Holy Spirit and Gospel and Charisms, Oh My!
At a meeting years ago in River Forest, IL where I used to live, Ed Jeep asked the group: “Who do you pray to: The Father, The Son or The Holy Spirit?” Of the ten or twelve people in the Lawrence’s living room that night, I remember being the only one who acknowledged praying to the Holy Spirit. I received an unusual look from Ed when I said this. I wasn’t sure what it meant.I didn’t always pray to the Holy Spirit, but at that particular time, it seemed to be Who I was drawn to pray. I never questioned these things. I trusted the Holy Spirit’s direction even when I didn’t understand I was leaning into Him.
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
Who do you pray to?
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.” Psalm 135:7
As a Catholic, I used to think of the Holy Spirit coming to us through the sacraments of Baptism
or Confirmation or on the feast of Pentecost. Who can limit the Holy Spirit? The Spirit blows where it wills.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
Holy Spirit Power and Mystics
Marcellino d’Ambrosio, Ph.D. wrote a wonderful piece on Pentecost on a recently discovered site, the CatholicMom.com, that resonated with much of what I share in my first book, God’s Patient Pursuit of My Soul.
“The gospel is Good News not just because we’re going to heaven, but because we’ve been empowered to become new people, here and now. Vatican II insisted that each of us is called to the heights of holiness (Lumen Gentium, chapter V). Not by will-power, mind you. But by Holy Spirit power. Holiness consists in faith, hope, and especially divine love. These are “virtues,” literally “powers,” given by the Spirit. To top it off, the Spirit gives us seven further gifts which perfect faith, hope, and love, making it possible for us to live a supernatural, charismatic life. Some think this is only for the chosen few, “the mystics.” Thomas Aquinas taught to the contrary that the gifts of Isaiah 11:1-3 (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord) are standard equipment given in baptism, that all are called to be “mystics.”
“Vatican II also taught that every Christian has a vocation to serve. We need power for this too. And so the Spirit distributes other gifts, called “charisms.” These, teaches St. Thomas, are not so much for our own sanctification as for service to others. There is no exhaustive list of charisms, though St. Paul mentions a few (I Corinthians 12:7-10, Romans 12:6-8) ranging from tongues to Christian marriage (1 Corinthians 7: 7). Charisms are not doled out by the pastors; but are given directly by the Spirit through baptism and confirmation, even sometimes outside of the sacraments (Acts 10:44-48).
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
The Largest Pentecostal Church in the World
“Do I sound Pentecostal? That’s because I belong to the largest Pentecostal Church in the world. Correcting the mistaken notion that the charisms were just for the apostolic church, Vatican II had this to say: “Allotting His gifts ‘to everyone according as he will’ (1 Cor. 12:11), He [the Holy Spirit] distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. . . . These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church” (LG12).
“Powerful gifts, freely given to all. Sounds like a recipe for chaos. But the Lord also imparted to the apostles and their successors a unifying charism of headship. The role of the ordained is not to do everything themselves. Rather, they are to discern, shepherd, and coordinate the charisms of the laity so that they mature and work together for the greater glory of God (LG 30).
The Spirit and His Gifts are like a Credit Card
“So what if you, like me, did not quite ‘get it’ when you were confirmed? I’ve got good news for you. You actually did get the Spirit and his gifts. Have you ever received a new credit card with a sticker saying ‘Must call to activate before using?’ The Spirit and his gifts are the same way. You have to call in and activate them. Do it today and every day, and especially every time you attend Mass. Because every sacramental celebration is a New Pentecost where the Spirit and his gifts are poured out anew (CCC 739, 1106).
“That’s why the Christian Life is an adventure. There will always be new surprises of the Spirit!”
Copyright 2017 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.
CCC refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.