Who is the Holy Spirit? A lot of times we see Him as the slightly forgotten Third Person of the Trinity. Or maybe you kind of picture Him like Casper the friendly ghost. (If you don’t understand that reference, then I’m older than I thought…) Anyway, it can be easy to picture Christ Jesus, who lived among us so many years ago, left His story in the Gospels, and can be seen upon every Crucifix. With the Heavenly Father, we can begin to picture and relate to Him based on our idea of a good earthly father. Still, at least we have a little more to go on in our mental prayer. This phenomenon seems odd though, because it is the Holy Spirit Himself who enables us to pray! You know those little inklings you have? To stop in the Chapel briefly before class, to smile at a particular person, to give a quote to a friend even if it doesn’t make sense. He is the one who has been guiding us. It is the often-unseen movements of the Holy Spirit that are right now, at this very moment, prompting souls to become saints and strengthening us in prayer and apostolic endeavors.
I have told this to a number of close friends, but I want you to realize that the same Holy Spirit that came down upon the apostles in the first Upper Room is the same Holy Spirit working in the Church today. They were ordinary by the world’s standards: fishermen and tax collectors. In Acts 2, it is written, “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” We can be tempted to think that God doesn’t really make a difference in the world, that prayer is just a nice time of meditation to clear your mind so you can get on to the real work of your day, but it shouldn’t take time away from fun or work. That is a lie. True, prayer tends to bring peace, but have you ever wondered where that peace comes from and why it develops? Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit! It is a sign that God is present. Shouldn’t that be good enough for us? The God of the universe is actually present and desires unity with each one of us. Doesn’t that rock your world? Also, the power of prayer is active, even though it looks passive from the outside. It is the movement of the Holy Spirit. He encourages, consoles, sanctifies, and heals. He makes miracles happen. His gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, varieties of tongues, interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:8-11). All of these are for the building up of the Church. The most important note is that we must always love the Giver above the gifts.
But how do we recognize the Holy Spirit in our lives? In Galatians, Paul gives us the fruits of the Spirit that tell us He is there: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-3). Along with recognizing these, we must grow in relationship with Him as a person. First, by calling on His Name, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Second, by following those inklings from Him. I once heard a story that a priest was in the parking lot of a gas station and the Holy Spirit asked Him to do a cartwheel. He thought it was ridiculous, but he did it. As he walked into the store, the cashier had tears in her eyes. She had prayed that if God was real, He needed to have that priest do a cartwheel. One of the great images of the Holy Spirit that came into my prayer life as I began to recognize His moving was that of a fiery dove. This image has been reinforced for me lately through one of His titles, Consuming Fire. I highly recommend reading Fr. Jacques Philipe’s small book “In the School of the Holy Spirit.” It’s less than 100 pages and will totally transform the way you listen to God.
I also want to invite you to come to the Spiritual Impact Bootcamp with us March 23-25 in South Haven, MN. The next week is spring break, so you can sleep in on the Monday after! Fr. Mike Schmitz will be there along with a number of good friends, and it’s all on the Holy Spirit. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the link if you’re interested!