Often one will hear the phrase “Vatican II is a new Pentecost in the Church today”, or there is a new springtime that “will bring a new Pentecost”, and some other such thing. Here, I wish to differentiate between those attempting to draw a comparison to an outpouring of grace. Even at that, the comparison is inept, but at least those making it are not proposing the absurd.
No, what I mean to address is the tendency, since Vatican II, to continually talk about a “new Pentecost”. Not only do we find this to describe Vatican II, but we continually find dioceses praying for a New Pentecost, as we see the Archdiocese of Detroit even this year. Firstly, when we hear anyone say that anything is a new Pentecost, whoever the author is, that book ought to be burned, the website turned off and never revisited, or the radio turned off. Why? The reason is because it is blasphemous, plain and simple. To compare a non-infallible pastoral council, or a modern movement, or the confessions of a sex therapist and amateur catechist to the event which founded the Church and established the reign of grace on earth is sheer blasphemy worthy of condemnation from all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. The fruits are nothing like it.
Pentecost was a one time only event in the Church, it is not something that can be repeated. Even if the Traditional Mass were restored in every Church of the Latin rite throughout the world, and traditional Catholics all acted like real Catholics and practiced faith, hope and charity, praying and being a model of every good work, even then we should consider it quite the blasphemy to compare a grace filled event later with the foundation of the Church.
The gifts of Pentecost are not repeatable, and were gifts specifically intended for the founding of the Church. Msgr. George Agius, in his book on Tradition in 1928, declared:
“The power and authority of their successors must not be confused with the prerogatives and gifts which the Apostles had received through God’s special intervention. Such were the gifts of tongues and of new revelations, of infallibility, and the prerogative to have authority over the Universal Church, which they received on the Great Day of Pentecost. For there was only one such Pentecost. The Great day was the birth of the Church, the birth of the first spiritual Fathers who were to have a long generation of spiritual children until the End of Time.” (pg. 48)
Our Lord had already made the Apostles priests and bishops at the Last Supper, and given them jurisdiction (Receive ye the Holy Ghost), the gifts at Pentecost were something different, something specific to the Apostles, and something which ended with them. Prior to the coming of the Apostles, they were in confusion, even after being given the sacrament of Order by Our Lord. Pentecost ended that error, by giving the Apostles a perfect understanding of revelation, which was necessary since if they were going to explain the deposit of faith they had to know it. On the contrary, today we have confusion, and we today find Bishops teaching contradictory things, and things contradictory to the tradition, even the Popes have said things or appeared to have taught things which are in some way contrary to the faith. Unlike Pentecost, Vatican II has decreased the number of practicing Catholics in the Church. This is one of the reasons that the comparison is blasphemous, for it is comparing clarity to confusion and disorder, and claiming parity between the two.
The 1994 Catechism, speaking of the day of Pentecost teaches:
On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated. (CCC 732)
If it does not cease, how can we have a new one, unless the old one ceased? Moreover, if there is a new one this suggests that it is somehow better than the first. Now even taken strictly as an event Vatican II has done grave harm to the visible Church by confusing the faithful about the nature of hierarchy, let alone the ambiguity in its documents. There has been endless disunity caused by the event of the council, regardless of the question of whether the liberals hijacked it or the good intentions of those prelates. It is blasphemous to suggest that this is somehow better than the founding event of the Church.
More importantly, the fallacy at work in the concept of a “new Pentecost” is that the actual event imparted gifts and powers to us, or to empower a group of “believers”. It is not the case, rather the event was chiefly for the Apostles only, both extraordinary powers (which ended with their deaths), and ordinary powers which passed to all the Bishops of the world. Thus the idea that we are living in some kind of new Pentecost is a surrealistic dream world at best, and a blasphemous denial of the continued support of the Holy Ghost within the Church, since to suggest we have a new Pentecost is to suggest the one and only Pentecost of the Church ceased somehow.
This great feast of the Church completes the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the worship of the Holy Trinity, which is why the Church celebrates the feast of the Trinity one Sunday from Pentecost, because now that revelation is completed true worship can take place before God as He truly is.
So when people start suggesting they have special gifts, or their ministry is a “new Pentecost for the Church”, or this council and this liturgy is a new Pentecost, we need not engage them any further. This type of thinking is to make oneself in particular, and modern man in general the standard of judgment for the whole Church, of every age and for every spirituality, or for teaching the faith. By saying “we have a new Pentecost” people are attempting to remake the Church and God in their own image. Some claim “tongues”, “prophecy” and “discernment of spirits” which is dubious at best, and demonic at worst, and result in a search for “consolations” and “spiritual delights” which leave the soul seeking its own good and not God’s, and cause one to not attempt the arduous way of moral and spiritual perfection. This is by and large because of the collapse of the moral life in the Church. Most people think they are doing okay if they stay out of mortal sin. Spiritual writers tell us that the end of sin is the beginning of the way to sainthood, not the end.
This is another reason the term “new Pentecost” is used. It allows one to cast out the spiritual and moral patrimony of the Church with the label of “outdated Ecclesiology” while people’s particular interpretation of the faith can be aired on radio and tv, in books and on the Internet. That is the real work behind the “New Pentecost” nonsense, which does nothing more than pollute the imperishable deposit of Church teaching with human thought. It is a way to package novelty and replace monumental and apostolic tradition, and then tell Catholics that this is traditional. The grace of the only and true Pentecost is always in the Church, and always moving the faithful who seek the truth, as well as protecting the magisterium from teaching error ex cathedra. New movements, lay or otherwise can scarcely be compared to the event which empowered the Apostles.
We do not need a new Pentecost in the Church, we need authentic worship and faithfulness to the true Pentecost of 33 A.D. on the part of the Church militant, that is the hierarchy, the priests and the laity. St. Robert Bellarmine draws this point, noting that the effect that abides with us from Pentecost is Charity, yet, he says:
But perfect charity casts fear out of doors. How often do you go to the sacraments of penance and Eucharist? Oh, once or twice a year. And how often do you eat? Three or four times a day. And your soul will not eat, except twice a year? What if you were to go to the Lord’s Mass on the eighth day? O, lest I be called a hypocrite by men, I pass it by. Alas, poor wretch! Perfect charity casts fear out of doors. How often do you go to concerts, or games, to dinner parties where there are drunkards, and the indulgent companions of drunkenness reign, where you know for certain, whatever it might be, you will gravely sin against your God. How often, I say, being invited to these you have not gone, and with fortitude refused gifts of this sort? I know the answer, never. Why is that so? Les I offend my friends. Alas, O blind man! Therefore you fear more to offend man than God? But perfect charity casts fear out of doors. Did you not go to visit the sick, needy, or afflicted and console them? Hardly. Why? ‘O I am ashamed to treat with men of this sort.'” (De Controversiis, 5b, Conciones, de Die Pentecostes).
Indeed, that was the situation in the 1600s, when we tend to think everything was great because the ’60s hadn’t happened yet, how much more true is it today? I think it doesn’t take much soul searching to realize it is worse if anything. Interestingly, Bellarmine doesn’t begin with asking if you have visited the sick, he asks if you have gone to confession and to Mass. This is because they are the source of all true charity. What is needed is a renewal of liturgical life, out of the dead self-centered culture of the 1960s, back to the immemorial tradition of the Church. For what we need are not new things but in fact old things, even as old as 33 A.D. The Holy Ghost has never left the Church, and He has never needed renewing. The graces which flow today, which flowed prior to the council, which flowed at the time of the Counter-Reformation or at Nicaea all flow from the one event of Pentecost.