year the charismatic renewal as a movement turns forty. God has poured out his Spirit in wonder-filled ways so that we can make the Lord Jesus Christ present to our skeptical, violent and materialistic world. Whether you participate in any anniversary events or not, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!! Pray that we all “stir into a flame the gift of God…for God has not given us a spirit of cowardice but rather one of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord…” (II Timothy 1:6-8)

In the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Fr. Bob Franco

PS: The timing of this edition of The Flame presses me to wish you Christmas greetings well before Advent. However, though this may be your first Christmas greeting of the season, I sincerely wish you and your loved ones a most blessed Christmas and joyous New Year. And thank you for your interest and support of Catholic Renewal Ministries during this last year.