In Your Midst

The Spirit Alive

April 2008

Parishioners offer meditations on the gifts of the Holy Spirit at St. James Cathedral

Pentecost Installation, 2007, designed by J. SavagePeople sometimes ask me what I like best about being pastor of St. James Cathedral and I find I can never give a short answer.  There’s not any one thing; there’s a whole host of things.  All of them do have one thing in common, however, and it’s the people.  Whether it’s celebrating Sunday or weekday Mass with the community, baptizing babies, anointing the sick or visiting them in the hospital, counseling people in my office, helping prepare young couples for marriage, greeting people at the Cathedral doors or in the Hall after Sunday Mass, chatting with altar servers in the sacristy, sitting in meetings too many to count, teaching a Baptism, Confirmation or Welcome Back class, meeting new parishioners at a newcomers’ reception—I could go on and on—it’s always people.

Several times a year I have the privilege of gathering with the RCIA people who are preparing to come into the Church.  Some of them have never been baptized and others have been baptized in other Christian churches.  I always look forward to these gatherings.  Sitting and listening to people share their stories of faith is always a holy—and wholly moving—experience.   And no two stories are ever alike.  So often I feel like I should remove my shoes as Moses did when he encountered God in the burning bush.  That’s because, like Moses, I know I am standing on holy ground.  What an amazing thing it is to be able to witness the marvelous and mysterious workings of God’s grace in people’s lives!

But even though people’s stories are wonderfully different, they do sound similar notes.  Invariably, in reciting their stories of faith, people tell about coming to St. James Cathedral for the first time.  They tell of the welcome they got and the warmth they felt; they speak about the beauty of the music and the power of the prayer; they talk about finding God here and feeling “at home.”  Sometimes they even mention a homily they heard!  And almost to a person they speak about the vibrant community of St. James and all that goes on here in the name of Jesus Christ – not just on Sundays but every day of the week.

The stories that follow are stories about the spirit of St. James but what they really are is stories about how the Holy Spirit is alive at St. James.  A good subject almost anytime, wouldn’t you agree?  But it’s especially good during the Easter season when we celebrate the presence among us of the Spirit of the Risen Jesus.

Father Michael G. Ryan

I have a gold cross given me by a girlfriend after my baptism at age 16 in a small community church in Tacoma.  By the time I was in college the cross and gold chain ended up in a jewelry box as I had become disenchanted with organized religion as I came to know it, with its dogma and finger pointing judgments.  Where was the Spirit I felt with me as a teenager?  To “roll the tape forward” I went through the doors of St. James Cathedral for the first time in early 2000, gently nudged by my husband (Dave—now deceased) who was confirmed in March of that year.

Still defensive (and rather indifferent) something about St. James grabbed my attention.  What was it?  To find out I joined the RCIA process and—Wow!  You mean we are encouraged to actually think about, as well as discuss, Scripture?  We are allowed to question and probe?  There is no “right way” or “wrong way”?  That was when I first felt the living presence of the Holy Spirit here at St. James.  I could be myself with all my faults and foibles.  I literally, and figuratively “laid down my arms” and resisted no more. (In some ways I think the Presence was working overtime with me!)

On the fourth Sunday of Lent Father Ryan’s homily stated, in part, that “faith isn’t a possession, it’s a process.  It isn’t a neatly packaged set of beliefs, it’s a way of living and looking at all of life.  Faith is a growing thing—full of surprises and set-backs.” Upon reflection I believe that is how I felt when confirmed in 2001.  The living presence of the Holy Spirit is in the lasting and supportive friendships made, the ministries in which I volunteer, the liturgies and the music—all that makes St. James Cathedral the welcoming, loving and living place it is.  A place where faith is a growing thing.

It wasn’t long before I took that gold cross out of the jewelry box and now I wear it once more.  It now has a companion: a small gold scallop shell.

Shirley Wright

Ten years ago my husband and I were looking for something. We were so entrenched in our daily lives that we hadn’t noticed what was missing. What was missing was the Spirit and we found it the first time we attended Mass at St. James Cathedral.

We still feel the wonder and awe of God’s presence in this Cathedral. This place is nonjudgmental. It has supported us through family baptisms, weddings, sicknesses and deaths. It doesn’t ask where we’ve come from. It only asks where we are going. In turn, we find ourselves asking what we can do to make our world a better place for our being here. This is the Spirit at work.

It was pretty easy to put things off. We weren’t sure what talents we had. When exactly would we have the time to give back to God? My sixtieth birthday played a part in my decision making. Was I going to wait until I was 80 before the Spirit moved me?

We saw unlimited opportunities to help at St. James and in our community. We thought about how to use our unique talents, our passions, to make a difference. My husband chose to provide training and mentorship to new low income and minority food businesses. I volunteered to teach art classes at a Rainbow School. There is some sacrifice in what we do but it is far outweighed by the joy of knowing that our passion is now in serving the Spirit. Thank you, St. James.

Suzy Martineau Banchero

“How are you going to continue your journey?” she asked. “You may want to seek out one of our ministries; don’t think about it too long, try something like the soup kitchen and if it doesn’t suit you volunteer for another ministry.” It was Helen Oesterle speaking to a group of catechumens approaching the end of their RCIA journey to baptism. I turned to a fellow catechumen, named Herb: “Well, I don’t think it will be the choir!” I joked. We laughed.   Herb, like me, was a pretty much a monotone; our faith and time in RCIA had brought us together.

“Hmmm, continue the journey, volunteer?” I mused.  “I’ll think about it.” A few weeks later I saw in the bulletin the need for van drivers.  I could drive and the commitment was only one hour per month; I suppose I could do that if they really needed the help. I didn’t realize it then, but the Holy Spirit was about to take me on a journey of caring, friendship and love.

I learned the van route and the stops to pick up the elderly parishioners. And that is when it began to happen. I realized that “ministry” isn’t about the time or even the task; it’s about the people you serve and touch. The senior ladies that ride overflow with grace and gratitude for simply being driven to Sunday Mass. The warm smile they give for the extension of a steady arm or the heartfelt “God bless you” upon a safe return moves me to great joy and more kindness. I relish the conversation among them in the van; they are beautiful people. Now I cannot wait for my driving week to come, I am concerned for them if they miss a Sunday; they have become a part of my St. James community. Oh, and if I get lost, they are great with directions accompanied by a warm smile.

One Sunday as I picked up the van keys Herb was there. He had volunteered to drive the other van. Now every first Sunday Herb and I sit together (close to the north entry so as to exit quickly to prepare the vans for the return trip) and share our faith through Mass and communion. It is all a wonderful experience. Is this the Holy Spirit at work? Is it the Holy Spirit that connects us and inflames the loving joy we feel for each other? How is it possible that driving a van can reap so much community, caring and love?

It is and it does.

Landy Manuel

I came back to the Catholic Church because of a happenstance visit to St. Ignatius Chapel while my car was being repaired nearby.  I went to a few Masses there, and somehow I heard about Great Music for Great Cathedrals at St. James, and decided to attend.  After twenty-six years of attending various Protestant churches, hearing this Great Music—and I mean GREAT—I knew the Cathedral had the makings of a church for me which I had not found in any others.

The Cathedral—just the building itself—is such a quieting, special place that you can feel the Holy Spirit all around.  I love sitting in different places just to experience the many different windows, shadows, candles, statues—and the fragrance of the many years of incense, baptisms, candles—all of these together help me focus on the Threesome, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.

The variety of the people, their friendliness, kindness, bringing their families, the times at Christmas when you see generations together at church, all of this speaks of the Holy Spirit, very much at work in all of their lives.
I love the liturgy—I learn so much from hearing the readings and the Gospel—and the homilies, helping me apply them to my own life and goals.  Just experiencing the celebration of the Eucharist with so many others shows our desire to live out the mandates of the Lord and our Church, and cements our commitment.

For me, the crowning jewel is the music.  The choir singing, the cantor chanting the psalm, the organ playing, the bells ringing, all are so beautiful, so meaningful, that it seems everyone in the Cathedral is held in rapture.  Hearing the organs played at various concerts makes the evening time, for me, a bringing of the Threesome to a wonderful closeness surrounding us listeners.  At those moments the Cathedral becomes the home of the Holy Spirit.

Mary Denney

Spring at St. JamesThe Holy Spirit guided me to St. James Cathedral in 2005.  Pope John Paul II had just passed and I felt moved to kneel in prayer for the future of our Church. Shortly thereafter, my first cousin was killed serving in Iraq.  The Holy Spirit found me in pain and grief, and helped me find a pathway to peace: the Sacraments.  In addition to the mysterious guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am also supported by the wonderful parishioners and staff of St. James, the liturgies, the music, and most importantly, the prayer life of the parish community.  All of these aspects have pointed me toward Jesus Christ and I am so blessed to be part of the diverse and loving community of St. James.

Whether I am serving with others in the hospitality ministry after Mass, tutoring an ESL student, or discussing Catholic Social Teachings and social injustice in JustFaith, I am being prepared to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  My prayer life, private and communal, and the many ministries of St. James are a bridge to eternal life, and I am deeply grateful that the Holy Spirit always finds me when I’m lost and supplies me with ample fortitude to begin again to walk the path of our Lord.

Elizabeth Falzone

Dear Holy Spirit,

Cathedral Choir sings around the font      I wonder how you can be so many other places when you seem to be always and everywhere at St. James Cathedral. You are pervasive in the liturgies, the music, the priests, readers, cantors, volunteers.

      I first met you there when my husband and I started attending the cathedral in 1996.  We lived in Seattle for four months during Bob’s eye surgeries, and hosted a Bible study group at our Virginia Mason apartment.  I began attending choir practices as well. Let me tell you. You are alive and well at choir practice! (In fact, if any parishioners want a full dose of your presence, try an SRO spot in the hallway on Thursday night.)  We not only learn great choral works by great composers, we get our fill of church doctrine as Jim Savage explains the proper musical and theological interpretations of the great texts we are singing, so that the full meaning can come through to the congregation. Our children and friends have come, at our invitation, to St. James to experience the awesome spiritual power of the All Souls Day Requiems and the Great Music for Great Cathedrals programs.

      You were on at least three Cathedral pilgrimages: to Italy in 1997, to France, Spain and Portugal in 2001, and to Italy again in 2006. You were present in the music, the musicians, the pilgrims, and the sacred places we visited. (I know you were on the other pilgrimages, too, but I wasn’t a witness to those.) Whenever we travel, we try to schedule Sunday at St. James. Our daughter will attend the choir camp this summer. I know you will be there, too.
I was welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church on April 6, 2008, at a Mass at Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska, celebrated by Archbishop Francis Hurley. My experiences with you at St. James Cathedral were pivotal in my decision to become a Catholic.

     I know that even though you are very busy at St. James, you are not ignoring all the other places and people who need you, too.

Love in Christ,
Letha Schwiesow
Anchorage, Alaska

My father was a very generous man, albeit with few worldly possessions.  His favorite saying around the subject of giving and serving was, “don’t give ‘til it hurts; give ‘til you get blessed.”  For me, his attitude captures the essence of living in the Spirit.

Am I the one who serves, or am I the one being served?  Not long after coming to St. James, I responded to an invitation to become a Eucharistic Minister; it was an opportunity that created equal parts trepidation and exhilaration.  I wanted to serve, but felt rather inadequate.  In the weeks of preparation for our commissioning, I could see that certain actions in my daily life were incongruous with acting as a minister on Sundays; actions that were not fully in the Spirit of Christian love.  I began to ask the Spirit to change my attitudes and behaviors in order to reflect to my fellow parishioners the generosity of the Holy Spirit toward me.  My ongoing participation in ministry leaves me with the sense that I’m the one who is receiving the blessing.  In turn, the sense of being blessed increases my awareness of the guidance of the Spirit when I am moved to give and serve in other ways.

Rex Wardlaw

Hutchings-Votey OrganThe Holy Spirit has been most present to me in RCIA.  I first attended without expecting much and not thinking I would like it.  I chose to stay in the program for two years because of its rich guidance and support.  The Holy Spirit seemed present on Wednesday evenings, when a thoughtful teacher would expand the boundaries of my comprehension, and sponsors and team members treated me with warmth and acceptance.  The Holy Spirit was present in my sponsor, for example the night I was angry and disappointed about the behavior of an extended family member, and she listened quietly and loved me in my harsh criticalness.  The Holy Spirit was present during dismissals on Sunday mornings, when we candidates and catechumens shared our journeys with each other, sometimes in long silences, sometimes laughing, sometimes weeping together.  And the Holy Spirit was present during my Rite of Reception on February 19, 2006.  I will never forget this long-awaited moment in front of you all, with the women of the choir softly singing the Veni creator spiritus and my sponsor’s arm supporting me, while Father Ryan made the sign of the cross with holy oil on my forehead.

Becky Brauer

My faith formation has depended heavily on my relationship with Chuck D’Ambrosio, my RCIA sponsor and close friend.  Ours was a spirit-filled relationship from the beginning.  We quickly discovered that the RCIA process was so enriching that we couldn’t get enough of it in the regular sessions.  We started having private sessions every Tuesday, which included dinner, reflection, and discussion.  These sessions continue to this day.  Sometimes we show up at the adult education classes, and other times we forge into new territory on our own, accompanied by writings of the Christian mystics.  We can also apply our faith to solving issues of social justice, or our personal problems.  Now we just have to convince the rest of the world to see things our way.  As Chuck evolved from a limp to a wheelchair, our relationship profoundly deepened.  I was fortunate to be able to help him establish a new living situation, and, more simply, to get to Mass.  Through this experience, we are bonded to sharing Mass every Sunday morning, and we throw in pancakes afterward.  The Holy Spirit compels us to laugh, and cry, as we embrace our challenges.  The love and support that we share with the St. James community reminds us that God is here.

Jeff Virgin
The liturgy at St. James has a way of revealing the Holy Spirit in ways that are unmistakable and unforgettable.  We were so blessed to experience His presence in an especially powerful way not long ago in the sacrament of marriage, and we did not foresee the even more powerful experiences that lay ahead, in our baby daughter’s first liturgy, and later, in her baptism.  The overwhelming joy, love, and sense of community we felt in these events could only be the work of the Holy Spirit.  Is it the magnificent structure of the Cathedral that opens our eyes and our hearts to His presence?  The music?  The genuine faith of the congregation?  The ministry and outreach of the parish to the community?  No doubt, it is all of these things and more.  We thank the Lord often for the blessing of having the very incipience and growth of our new family intertwined with this holy place of worship and community of faith that is St. James, and we look forward to each and every liturgy and event in which we now take part as a family.

Julie and Steve Shaw


Cathedral Interior with font and altar

From the outside the building is calm
steady and sturdy.
Inside the Holy Spirit reverberates
from all things.
The Spirit is in the rejoicing voices
of the choir
that raise their praise to the Lord.
In the trumpet players,
who proudly proclaim the presence
of the Spirit.
The Spirit is the spirit of God and of Jesus,
an armor that any one can wear.
The Spirit is the light that bathes the altar
in a golden glow.
The light that can warm the hearts
of those in misery
and illustrate the love of the people.
It is the soft echo
of private whispered prayers.
As well as the public declarations of faith.
The Holy Spirit presents itself every day.
As the opportunity to help those less fortunate,
and in need of a helping hand.
It shows itself in the glow of a candle
lighting the way.
In both prayer and silence
you can find the Holy Spirit,
speaking specially to you.
In the kind action of a stranger
that makes you feel grateful and joyful.
The Spirit is in the body and blood of Christ
and in those who come to God's house
to pray and worship.
The Holy Spirit is in
and me,
and the whole community.

Mairead Corrigan

Lamb of God, Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen, 1994At some point I decided that life was all about succeeding in things that affect me and the people I love. I tend to slice and dice things till I can deal with them so I somehow broke this huge problem into two pieces. The tangible things I needed to achieve and the intangibles that make it all worthwhile.

There was never much doubt that hard work was the way to go after the tangibles. That’s to say the house, the job, the vacations, the low emission car, the flat screen TV at a reasonable price.

Now how do I make a success of my family, friendships or my community? These didn’t always seem important but when work sucked too much out, these other things always helped. It seemed that balance was the key and that faith in something outside of myself would help. So I acquired Thomas à Kempis books, attempted to understand words like pneumatology, all sorts of things that I admit made me sleepy.

And then St. James happened. The liturgies draw on the wisdom of the ages and give me a setting to think calmly. The outreach ministries put me in touch with many people who already have what I am looking for or are looking for the same things as me. Occasionally a realization hits like a new strings of lights on my Christmas tree suddenly lighting up. Not that I’m hanging up the mission accomplished banner, but it’s a start and the journey is fun.
I guess what I’m saying is that being a part of St. James and its outreach ministries has given me a way to continue the quest for balance and happiness – at a reasonable price.

Jijo Jose
In Scripture, the Spirit manifests itself in remarkable ways: rushing wind, tongues of flame, a brilliant white dove. Unmistakable signs saying, “Pay attention! Nothing will ever be as important!”

Those signs seem frustratingly absent today. In a culture that appears to validate only what is strident, we find ourselves craving bold signs of the Spirit’s presence. We long for the Spirit to overcome once and for all the excessiveness and selfishness of our society.

I believe the Spirit manifests itself at St. James in quieter, but equally remarkable ways. The star field of flames in the Mary Shrine, individually representing a fervent prayer of hope or thanksgiving, together shedding brilliant light on the dark places of our souls. A volunteer’s simple act of greeting at the Cathedral Kitchen, perhaps the only kind words the guest may hear that day. Soft chanting during the Cathedral’s reconciliation services, as if the Spirit is saying, “I forgive you. Now, forgive yourself.” Quiet moments that compel us to listen to the ineffable in each of our souls.

I’ve come to believe that by using humbler signs, the Spirit reminds us of something fundamental but often forgotten in the rush of our days: don’t waste your time searching the extravagance of this world—you won’t find Me there. Seek Me in the calm and hushed moments and in so doing, you’ll find Me in the depths of your own heart where I have always been and will always be.

Mark Schoen

Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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