by Colette Cook, ISP Providence

reflecting with the Pentecost reading, Acts 2:1-11

As a coordinator for ISP retreats, I organize volunteer drivers to pick women up from their residences and drive them to and from the retreat house. When I check in with drivers at the end of the retreat I often get comments on the changed demeanor of the women. I am told that on the way to the retreat they are often quiet, reserved, and maybe a little fearful. Some break the tension by joking, “Why did I sign up for this?” unsure as to what the weekend will be like with this group of strangers. But on the ride home, the mood has completely changed. The women are joyful and enthusiastic, laughing and sharing stories brimming with a sense of community, connection and purpose. Drivers ask me, “What happened on that retreat!?” 

At Pentecost, we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. As pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem from various parts of the known world they were gifted with a shared understanding, hearing one another in their own language. Seeing tongues of fire resting on each one of them, the disciples became enthusiastic, or “filled with God”, giving them the confidence to create the first church community. 

Like the disciples at Pentecost, we too experience the Holy Spirit when we gather together to pray and share our stories, opening our hearts to God and one another. We understand that we are not so different from one another. We are transformed from isolated individuals, strangers who are maybe a little fearful, into a joyful community where we are heard and understood. 

When We Breathe Together 

A Blessing for Pentecost Day: Acts 2.1-21

This is the blessing
we cannot speak
by ourselves.

This is the blessing
we cannot summon
by our own devices,
cannot shape
to our purpose,
cannot bend
to our will.

This is the blessing
that comes
when we leave behind
our aloneness
when we gather
when we turn
toward one another.

This is the blessing
that blazes among us
when we speak
the words
strange to our ears

when we finally listen
into the chaos

when we breathe together
at last.

© Jan Richardson

Reflection Questions: Have you experienced uncertainty with a group of strangers and later emerged with bonds of friendship or understanding? When have you been filled with enthusiasm? Is there a community where you feel heard and understood? What sets your heart ablaze? 

Colette has been a coordinator for the ISP Providence, Rhode Island women’s team since 2015. She is a retired Religion teacher and empty-nester along with her husband, Chris. Colette also volunteers with Ignatian Volunteer Corps: New England. She enjoys painting and birdwatching in her spare time.