Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Holy Spirit's Latest Slip

About a year and a half ago I wrote (The Holy Spirit is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong):

People who know what the Church should be (or is, it just doesn't know it) are wailing and gnashing their teeth because the Holy Spirit, it seems, has other ideas. Benedict XVI is a disappointment because he hasn't yet returned us to the state of the true Church (which, evidently involves ignoring everything else the Holy Spirit has done in the last fifty or so years of the Church's history). John XXIII--mistake, Vatican II--mistake, Paul VI--mistake, John Paul II--mistake. With the election of Benedict XVI, they thought the Holy Spirit had finally gotten it right. But the returns are in and it seems that the Holy Spirit screwed that one up too.

Well, it seems the Holy Spirit has gone and screwed up again. And many of the same people are convinced it's even more immediately apparent than the last time. Newly elected Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolas hasn't even really stepped out of the aula and already it's been decided the election was a failure. Forget the days of murmuratio, forget the days spent fasting, the hours spent praying before the Blessed Sacrament, we should have known all along that would not have any effect on the Jesuits' choice of their new leader! And how could the Pope have failed yet again by not rejecting the Jesuits' choice?

Father General Nicolas & Pope Benedict XVI met in private audience this week

What has become of the Holy Spirit? Why must she insist on inspiring things in a direction contrary to our will? After all, it can only be the work of the Holy Spirit if she inspires things in a direction in conformity with what we have decided is the correct or right direction. Right? Otherwise it's just a bunch of stupid men making the wrong decision, no matter how much prayer they've put into it. This is the logic.

For my part, I don't know enough about the new Father General to make a judgment about him. And, besides, that would be extremely premature. But I do know enough about many of the men who make up the Jesuit General Congregation to say that I trust both in their judgment and especially in their willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit. And for now, I'm content with that.

In the meantime, maybe we can take some lessons from that other guy, the one the Holy Spirit gave us as Pope. He has managed to defy all early characterizations of what kind of Pope he would or should be. And people are starting to consider that perhaps the Holy Spirit wasn't quite so derelict after all. Indeed, the topics of his first two encyclicals would serve to remind us of the need, in our Catholic community, for two things which such harsh and premature judgments make apparent--love, and hope.


Blogger Mr. Clio said...

Great post, Mark.

Sometimes I believe the Holy Spirit is about all we have going for us. That might be a good thing, yes.

Hope to see you in NOLA sometime. I'll be in Boston around March 11-12.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

Great points, Mark; very well-put.

I know little about Fr Nicolas; and why not trust that the discernment process that elected him?

At mass last Sunday our priest (an XU theologian) asked for us all to pray for Fr Nicolas, because managing all those 'rowdy Jesuits' will surely take a lot of strength :)

6:19 PM  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Mark... I think I switched off from some of the channels you speak of some time back. (When you are floundering around somewhere on the edges of the church, someone else wailing and gnashing their teeth isn't much help!) So I guess I have read of the election mainly from Jesuit sites, like the America blog and the Creighton site. From that kind of viewpoint, it all looks pretty positive to me!
btw, I am leaving in two months to start walking some of the Camino of St James in France. But I think I am much more of a walker than a pilgrim.... Time is certainly racing by now as I try to up my fitness level in readiness.

8:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

Good points, Mark. Thanks so much. Trusting the Spirit is both very necessary and very hard.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I believe its one thing to take a look around and react with a moderated concern, but quite another (inappropriately so) to react with anger or dismay.

Time and again I've said Fr. Nicolás is deserving of our prayers and should be given -- at the very least due him by virtue of simple charity -- the benefit of the doubt.

Which is not to say concern is automatically unreasonable or unwarranted; perhaps it is (whatever else it may be) an opportunity for us to pray and reflect and self-examine.

Just a thought & AMDG,


12:16 PM  
Blogger Polly Prim said...

I wonder the same thing. Why all the second-guessing of the Holy Spirit? Do we really think we know better?

4:57 PM  
Blogger Polly Prim said...

I keep in mind the people who just knew that BXVI would be a throw-back to Savonarola. And I haven't seen any evidence of that at all.

Let's hear it for the Holy Spirit!

5:01 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I pray the Holy Father is NOT a throwback to Savonarola; especially given that Savonarola was burned at the stake.


2:01 PM  
Blogger Sophie's Daughter said...

Excellent post! I always wonder about people who are reluctant to change. Isn't our God by nature dynamic--constantly generating the Son? So why are we so reluctant to grow, knowing that the Holy Spirit is guiding the growth? What better security can we ask for!


12:14 AM  

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