10 May 2013

A very powerful novena...

Although the Novena to the Holy Ghost traditionally is said on those days between Ascension and Pentecost, it can be used at any time during the year. One such occasion for us as a parish was when we needed to find a plot of land on which to build. Founded in 1983, our parish immediately began to grow, and it wasn't long before we knew we couldn't keep meeting in a rented convent chapel. We needed a permanent "home base" to allow the work and witness of our parish to thrive. I told the story in my longer account called "Home to Rome: Our San Antonio Story," and here's the excerpt from that, telling about our experience with the Novena to the Holy Ghost:

It seemed to me that the future growth of San Antonio would be taking place on the northwest side of the city. Everything pointed to it, and that’s what has happened. Several years before, the archdiocese had purchased a small plot of land for the possibility that a territorial parish might be needed. When I inquired about locating our parish there, the answer was, “Yes, that would be fine. There’s not much happening out there anyway, and we probably won’t need it for a territorial parish.” The short-sightedness of that statement aside, it worked out well for us. To get the property, we were required to pay a rather hefty sum to the archdiocese, which eventually we did.

The first time I saw this land, I knew this was the spot. I had visited it before making the request. I had to crawl through the underbrush, literally on my belly, to make any kind of exploration. I had a small medal of Our Lady of the Atonement with me, and I buried it in the earth as I was making my slow progress through the woods and brush, claiming it for our Lady and her parish. Shortly after burying the medal, I came into a small clearing, allowing me to stand up. With the thick undergrowth surrounding me, I saw in the middle of the clearing a wooden cross stuck into the ground, and fastened to the rough cross was a small crucifix—and I took it as a sign from God. This was the place. This was where our Lord and His Blessed Mother wanted us to be. But I need to tell you why such a sign was necessary.

At the same time as I had requested the possibility of our getting the land, some Dominican priests had approached the archbishop about staffing a chaplaincy for the University of Texas, which is a short distance away. Even though we had asked first, the archbishop thought perhaps a better use for the land would be to give it to the Dominicans. I told the archbishop, “You can’t! I’ve already claimed it for Our Lady of the Atonement.” He expressed his regret, but told me his mind was set. I warned him that we’d begin praying. And so we did.

For nine evenings we gathered to pray the Novena to the Holy Ghost. By the fourth evening, the archbishop contacted me. “I don’t know what kind of prayer you’ve been saying,” he said, “but the situation with the Dominicans has fallen through. You can build there.” We finished the novena as an act of thanksgiving. We were intensely grateful to God, but not surprised at what He had done. Mind you, I have nothing against the Dominicans, but the Blessed Mother had other plans for the land.

And the rest, as they say, is history. We built, and then we built some more, and now we're getting ready to build yet again. The parish continues to grow in numbers and (even more importantly) in faith. How gracious God has been to us, and each year as we say this novena, I always give special thanks to Him for what He has done, and for what He continues to do.