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
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.