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Do you have trouble remembering birthdays? Prayers to the Holy Spirit can help you remember a very special one, the birthday of our Church at Pentecost! I’d like to help you discern the Holy Spirit’s promptings in your life as we look back on that day He worked wonders!
When the Holy Spirit came to the Upper Room where the disciples and the Blessed Mother were praying on Pentecost, ten days after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, it was with great power, in the form of a driving wind and "tongues as of fire" (Acts 2:3) descending on each of them.
The Holy Spirit (also referred to in older texts and prayer books as the Holy Ghost) immediately transformed the timid disciples on Pentecost and enabled them to proclaim Christ’s Word with apostolic zeal!
They now fully understood the significance of our Lord’s Passion: Namely, that His death and resurrection made it possible for them, and indeed for all of us, to join Him in His Heavenly kingdom in Eternal Life someday, not in some Earthly kingdom for Israel.
The disciples started speaking boldly about God in languages that they didn't even know, much to the amazement of those who heard them, devout Jews staying in Jerusalem "from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5) for the feast of Pentecost. (Pentecost was celebrated at that time as a harvest feast as well as a commemoration of Moses' having received the Jewish law on Mount Sinai.)
In addition, about 3000 people were baptized that day after hearing St. Peter’s passionate message calling for repentance and conversion (Acts 2:14-41). This was coming from the man who had denied Christ three times less than two months earlier!
We may not be transformed quite as suddenly by the Holy Spirit as the disciples were that momentous day! However, there is a well known Prayer to the Holy Spirit that can help you recieve His grace.
When Jesus told the apostles at the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would instruct them in His Word and be their advocate and comforter, He meant for His Spirit to help us as well. The prayer itself follows:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful
And kindle in them the fire of Your love
V: Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created
R: And You shall renew the face of the earth
Let us Pray:
O God, Who instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, Grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen
This prayer is also called Come Holy Spirit (or Come Holy Ghost, another more traditional name for the Holy Spirit) in some prayer books and websites. It's a wonderful addition to any set of group prayers. You can pray it alone as well.
The lines describing God’s sending forth His Spirit as He creates “all things visible and invisible,” as we pray in the Nicene Creed, are taken from Psalm 104:30 (Psalm 103 in some older versions of the Bible).
(Keep in mind as always, to avoid confusion, that when we speak of God we are referring to Him in three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, acting as one.)
The reference to fire brings to mind the Holy Spirit’s essential role in the creation not only of the world, (“moving about the face of the waters,” from Genesis 1:2) but also of the Church as well! We read in the Acts of the Apostles how the Holy Spirit came as “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3) enlightening the disciples to spread God’s Word with power and love.
Fire is a particularly fitting image. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once noted that “fire has two great qualities: light and heat. Light is the symbol of truth. Heat is the symbol of love.”
When you’re “on fire” about something, aren’t you passionate about it? We are called to be that way in expressing our love for God’s truth in how we live and spread our Faith!
The prayer to the Holy Spirit I just read also has this intriguing alternative verse:
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit You have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen
We see how being “truly wise” (as in the first example of the prayer to the Holy Spirit above) allows us to “relish what is right” (as in the second example)! It’s important in this regard for us to try to grasp God’s meaning of wisdom and righteousness, however.
As St. Paul put it “the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God” (1 Cor 3:19). Valuing power, prestige, and possessions above everything and everyone else, with little or no thoughts for God and His desires for us, is indeed foolish. As our Lord said once, it is like building a house on a foundation of sand (Matt 7:26). We can’t equate status with wisdom.
Do you know noteable people who are very clever, full of worldly wisdom, and yet are duplicitous? You can’t really trust them but they’re “good at politics.” (You might very well think of these people in less than Christian language!) Perhaps you’ve been like that yourself at some point on occasion, hopefully very rarely!
(Speaking of worldly wisdom, how often do some of our worldly desires wind up being mainly about gratifying our animal instincts? Should we be surprised then when we feel like we’re living in a “dog-eat-dog” world or in a “rat race”?)
We can look for God’s wisdom in several ways:
• By humbly listening to His Spirit in prayer,
• By studying scripture and our Church’s teachings and,
• By receiving His guidance in the sacraments of the Eucharist (at Mass) and of Penance (in Confession) to serve others and show them His love.
(This admittedly has been quite difficult in the Coronaviral age, but, God willing, it will once again become more and more possible as time goes on!)
Being “truly wise” means relishing what God thinks is right, including our having “patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness [and] self-control,” as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians (5:5).
The implication of this is quite beautiful: If you’re living in this world focused on Eternal Life with God in the next, and are sincerely seeking to do His will, in good times and bad, you will be blessed with the consolation of His great counselor: the Holy Spirit.
Here are some other good short prayers:
We beseech you, O Lord, let the power of the Holy Spirit be always with us; let it mercifully purify our hearts, and safeguard us from all harm. Grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
May the Comforter, Who proceeds from You, enlighten our minds, we beseech you, O Lord, and guide us, as Your Son has promised, into all truth. We ask this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.
This last one is easiest to memorize! I recite it often and it makes a great ending to the Prayer to the Holy Spirit mentioned above!
Holy Spirit, Sweet guest of My Soul, Abide In Me
and Grant That I May Ever abide in Thee.
And finally among our prayers, you’ve heard of a gift that keeps on giving? The following Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit spells out with wonderful clarity some of the ways these gifts can bring us closer to our Lord through His Spirit.
In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the priest seals each of us with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet we receive not just one gift in this rite but seven, according to traditional church teaching!
First referenced in the book of Isaiah (11:2), these are commonly known as wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude, and the fear of the Lord. (This last one is meant to foster in us a healthy respect for His justice).
The Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (called the Holy Ghost in this traditional version) touches on all of them:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, before ascending into heaven, didst promise to send the Holy Ghost to finish Thy work in the souls of Thy Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me, that He may perfect in my soul the work of Thy grace and Thy love.
Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal,
the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Thy divine truth,
the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining Heaven,
the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with Thee, and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation,
the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints,
the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable,
the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God, and may dread in any way to displease Him.
Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Thy true disciples and animate me in all things with Thy Spirit. Amen.
We may partake of all these Gifts as we follow the Holy Spirit in prayer, the sacraments, studying scripture, and of course, in imitating Christ in our actions by showing others His goodness and His love. In so doing, may we all, as St. Paul put it, “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:16) just as we’ve been sealed with His Gift!
These prayers and others like them, are a great way to ask for God’s assistance when we are facing a particular problem or trial, or need help bearing our crosses. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to proclaim the Gospel with fervor and love, He can work similar wonders in our souls.
Our Lord told the apostles the night before His Passion that "it is better that I go" (John 16:7) so that His Father could send them the Holy Spirit to "teach you all things, and remind you of all that I told you" (John 15:26). However, the Holy Spirit by no means overshadows the Son. He is Christ's Spirit, after all, dwelling in us! Remember that one God in three distinct persons work together seamlessly.
It is important to remember here, as St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, that as the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us (1 Cor 3:16), it is crucial for our salvation that we listen to Him.
Jesus indeed wants us to ask for His help and guidance through His Spirit. But, given our free will, He will not force Himself on us. We must choose to follow Christ on His path of sanctifying grace.
St. Paul’s words to the Galatians (Gal 5:19-26) provide a good itinerary for this journey: we must avoid immorality, jealousy, hatred, selfishness, quarrels and the like.
For the Holy Spirit to dwell within us we need to have the opposite emotions such as love, patience, kindness, generosity and self-control, even in difficult situations.
In our own lives, the Holy Spirit seeks to give us comfort in our struggles, strength in our weakness, and wisdom as to how best to serve God and others!
Indeed, Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Divinum illud munus (which is Latin for “On the Holy Spirit”) wrote, in 1897: “We ought to pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness.”
Along these lines we also have these salient words from St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars in France, in the 19th Century: “When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we cannot go astray. He is our strength and our light. He teaches us to distinguish between truth and falsehood, between good and evil.”
And yet….how do we discern what is of the Spirit? How do we know what He is really saying to us. Are we listening to what he's telling us, or rather, what we'd like to think He's telling us? This can be very tricky, for sure!
For a quick starting point let’s look at this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
He wrote: “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh;…now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, jealousies, anger, quarrels, factions, parties, envies, murders, drunkenness, carousings and suchlike. And concerning these I warn you, as I have warned you, that they who do such things will not attain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty, continency….If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.” (Gal 5:16-25)
I must point out here that St. Paul by no means wishes us to despise our bodies, our “flesh”. Indeed as we read in another noteworthy passage, part of the reason for clean living is that, as the great Apostle put it in one of his letters to the Corinthians “Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Therefore, Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
As long as our earthly bodies house our souls we are to keep them as fit dwelling places, free from mortal sin, for the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Keep in mind in this regard, as a means to help you discern His voice in your life, that the Holy Spirit will never suggest that it’s OK to cheat on your spouse or your taxes; or engage in bribery or slander, or nurse grudges, because after all everybody else is doing these things.
He will never suggest you are what you own, that "he [or she] who dies with the most toys wins"! Or that it’s quite all right to get revenge on someone who’s wronged you somehow. (After all, who do they think they are??)
Similarly, angry or resentful feelings toward others because they got that house, car, job, promotion or whatever else that you deserved, don’t come from the Holy Spirit!
He will always point you in a more loving, thoughtful, holy direction. After all, we are all meant to be God’s adopted sons and daughters (Rom 8:15) as citizens in training for Eternal Life with Him in heaven!
As mentioned earlier, prayer, scripture readings, studying the teachings of our faith, and receiving the sacraments of the Eucharist (at Mass) and of Penance (in Confession), as these start to come back following the distressful Coronavirus lockdowns, can help us discern God’s will for us as we listen to His Spirit.
If your journey to Heaven doesn't seem all that heavenly at times (and even when it does!), remember that you can always seek out the guidance and comfort of our Lord in His Holy Spirit through prayers such as these listed on this webpage!
We may not have the benefit of having recieved the supernatural communication that the apostles and disciples did at that first Pentecost. However, we do indeed have the gift of supernatural faith from God. May His Holy Spirit move you to, as the priest says at the end of Mass, "go forth, glorifying the Lord by your life"!