Deacon Ed Courtney sure doesn’t look crazy.
To the contrary: He comes across as rather a thoughtful fellow. Kind, focused and determined.
But there must be a touch of ‘crazy’ to him, too. Pentecost-style crazy. Because in the early 1980s, Deacon Ed was one of a handful of guys from a town near San Antonio who thought it’s be a good idea to get a weekend retreat program going.
It’d be kinda like Cursillo, only different. This retreat program would be parish-based. And who knows? If it worked at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Selma, Texas, then maybe other parishes in the San Antonio archdiocese would want to try it out, too.
Deacon Ed was in our fair city yesterday, on the Vigil of Pentecost, to help the locals celebrate this crazy little idea: We were marking the 30th anniversary of the ACTS retreat, and 15 years in St. Louis. Turns out, Ed’s notion had some mojo to it…a dash of the Holy Spirit. Because 30 years on, the ACTS retreat has spread to something like 574 parishes in 28 states and seven other countries.
I myself was on the first ACTS retreat in the St. Louis area 15 years ago. Thinking back on that weekend, it made yesterday’s gathering a thing of wonder and gratitude. The room was filled with people from many of the 35+ parishes in our region that have active ACTS programs today. It’s safe to say I never saw that coming back in 2002.
Which is more or less the point of Pentecost, I suppose: We don’t see…we are incapable of seeing…what the Holy Spirit has in mind for the church.
And it’s pretty much always been that way for the people of God—as one of yesterday’s speakers reminded us. Even Abraham, our father in faith, was asked to do something that probably seemed crazy to everyone else around him.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.’
They, too, were ‘crazy like Abraham,’ she said. Their lives were driven by the conviction that ‘where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.’ They counted on the Spirit to be present, even in the most dire of circumstances.
Seems like a crazy notion, doesn’t it?
Then every once in a while, a guy like Deacon Ed shows up at Pentecost…to remind you that it is, in fact, an extraordinarily good…and blessed…and powerful kind of crazy.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.