Day Nine - Parish Novena of the Holy Spirit -

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Parish Novena to the Holy Spirit
Day Nine: Pentecost Sunday 31st May 2020

Happy Pentecost! We have come to the end of our Novena pilgrimage. Today is Day Nine and throughout our journey together we have reflected on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Each gift, freely given, is bestowed upon us so that we can fulfil our baptismal calling. A calling to be an active disciple of Jesus Christ in the Church that he founded on the rock of Peter. A calling to go out to others and share the good news about Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

‘Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God’s Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them.
And it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God’s Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.’ (St. Irenaeus)

The above quote, from Saint Irenaeus, is found in the Catechism (#683) and beautifully expresses the loving actions of all Persons in the One God, The Most Holy Trinity. A mystery that defies logic and human sensibility but is felt and experienced by all of us. What awakens our faith in the Trinity and opens us to be receptive to this mystery of God is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who has been our companion over these last nine days and who we all now hopefully see and hear a little more clearly and feel a little more closer to.

Saint John Vianney is the patron saint for all priests and a disciple who knew his need for the Holy Spirit. He wrote this meditation:

“Take in one hand a sponge full of water, and in the other a little pebble; press them equally. Nothing will come out of the pebble, but out of the sponge will come abundance of water. The sponge is the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, and the stone is the cold and hard heart which is not inhabited by the Holy Spirit.”

A disciple is not called to be a robot who performs certain functions to give the appearance of being a Christian. A disciple is called to be ‘another Christ’ to the world around them. They are to imitate the Lord in his unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness and gentleness. They are called to be the beating heart of Jesus for all the Church and the people they live and work with. That heart can only truly beat if, as St. John Vianney wrote, it is filled like a sponge with the Holy Spirit.

We need to be ever more mindful of the Holy Spirit especially during this present time. Lockdown is beginning to ease at different paces both globally and locally, with countries and peoples still being sensibly cautious. However, what is emerging is that life has changed. No matter how great or small life has changed. Change is never comfortable or welcomed because it disturbs the status quo but our dislike and aversion to it does not alter the fact of its definite presence. The closure of churches has been dramatic and it would be naive to say that it has not effected anyone. From our Holy Father the Pope right down to the little baby waiting for baptism – everyone has been effected by Covid-19.

What has emerged during this pandemic is the voice of the Holy Spirit. The amount of people who have shown Fortitude whether they be a key worker or an individual going the extra mile for a neighbour and stranger. The gifts of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge have seen people taking time out of ‘the rat race’ and fast paced world to view life differently. There is a new appreciation for the relationships of family and friends. Prayer and belief in God seems to be bucking the perception that the 21st century is a non-religious century. The gift of Counsel has been making people discern their daily decisions and frequent choices in life. ‘Do I need to buy this much food? How much do I waste weekly? How much time do I spend on the internet rather than speaking with real people? Is my job, my career going in the right direction? Am I living as a disciple or just being a good actor and playing the part?’ And finally the gifts of Piety and Fear of the Lord have not sat dormant but have made people rethink prayer, their relationship with God and their own vocation.

In these next few months we will all need to continue to ask the Holy Spirit to be our constant companion on the future road. There will be changes for us as a Church, diocese, deanery, parish and as individual believers in the ways we respond to the Lord’s commandment of loving God and each other.  

‘You know that the Holy Spirit constitutes the soul, the life blood of the Church and of every individual Christian: He is the Love of God who makes of our hearts his dwelling place and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit abides with us always, he is always within us, in our hearts.’
(General Audience, St. Peter’s Square 9th April 2014)     

Veni Creator Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator come,
From your bright heavenly throne!
Come, take possession of our souls,
And make them all your own.

You who are called the Paraclete,
Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire,
Sweet unction, and true love!

You who are sevenfold in your grace,
Finger of God's right hand,
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand!

O guide our minds with your blessed light,
With love our hearts inflame,
And with your strength which never decays
Confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our hellish foe
True peace unto us bring,
And through all perils guide us safe
Beneath your sacred wing.

Through you may we the Father know,
Through you the eternal Son
And you the Spirit of them both
Thrice-blessed three in one.

All glory to the Father be,
And to the risen Son;
The same to you, O Paraclete,
While endless ages run.

In the final prayers of our parish Novena let us ask God the Holy Spirit to remain with us always and allow us the grace to cooperate with those freely bestowed gifts that he pours upon us. Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians gives us a good barometer to test if we are living in the life of the Spirit or if we are living the life of our own self and ego. I think it is important that the Apostles words are quoted in full.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing...When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self control...You cannot belong to Jesus Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires. Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit. We must stop being conceited, provocative and envious.’ (Gal 5:16-25)

Some will roll their eyes and mock Paul for his words and accuse him of being old fashioned for what they see as outdated sins and values. The truths he speaks out about though, do not change. It is the world that tries to water sin down and remodel the appearance of faults and failings so that it can feel better about itself and it’s decisions. What words in his list resonate with us? Do we find ourselves bearing much of the Spirit’s fruits of patience, self-control and love or more the rotten produce of feuds and wrangling etc.

O God the Holy Spirit, make our souls that sponge which draws all your gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord into our inner being. Help us in our daily lives to embrace and use those gifts to water the thirsting world around us that cries out for Jesus Christ. Assist us in our baptismal calling to build up your true and only One Church, and not hold on to our own selfishness. Amen.     
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray:
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I hope that despite my poverty some of the reflections and meditations I have written over these last nine days have helped you in your prayer. The next posting will be on Friday 5th June 2020 and I will let you know if we have received any more information or updates from the diocese.
God Bless and keep praying.
Happy Pentecost!
Fr. O’Brien

St Mary's RC Parish
Catlow Hall Street
Parish Priest : Fr S D O'Brien
All rights reserved © St Mary’s Oswaldtwistle April 2020
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