Darren Percival on praying for the Spirit
At the Feast of Pentecost at St Hilda’s, Cross Green, Leeds we were blessed by a young boy who was autistic, who during the mass was walking around, looking up, making noises and occasionally there was a scream. As the parish priest, going through my head was: ‘What will the folk think?’ But as the mass got underway, and we got to the Liturgy of the Word, I was totally absorbed by these words: ‘When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.’
Seeing this young boy lost in his world made me think: is that how the disciples acted, lost in their own world, looking for someone to speak to who would understand what had just happened, trying to speak in a language that not everyone would understand? Here we had been given, on this very feast day, a living example, a gift of the Holy Spirit: a young boy who cannot communicate with the world apart from with his mum and his godfather, but willing to take on the world around him against fear and uncertainty just like the first disciples.
During the parish mass, the Pentecost theme of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ was also lived out.
Between Ascension Day and Pentecost, I had spoken to youth groups associated with Cross Green and Richmond Hill about prayer and, to help them see the greater importance in which to have God in their lives, I asked them for prayer requests.
It was an amazing experience to read those requests for the creation of caterpillars, bees and ladybirds, for grandparents and parents suffering from cancer, the relegation of some football teams, for students in the middle of exams, one for an endless supply of Jaffa cakes, and the memory of the Normandy veterans and how we should never forget them.
At the end of mass, a small fire was lit in front of the Blessed Sacrament. All the prayers were read out and then burned in the fire, incense filling the church with clouds of smoke. This was to symbolize the prayers of the children being offered in the fire of the Holy Spirit, then rising to heaven through the clouds of incense.
Fr Darren Percival is parish priest of St Hilda’s,
Cross Green and St Saviour’s, Richmond Hill, Leeds