I believe in…the holy spirit


The above image was the banner on my blog for 6 1/2 years. It comes from a photo I took in Rome. The street was narrow, and I had to aim the camera high to catch the lovely windows and shutters. They symbolized, for me, the call of Pope St. John XXIII to fling open the windows of the church to let the Holy Spirit blow through.

I loved this image of flinging open windows. Letting out stuffy air. Allowing fresh breezes freedom to flow, settling into surprising nooks and crannies. It was the perfect symbolism for allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe newness into stale, tightly sealed, obsessively guarded traditions and teachings.

As children, we had to memorize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Honestly, I’ve never been good at remembering the list or being able to distinguish between them…even when I had to teach them. (Confessions of a bad catechist!) The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit? Forget it.

For me, the image of God as Spirit, breathing, blowing, moving and inspiring is the most intimate and recognizable presence of God. I can relate to the biblical image of God being present in the gentle breeze. I love the association of the Holy Spirit with Wisdom, who is a SHE.

Marianists recite a special Three O’Clock Prayer daily, meditating on the crucifixion scene in the Gospel of St. John – Mary and John standing at the foot of the cross. There is a line in the prayer,

Holy Virgin, take us under your protection and open us to the action of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is ever present. We need to open our minds and hearts to hear Her voice. It’s what made Mary such a faithful disciple. Mary pondered and prayed. She listened. She waited. Because Mary was open to God’s spirit in her life, she was able to give her free and unconditional YES to all that was asked of her; even when she was asked to do what seemed impossible.

I believe the Holy Spirit is truly the spirit of wisdom and inspiration, and we need to have open minds and hearts to hear her voice, a voice which often surprises.

Here’s one way I used to explain the practical, daily role of the Holy Spirit to my kiddies…

Exam time was always stressful, and they’d pray mightily and ask us for prayers. I told them that they had to do the leg work first. Study!!! Sure, the Almighty could pull a fast miracle and infuse the necessary knowledge with no effort on our part, but it’s not God’s usual modus operandi. Pray for wisdom that you can study well, and retain what you need. Then, when you sit down to the exam, pray to the Holy Spirit for peace of mind and heart and the inspiration to remember the necessary knowledge that you need.

“Inspiration” is a glorious thing…

  • when a wee bit of information that was tucked away and forgotten in the dark corners of your hard drive suddenly comes to the fore when needed (I loved these “Thank you, Jesus” moments during exams… or Trivial Pursuit games with hubby!)
  • when the “light comes on” and you can visualize the solution to a problem
  • when you find the right words at the right time, gifting you with unexpected wisdom
  • when you feel at peace with a discernment
  • when you find the energy to forge ahead with a difficult task
  • when…

During the triple sign of the cross on the mind, mouth and heart before the reading of the gospel, a dear friend of mine used to quietly make the same sign on her stomach. It was her personal acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit at work in her “gut”.

We can call it “gut instinct”.

We can call it “inspiration”.

I believe it’s the Holy Spirit actively at work in our lives.





come, holy spirit!

Charles Daudelin’s altarpiece, Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur, Montréal

Recently, we were chatting with friends and the topic of the Holy Spirit came up. What exactly IS the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do? How do we know when the Holy Spirit is present? Hubby presented his own theological thesis, based on much deep thinking and pondering as a child. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like Dad, Son, and Uncle!

For me, the Holy Spirit is best expressed through her gifts, described by the prophet, Isaiah,

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….

(Isaiah 11:2)

The Holy Spirit is our divine inspiration (in-“in” + spirare “to breathe”), our creative force, the wisdom that is deeper than our own knowledge. The Holy Spirit is at work when we see clarity in the midst of muddiness. When we can dig into the dark recesses of our brain and pull out a wee nugget that brings understanding to us or another. When we have the courage to speak, and have the wisdom to stay silent.

Joanne McCracken, a dear friend and member of the Our Lady of the Round Table prayer community, shared a wonderful reflection with us this week. Here are her words of wisdom….

Back in the dark ages of my youth in Catholic school, the Holy Spirit was known as the Holy Ghost and came, it seemed, not in the shadows of some dark and stormy night but only when one was confirmed, in some invisible tongues of fire. Then he/she /it returned to the proverbial closet not to be mentioned except once a year, fifty days after Easter. On this annual visit he/she /it was mostly associated with speaking in multiple languages (all at once) further confusing in my mind. Who was this creature? Then, about 15 years ago I read this wonderful article in US Catholic entitled; God is More Than Two Men and Bird! Once I stopped laughing and read the article it all became so much clearer.

Holy One who is a Spirit;
who like a spirit is illusive yet ever present,
who rushes like the wind where you will,
who inspires hope
gives courage for the struggle
brings wisdom in times of doubt
grants patience with God’s time,
opens minds and hearts,
bestows strength on flagging souls,
blesses us with humility
and carries us on a stream of ever flowing graces,
who is with us today, tomorrow and always.
We bless you and praise you
for we need you.


As we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, may we join our prayers that God’s Holy Spirit might indeed blow freely through all minds and hearts.

And thank you, Joanne!

What image do you have of the Holy Spirit? How do you experience the Holy Spirit in your life?