Thursday, January 18, 2007

Veni Sancte Spiritus

I've been thinking lately of the Holy Spirit. Something I was reading lately talked about her as kind of the neglected step-child of the Trinity. And, if you think about, how many of us pray to the Holy Spirit (or the Trinity, for that matter?). I know that my tendency is to pray either to God the Father, or to Jesus. When I think of the Holy Spirit, I think of it more as this holy wind, blowing about the earth, and inspiring human affairs. And may be that's not such a bad way to envision the Holy Spirit, because often it seems, even in Church circles, that we speak as if God were not involved in the things that happen in history, and especially in the Church. I know that when my theology classes get extremely analytical about, say, the Council of Trent, or the Second Vatican Council, sometimes I just want to open my mouth and scream, "We're talking about this as if God wasn't involved!" So, maybe that's why we need to have a sense of the person of the Holy Spirit more than ever, so we can get past this way of talking about things as if everything depended upon us!

Some recent experiences have helped me to see the working of the Holy Spirit, and I hope others can see it too. I recently had the privilege of attending my province congregation, and though confidentiality doesn't allow me to really talk about (even to other Jesuits!) the substance of what went on there, I can say that I saw evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit there. Unexpected things happen which I attribute to the openness to the Holy Spirit on the part of the men there. And though it often had the appearance of just another boring meeting, I felt it a great privilege to be there and to be witness to the work of the Spirit in the lives of my religious community.

I also think that we have been witness to the work of the Spirit in our larger religious community as well. I'm not ashamed to admit that when someone first told me that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected Pope, I thought she was kidding. It had never occurred to me that he might be the man we needed to be the next Pope. I thought certain someone else would be elected. But despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth of some of my friends and colleagues, I chose to see this as the work of the Holy Spirit, no matter how hidden that work might have seemed at the time. Now, as we've seen Cardinal Ratzinger mature into his role as Pope, I think we can also see that though like any man he is not perfect, the Holy Spirit seems to have given us the Pope we need for this time.

So, I'm thinking, though my preference as a member of the Society of Jesus is usually to pray to Jesus, I might just start throwing in a prayer to the Holy Spirit now and then! Veni Sancte Spiritus!


Blogger Joe said...

Semi-related to this, I've always explained to my CCD students the way the Holy Spirit "works" by manes of this analogy:

We are appliances. You may be a toaster, I may be a blender, the next person an pencil sharpener...whatever.

An appliance sitting in a sealed box is pretty useless. It must be plugged in to work for the purpose for which it was created.

The Father is that socket on the wall to which we (the various and sundry appliances) must be connected. The Son is the cord which connects the appliance to the socket on the wall...and the Holy Spirit is the electrity that flows from the former through the latter to animate us to act for the purpose to which we are created.



1:45 PM  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

It is God the Father I tend to talk to about things. Jesus does not seem very real to me, though recently I felt as if I was supposed to read more of the gospels, and perhaps I see more now.
What surprised me when I visited Lourdes last year, was that Mary seemed to be on my side. I felt a deep peace after the evening candlelit processions, saying the rosary and singing some hymns. And when I felt quite isolated as an English speaker, it seemed like Mary might have been the one who told her Son that I desperately needed to talk to someone, and it was all arranged....

3:56 PM  
Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...

When I first came back to the church, I was praying to the Holy Spirit all the time. The Holy Spirit ... God working in the world ... made more sense to me as a returning Catholic than praying to God the father or Jesus.

These days I'm happy to say my prayer is more well rounded. But I think there's something approachable about the Holy Spirit.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

For me, the best metaphor for the Holy Spirit is in the act of creation itself -- the Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 -- and I think of the Holy Spirit when I see beauty, whether it be in the movies, art, music, or literature.

But creation is not a completed act in the past but something ongoing. Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth -- we work with and through the Holy Spirit as we minister to God's people on this earth.

Stephen, nSJ

4:47 PM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Interesting post, Mark. Fr. Isaack Hecker, the founder of the Paulists, was a great devotee of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the main reason he founded the Paulists was to help people have some kind of a direct experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirt. (Well, the main reason was to convert America to the Catholic faith, but this was a part of it ... :)). He was convinced that the kind of direct inspiration he had could be experienced by all.

As for me, my prayer tends to be very Jesus centered. A part of my conversion story involves a very powerful experience of Jesus as Savior on a Good Friday in Bombay all those many years ago. However, in keeping with the charism of the community I'm joining, I'm giving the Holy Spirit a spin, so to speak ... :-)

My favorite prayer to the Spirit remains the Veni Sancte Spiritus (would that more parishes would pray/sing this as the sequence at Pentecost!) And the heart of my prayer during discernment has been to the Spirit.

And anytime I want to get inspired (so to speak) about the power of the Spirit, I read St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Then there's also Mary and the Saints (a different category, yes, but no less real!).

When it comes to prayer, I guess we have a huge smorgasbord!

1:59 PM  
Blogger The Ironic Catholic said...

As a reluctant and surprised charismatic, I'm all for praying to the Holy Spirit. To be honest, praying to the Trinity seems best, at least at some point in your prayer. But I pray to the Holy Spirit rather deliberately as the One who guides me to union with God through holiness, a life abandoned to the goodness of God.

Be careful--when people pray to the Holy Spirit, we get Councils, renewal, healing, and all kinds of surprises along life's road.

7:08 PM  
Blogger angelmeg said...


I remember reacting exactly as you did when I was in my Church History classes in Gradual School. It was very hard for me to have those students around me speak of entire eras of the church as if God just wasn't present and working within the Church during those times. I wanted to scream at them as you did.

Couldn't they see that perhaps God was working through the human failings and foibles of history to get the Church exactly where it needed to be in certain ages?

How can one speak of Church History devoid of any mention of God?

It still makes me a bit neuraligc just thinking about it.

11:00 PM  
Blogger therese said...

I highly recommend the book The Sanctifier by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez to anyone who desires a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit. This beautiful book has transformed my life and I read it at least once a year. It was recommended to me by my spiritual father.

Available from Pauline Books and Media, and also in an abridged form under the title True Devotion to The Holy Spirit by Tan books.


11:15 PM  

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