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A Traditional Devotion To The Holy Spirit

May 8, 2018 Featured Today No Comments


The scriptural accounts of the Ascension of our Lord in the Gospels of St, Mark (Mark 16:15-20) and St. Luke (Luke 24:50-53) and in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:6-11) describe this event as a visible ascent of Christ before His disciples’ eyes, with a cloud taking Him from their sight (Acts 1:9).
In the 1656 diocesan ritual of Augsburg, Germany and other Baroque liturgical books of Bavaria and the Tirol we find this commemorated with a visual re-enactment — a statue of Christ, after being incensed on the altar, would be slowly drawn up toward the ceiling of the church (Rituale Augustanum Romano Conformatum, Dillingen, Germany, Ignatius Maier, 1656, pp. 447-449).
Heaven, of course, has no physical location in relation to the Earth, but throughout salvation history God has taught us to perceive Heaven as above the Earth, surpassing Earth’s limitations. At the Easter Vigil in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and at Easter Sunday Mass in the Ordinary Form, St. Paul’s compelling exhortation in this regard is proclaimed:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2).
Our Lord’s Ascension is among other things an invitation to us to follow after Him up into Heaven not only at the close of our lives, but now as well, by the ascent of our minds, our thoughts, our aspirations, to the “things that are above.” And to help us do just that, He and God the Father have sent down to us the Holy Spirit, a gift we shall soon celebrate on Pentecost Sunday.
It is truly to be regretted that since the 1970s the idea of praying to the Holy Spirit, of being devoted to the Holy Spirit, has become in many minds almost exclusively associated with the “Charismatic Movement,” a form of religious expression of Protestant origin that for very many of us, including myself, frankly holds no appeal.
What has been obscured by this is that throughout the centuries the Church has cultivated a deep and profound love for the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, with the vital role of the Holy Spirit in her sacramental life, in the exercise of her teaching office, and in the spiritual life of the faithful abundantly manifest.
One of the most important prayers that we possess in our Catholic patrimony is the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit,” Veni, Sancte Spiritus, a simple prayer that we should really strive to commit to memory and recite daily, especially at the beginning of the day:
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Versicle: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. Response: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
“Let us pray. O God, who hast taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of Thy Holy Spirit, grant us to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His consolation, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Why is this prayer so important? Because the will of God must be the roadmap of our lives, if we are to find our way to Heaven, and doing the will of God requires a multitude of daily decisions, large and small. For some of these decisions, the answer is obvious from the Commandments of Christ and the teachings of the Church.
But there are many others involving a choice between two or more seemingly good alternatives, for which we need discernment to perceive what God wants us to do, what He is asking us to do, according to His particular plan for our lives.
We all know what it is like to agonize over decisions of this nature. It could be the decision of a lifetime — the discernment of one’s vocation — or it could be as tiny as a decision upon a purchase in a department store. At such times we need to do our best to try to hear what God is telling us — in this, the Prayer to the Holy Spirit can make all the difference.
In his 1897 encyclical upon the Holy Spirit, Divinum illud munus, Pope Leo XIII (reigned from 1878-1903) urges the daily invocation of the Holy Spirit, observing, “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” (Divinum illud munus, May 9, 1897, n. 11 — Vatican website translation — ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana).
The Holy Spirit often answers us in a quiet, gentle, and subtle manner, with “secret warnings and invitations…uttered in the soul in an exceedingly secret manner,” as Pope Leo XIII describes it (ibid., n. 9). How aptly is the Holy Spirit represented by that gentle and soft-spoken creature, the dove. His reply often appears as inconspicuously as the flecks of manna that the Israelites discovered on the ground in the morning (Exodus 16:11-17). Think, too, of the “still small voice” that the Prophet Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:12). Yet at the sound of that voice the prophet, awed by it, “wrapped his face in his mantle” (1 Kings 19:13). For if on the one hand the Holy Spirit addresses us quietly, He as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity has the authority to command us:
“. . . the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints are marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
The French missionary priests who knew the young Mohawk virgin St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) were amazed to observe that she seemed to have acquired a deep knowledge of the spiritual life that went far beyond what they had had the opportunity to teach her. They believed that the Holy Spirt Himself had been her tutor in these things (The Positio of the Historical Section of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on the Introduction of the Cause for Beatification and Canonization and on the Virtues of the Servant of God Katharine Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, New York, Fordham University Press, 2002, pp. 207, 251, 254, 286-287, 297, 390-391).
But in addition to guiding our decisions, daily invocation of the Holy Spirit will impact us in other ways as well. For He will make our attendance of Mass and reception of Holy Communion, our visits to the Blessed Sacrament, our recitation of the holy rosary, spiritual reading, the examination of one’s conscience and other prayers and acts of piety more fruitful, more fervent, enkindling our souls with the fire of His love, as the Veni, Sancte Spiritus says.
It was while reciting the hymn to the Holy Spirit Veni Creator Spiritus that the Spanish Carmelite mystic St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) first experienced the mystical gift of rapture (autobiography, chapter 24). He is the Author of holiness in the lives of the saints.

Ascension Thursday
To Pentecost Sunday

The Holy Spirit is the Guardian of chastity, having taken the Blessed Virgin for His bride. Like an innocent dove He nestles in pure hearts, and breathes upon their souls the fragrance of Paradise. For our souls are His by right, the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and “chaste and holy things befit the temple” (Pope Leo XIII, Divinum illud munus, n. 10).
The Holy Spirit will also give us fortitude, the courage to do what we know is right but from which our weak human nature shrinks in fear. In Him the martyrs found their strength.
The Holy Spirit is the Giver of zeal, inflaming the apostles so quickly on the first Pentecost Sunday that they could not wait to get outside and begin preaching the Gospel. On such occasions, the Holy Spirit is active “on both ends,” as it were, inspiring those who preach and making receptive the hearts of those who hear what is preached. It is the Holy Spirit also who multiplies the “five loaves…and two fish” (Matt. 14:17) of simple souls like St. John Vianney (1786-1859) and thereby feeds the spiritually starved hearts of countless thousands.
It is the Holy Spirit who across the ages has planted in the human mind the designs for creating beautiful new works of sacred art, new melodies of sacred music, new plans for great cathedrals, and new pages of Catholic literature. It is He who in chosen souls has set in motion the creation of new religious orders and congregations, as well as new apostolates and forms of piety, that He may “renew the face of the earth.”
In his encyclical Divinum illud munus, Pope Leo XIII promulgates the making of a novena to the Holy Spirit during the interval from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday.
Let us all avail ourselves of this opportunity of participating in the novena as Pentecost of 2018 draws near, that by the Holy Spirit our souls may be “excited and encouraged to seek after and attain the evangelical beatitudes, which, like the flowers that come forth in the spring time, are the signs and harbingers of eternal beatitude” (Divinum illud munus, no. 9).

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