Bishop welcomes newcomers to the faith at liturgy


CHARLESTON  Over 200 of those faithful who took part in the recent Easter Vigil ceremonies across the diocese came to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist last Sunday as Bishop David B. Thompson celebrated a Mass of the Neophytes on Pentecost.

Beginning his homily, Bishop Thompson descended the steps of the altar and stood between the front pews. He said he wanted to be with the people, highlighting the closeness we all share and need. “Where the bishop is, is where the Church is,” he said. “I want to be with you.”

Bishop Thompson also stressed the unity of the Church. “We are all one. I congratulate you, and I thank you for your compliment to want to be one of us.”

In keeping with the Pentecost theme, Bishop Thompson recounted Jesus’ words to Peter: On this rock I will build my church.

The Bishop continued: “On Pentecost Sunday, the church gathered, 120 people in all. The Holy Spirit descended down on them: mighty wind and fire. Those 120 were confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Everybody got into the action. It took the Holy Spirit to get them going.”

He then told a story about a priest in Pennsylvania named Father Michael Leo Walsh. On Pentecost Sunday, he handed out candles to everyone at Mass, lit them and sang “Happy Birthday” to the Church. Expanding on that topic, the Bishop said, “With the Holy Spirit came many other blessings for our Church. Let’s call them birthday presents.”

The Old Testament promised the coming of the Messiah, and he finally came, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Thompson said. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to face the devil, showing how we can overcome temptation.

But the Bishop emphasized that the big thing the Holy Spirit did occurred before Pentecost. “Through the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus rose from the dead. On Ascension Thursday, the apostles and disciples were sad, as they did not want Jesus to leave them. However, Jesus said he must ascend into heaven before the Holy Spirit can descend upon us.

“At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. Peter later told a crowd about Jesus Christ. It was basic missionary work, basic convert work. Starting out with the living Jesus, and going from Jesus’ existence to the living God  basic Christianity. The first time Peter preached, over 3,000 came forward and wanted to be Christians. There were people there from all corners of the world. Though Peter spoke in one tongue, all heard the Gospel in their own language and understood it. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Thank God we understand it.”

The prelate then referred to the “sins against the Holy Spirit  the unforgivable sins. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to reject Christ. The sin of giving up Christ  despairing. An example is Judas, and his despair of Jesus ever forgiving him. Jesus could forgive him, but Judas couldn’t forgive himself.”

The Bishop called on attendees to “rely on the Holy Spirit in your own spiritual life. Call on the Holy Spirit to guide you.

“You, yourselves, go to the Holy Spirit, who is known as the comforter, and is there to strengthen us. Go to the Holy Spirit for guidance and the spirit of wisdom. Go to the Holy Spirit with doubts of faith, to confirm your faith.”

“I hope you feel comforted and strengthened by your attendance here today. Remember to say that wonderful prayer, ‘Come, Holy Spirit,'” Bishop Thompson concluded.

Following the Mass, the Bishop met with the new Catholics in the lower church at the cathedral.

Paul Schroeder, director of Evangelization, Initiation and Catechesis for the diocese, said his office sent out personal invitations for the liturgy to all those taking part in Easter Vigil ceremonies across South Carolina.

That day also held special significance for Bishop Thompson. Earlier that morning, at the cathedral’s 11:15 a.m. Mass, he observed his annual “May Days.” In the coming week, Bishop Thompson will celebrate his 10th anniversary as Bishop on May 24, the 49th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on May 27, and on May 29 his 76th birthday.