How often do we address the Holy Spirit in prayer directly? For most Catholics the answer is not very often. This may be due to the fact that the very concept of the Holy Spirit is challenging for us to understand. We know that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as the Paraclete, which literally means "he who is called to one's side." According to the Catechism, the Holy Spirit is symbolized variously as water, anointing, fire, cloud & light, seal, the hand, the finger, and the dove. Jesus says in the Gospel of John, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." This is the mystery we will celebrate at Pentecost.
Most of us have already received the gift of the Holy Spirit in many ways: at Baptism the water is poured "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In a special way when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation we are "sealed with the Holy Spirit." However, like any gift that we receive, we can choose to try and make good use of this gift, or we can set it aside and ignore it. Yet the Holy Spirit dwells within us; we are temples of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, as defined by Sacred Tradition are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. As you read this list of gifts, ask yourself, is there a specific gift that I could use in my life right now? Is there a certain gift of the Spirit that I know I lack, but would like to gain in order to serve those around me more fully?
As it happens, this time of year can be one of the best times to pray to the Holy Spirit. Many of us have heard of a "novena," a special nine-day prayer recited by the faithful for a special request, or in honor of certain feasts during the liturgical year. The Pentecost Novena is the pinnacle and primary novena since it was instituted by Our Lord when he instructed his own disciples to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecost Novena recalls the time period between the Ascension of the Lord, and Pentecost Sunday when the disciples gathered together in the upper room, and waited for the fulfillment of Jesus' promise.
We invite you during this next week or so, to make a good Confession and consider joining the Church in the Pentecost Novena. Pick one of the seven gifts, or keep in mind another special intention, and over the next nine days invoke the Holy Spirit; the breath of God, the Divine fire, the Paraclete.
From the Pentecost Sequence:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.