Daily Thought For February 12, 2019

A Perpetual Pentecost

     A few months ago I was attending Mass at a college seminary nearby. As I watched the young seminarians receive Communion I began to pray that they might be filled with the Holy Spirit. "Lord," I prayed, "please show me what more I can do to help men like these receive the Baptism of the Spirit. I believe this grace is meant for the whole Church." Immediately after Mass one of the seminarians invited Al and me to come back in a few weeks to speak to them about the Charismatic Renewal. What a quick answer to prayer! I was thrilled. 
    As we considered what to tell these seminarians about the modern day movement of the Spirit, we decided to start with Blessed Sr. Elena Guerra. Have you ever heard of her? Until recently I didn't realize how deeply indebted we all are to this remarkable Italian nun who lived at the turn of the century. This is what we told our young seminary friends. 
     The Lord revealed to Elena Guerra the importance of continually invoking the Holy Spirit. He gave her a holy boldness to write twelve letters to Pope Leo XIII urging him to renew the Church by fostering a greater devotion to the Holy Spirit. Sensing God's voice speaking through Sr. Elena, the Holy Father asked all the bishops to conduct a solemn novena to the Spirit prior to Pentecost. He wanted this novena held annually, so that the Church might become a "praying Cenacle." 
     To further emphasize his point, Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical on the Holy Spirit. At Sr. Elena's suggestion, in the first moments of January 1, 1901, he dedicated the 20th century to the Holy Spirit and solemnly chanted the Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) in the name of the whole Church. His action, prompted by Sr. Elena, was prophetic, for indeed this century has been marked by a sovereign outpouring of the Spirit of God. 
     At the time, however, Sr. Elena was deeply disappointed that there was such a poor response among Catholics to the Pope's plea for prayer to the Spirit. Unbeknown to her, on the evening of December 31, 1900 another group of Christians were ready and willing to seek more of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In Topeka, Kansas, a young woman named Agnes Ozman asked Reverend Charles Parham to pray for her to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This occasion is generally accepted as the beginning of the pentecostal movement. It was only years later that Catholics in large numbers began to experience the grace of the Baptism of the Spirit. Interestingly enough, on that very site in Topeka, Kansas today stands a Catholic Church, Most Pure Heart of Mary, where a Catholic charismatic prayer group now meets! 
     More than half a century after Elena Guerra's inspiration, Pope John XXIII echoed her desire for more of the Holy Spirit when he had the entire Church pray for the success of the Vatican Council. "Renew your wonders in this our day as by a new Pentecost."
     The sovereign outpouring of the Spirit that began in 1967 among Catholics in the Charismatic Renewal was an answer to the prayer called for by Sr. Elena Guerra in the beginning of this century. Thank you, Blessed Elena Guerra, for helping us to experience this new Pentecost! 
     Every member of the Church has need for more of the Holy Spirit. At Medjugorje our Lady is reported to have said, "Many people pray in the wrong way, they ask for graces, but few ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit. But it is those who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who have already received everything. First of all, ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit." Mary is the great teacher of prayer and of response to God. "Seek the grace of the Holy Spirit continually," is her message to us. 
     After sharing these things with the seminarians, we gave testimony about how the Baptism of the Spirit has helped us love Jesus and the Church more deeply. We know that the release of the power of the Holy Spirit and His gifts is meant for everyone in the Church. God desires to give far more than we desire to receive. 
     After we spoke almost everyone of the seminarians came forward to receive prayer for more of the Holy Spirit in his life. Surely these young men will need an ongoing Pentecost to be effective priests. What joy to see their hunger for God! 
     As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost once again, I want to cry out to the whole Church with Blessed Sr. Elena Guerra, "Invoke the Holy Spirit! Love the Holy Spirit! Foster the work of the Holy Spirit! There is no greater gift!" 

     Together, brothers and sisters, may we become a "praying cenacle" - always expecting, always receiving, a perpetual Pentecost! 

from More of God —Inspirational Selections from the Notebook Column by Patti Gallagher Mansfield pp. 85-88

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