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The solemnity of Pentecost commemorates the God’s sending the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles; it is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Before Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were unsure of what they were to do next. After Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they understood their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus. They had the courage then to come out of hiding and speak openly about Jesus, about his dying and his rising. Because Pentecost brought the Apostles this clarity of mission, it is regarded as the birthday of the Catholic Church.

As one of the most important solemnities in the Church’s calendar, it has a rich depth of meaning, but here is how Pope Benedict summarized it in 2012:

This Solemnity makes us remember and relive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the other disciples gathered in prayer with the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 2:1-11). Jesus, risen and ascended into Heaven, sent his Spirit to the Church so that every Christian might participate in his own divine life and become his valid witness in the world. The Holy Spirit, breaking into history, defeats aridity, opens hearts to hope, stimulates and fosters in us an interior maturity in our relationship with God and with our neighbor.