Friday, March 1, 2024

Something Happened on Pentecost

An image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is seen in this stained-glass window from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Mount Carmel.

The following event occurred at the 9:30 a.m. Mass on May 31, 2020, Pentecost Sunday, in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Hanover, PA. This is my first-hand account of the event:
After the Scripture readings were proclaimed, I spoke with the assembly on the Scripture message of Pentecost, and encouraged everyone to include in their daily prayers a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit – “Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Come, Holy Spirit.” – and be refreshed with the gifts of the Spirit. After the homily, we professed our faith and lifted up our intercessory prayers.
After the Offertory blessing of gifts and prayers, I prayed the Preface of Pentecost, led everyone in praying the Sanctus, and, with Father Joseph Gotwalt, prayed Eucharistic Prayer I. As we began praying the Concluding Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, I lifted up the Blessed Sacrament.
Looking up at Jesus, I saw a bird fly swiftly through the open wooden doors at the back of the church, through the small vestibule where stairs lead to the choir loft, and into the church. The bird flew up the side aisle toward our Mother Mary shrine, banked across the pews into the upper middle of the church, where it abruptly slowed itself, and paused facing the altar with its wings fully spread.
Images of the Holy Spirit portrayed in art came to mind: a painting of the Baptism of the Lord; and the stained glass window behind the Chair of Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The bird then swiftly flew up to the ceiling and perched on a rafter beam – the third beam closest to the altar. I then recognized that the bird was a pigeon.
Concluding the Doxology and hearing the Great Amen from the people, I placed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, informed the congregation of our guest, and pointed to the beam. Together everyone prayed The Lord’s Prayer. The bird remained on the rafter. Together we prayed the Agnus Dei. The bird remained on the rafter.
Once again, I lifted up the Blessed Sacrament and prayed aloud: “Behold the Lamb of God… .” At that very moment, the pigeon alighted from its perch and swooped through the church – back to front, back to front, back to front – and flew up into the ceiling, this time perching on the rafter beam above the entrance to the Sanctuary, the beam closest to the altar. The bird remained there through the conclusion of the Mass.
After praying the final Blessing and pronouncing the dismissal with its double Alleluia, I invited the congregation to pray the St. Michael Prayer. Returning to the Tabernacle, I removed the ciborium containing the Sacred Hosts. Once again, I stood at the altar and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God…” The pigeon was still and remained on its perch throughout the distribution of Holy Communion.
After Father Gotwalt and I distributed Holy Communion inside the church, we processed outside to our church courtyard to distribute Holy Communion to the faithful who were present and had been listening to the Mass. We returned to the Sanctuary and reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. I looked for our guest, but did not see it perched anywhere in the church. An usher later informed me that the pigeon remained in the church until Father Gotwalt and I carried the Blessed Sacrament to the people gathered outside in the courtyard. The usher said that the pigeon flew out through the same open doorway we used, as if it was following us.
More probably, it was following Jesus.
(Father Michael Reid is the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Hanover.)
(Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Father Michael Reid, Special to The Witness

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