Reflections on the Person of the Holy Spirit

St. Patrick
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This letter originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2017 newsletter.

I think our whole life is a journey to discover more and more the wonder of being created IN THE IMAGE OF GOD!! And the even greater wonder of being re-created—the image restored through the grime of sin and the wounds of the world—through union with the death and resurrection of Jesus in faith and baptism through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even though we celebrated the feast of Pentecost last month, along with the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal with special events in Rome, I still find myself thinking a lot about the amazing role of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives.

It began with re-reading The Confession of St. Patrick—a short account that he himself wrote of his conversion and mission in Ireland—where I found a strange formulation that puzzled me for a long time. Patrick wrote:

“On yet another occasion I saw a person praying within me. I was as it seemed inside my body and I heard him over me, that is, over the inner man. There he was, praying with great emotion. All the time I was puzzled as I wondered greatly who could possibly be praying inside me. He spoke, however, at the end of the prayer, saying that he was the Spirit. In this way I learned by experience and I recalled the words of the Apostle: the Spirit helps the weaknesses of our prayer; for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself pleads for us with signs unutterable that cannot be put into words. Again: The Lord our Advocate pleads for us.”

At first, I thought Patrick must be mistaken, and it was certainly Jesus who was praying within him, but then I eventually realized that Patrick was given a vivid experience of the Holy Spirit as a PERSON and not just an impersonal force or energy that we can sometimes imagine Him to be. A PERSON PRAYING WITHIN US WITH GREAT EMOTION! How wonderful, how amazing, how helpful, how encouraging! So let us join our prayer with the prayer of the person of the Holy Spirit, crying out for the will of God to be done in us and in all men and women!

The second insight I received into the Holy Spirit occurred during Holy Week, when Anne and I were watching one of those videos about the life and death of Jesus. It wasn’t one of the famous ones, but one that was free on our video service. I don’t know if the actors who played the apostles were simply not the greatest actors, but I got such a strong sense of how amazing it was that the Lord entrusted His mission to these very human men who seemed quite ill equipped for such a mission.

We know from the Scriptures that they were “uneducated,” which made the Pharisees wonder where they got their right to teach. And then I thought: “Wow, where would we be, where would the Church be, where would one billion Christians alive today be, if the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen on the apostles and given them such a vivid experience of the risen Jesus and such an infusion of supernatural courage, clarity, certainty, boldness, and fortitude that they actually were to carry out the mission, even to the giving of their lives in martyrdom?”

Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit! Jesus was really speaking the truth when He told the apostles it was better that He left them and returned to the Father, so the Holy Spirit could be given to them and to “all those whom God is calling to Himself.”

Let us thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit to each of us personally, for the gift of the indwelling PERSON of the Holy Spirit!

 

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization, The Fulfillment of All Desire, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.