Charismatic or not, we should pray to the Holy Spirit

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People pray during a charismatic renewal service at St. Gertrude Church in Bayville, N.Y. (CNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic) (Oct. 11, 2004)

“Let us lift our gaze upward!” In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States. And at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, he impressed on us the need for a new Pentecost.

Last week was our annual liturgical celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. It’s a gift that we are reminded of the Trinity and the blessings we are given as Catholic Christians again and again in the Church’s calendar. But what do we do with those routine exercises? Think about how Scripture suggests we let the Holy Spirit pray for us. Think about, in all our sorrows and struggles, how Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is also the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. They can both do so much for us.

On my better days, I try to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” At the beginning of a radio interview. As I sit down to a D.C. or other potentially heated dinner. As a conversation takes a turn I didn’t expect or don’t feel prepared for. You get the idea.

An experience of charismatic prayer

More than several years ago now, I went to spiritual direction school. Especially after Pope Benedict resigned the papacy, I was increasingly writing about religious faith, and readers were reaching out to me for advice and prayers. About serious things.

I can certainly pray, but I don’t pretend to have a deep reserve of wisdom. We are all in this together, and that’s maybe in no small part because we are all weak and seeking to know God’s will. On our best days, we don’t pretend to know it, but we do seek to discern it. So, anyway, I needed to step up my spiritual game, so to speak.

At the Cenacle of Our Lady of Divine Providence School of Spiritual Direction in Clearwater, Florida, which is affiliated with The Franciscan University of Steubenville, I had a bad cough on the first day. I kept stepping out of the opening talks so as to not interrupt. And for water! During a break, some of the women who were volunteering to provide prayer cover over the sessions asked if they could pray over me. I knew Franciscan University had a history of charismatic prayer, but I didn’t fully realize what I had gotten into. But how could I turn down prayers? The women — maybe about five of them — surrounded me and prayed in tongues. It was an experience I had never encountered so intimately before. A warmth overcame me. And a peace.

The cough went away. I honestly didn’t know what to think.

And maybe it was the Holy Spirit — yes, who cured my cough — but also who directed me to Pope Benedict’s homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the midst of charismatics, I didn’t know where I fit in. I’m more the book-reading, Gregorian chant type. I was in praise and worship land, and yet with people who had a deep love for the Trinity and the Magisterium and the best that St. Ignatius Loyola had to give us in his conversion and desire to help others appreciate what great richness there is in the Christian faith.

We need a new Pentecost

“With great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world,” Pope Benedict said. “If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance.” He continued: “Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!”

In recent days, I’ve encountered both pure hearts — and not necessarily from Catholics — and the radiance of the sacraments. Marriage! Reconciliation! The Eucharist! Do we realize the awesome sources of amazement we have? There are not words really to fully describe it — perhaps unless you’re Thomas Aquinas. (The editor of this publication is a Dominican so I must suggest that’s possible.) It all reminds me of our baptism and what happened at the Cenacle in Jerusalem with Mary and the apostles. And that God does not leave us alone. And that we need a new Pentecost.

Which means calling upon the Holy Spirit. When we wake. When we sleep. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with that. The Spirit can help us sleep and pray. Be bold in your prayers with difficult situations and conversations. There’s so much the Trinity and the Spirit want to help us with and heal us from. Why try to fix things ourselves, when we have heaven on our side to get us there?

And if you’re an introvert like me who gets nervous when the tambourines come out at a charismatic prayer session, just go to the Holy Spirit. Then and always!

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.