A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit

I’m a server by nature.

I’m one of those people who volunteer to chaperone school trips and bake treats for school and church functions. And I also join committees, even though I really don’t like meetings.

Yesterday I offered to help a parish committee because I didn’t want to see its hard work go to waste. But I’m already on two other church committees, and I have other parish and family activities and responsibilities. I think a newspaper article I read the other day got it right: When did “Busy,” become the right answer to the question, “How are you?”

As people of faith, we want to be involved in our parish and wider community and make a difference. But there comes a point where we need to ask ourselves whether we’re doing too much and why.

Are we helping because it’s “the right thing to do,” or do we have talents that would serve a group well? Do we really feel called to work in children’s liturgy, pastoral care or sacramental preparation, for example?

Are we involved because we feel pressured to participate or because the Spirit led us to help?

And are we really taking into consideration everything else in our lives when we agree to help? Do we think about our workload, our activities and those of our children, and our parish or community commitments?

When we consider taking on a new responsibility—a committee role, a volunteer position, or another family activity—we can ask God to guide our decision making through the Holy Spirit.

Section 1303 of the Catechism tells us that Confirmation “increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us,” but we don’t need to be Confirmation candidates to want or need these gifts:

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. . . . They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. (s. 1831)

I pray that, before taking on new commitments, we would ask God to increase the gifts of the Spirit in us to guide us in making the right decision.

From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

  • it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which make us cry ‘Abba! Father!’;
  • it unites us more firmly to Christ;
  • it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
  • it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
  • it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith . . . .

– s. 1303 of the Catechism

Tuesday night found my son and I at our parish church. He made the decision to receive the sacrament of confirmation in the spring, and we were attending an information session explaining the registration and preparation processes.

I was happy to see the church full of young people considering confirmation—at an age when many young people stop attending church—and their families. And the church hall was busy afterwards as they enjoyed some baked treats and conversation.

During the information session, our priest stressed the importance of bringing our youth to Mass and involving them in the life of the Church, as well as the fact that confirmation is more than a rite of passage.

Doesn’t that go without saying?

Sadly, I don’t think so. Today many people state in polls and on censuses that they consider themselves Christians but don’t attend church. If we want our children and youth to consider the sacraments as something more than a rite of passage, they need to see the importance we place on receiving them.

That means they need to attend Mass to witness the baptism of infants and young children, confirmation of RCIA candidates, and First Eucharist celebrations and to receive the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. They need to see our reverent attitude toward these sacraments and our joy in receiving them.

As our youth prepare for confirmation, we have a wonderful opportunity to share and grow in our own faith with them:

  • We can talk about our faith journey and our decision to declare our own faith in God, beyond the promises our parents and godparents made on our behalf at baptism.
  • Along with our priests, deacons and catechists, we can model for youth how to live out the faith and participate in the life and work of the Church.
  • As they go about selecting a confirmation name, we can also introduce them to other role models in the saints and blesseds.

And other parishioners can also support these young people on their confirmation journey by praying for them and by serving as a candidate’s sponsor if asked, recognizing the challenge of choosing a sponsor faced by those who are the only Catholics or the only practising Catholics in their extended family (a challenge for us as converts) or who are new to the area or even the country.

May we pray for those preparing for confirmation and the “increase and deepening of baptismal grace” awaiting them.

Occasionally, I have to ask my son to change his shirt before Mass on Sunday. I remind him that the church is God’s house, and that makes skull t-shirts kind of inappropriate.

While the church is God’s house, I think we tend to forget this point the apostle Paul made in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?”*

The priest reminded me of this verse yesterday during his homily. He gave us a prayer that he advised us to say often throughout our lives: “God within me, I adore you.”

This prayer is short but profound. We can easily forget that, just like the temple in the Old Testament, any church is far too small to contain God’s presence. As King Solomon said in 1 Kings 8:27, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house which I have built!” We can forget that God is with us—not just in that hour or so on any given Sunday morning, but always—and that we receive Jesus when we receive the Eucharist. We can think it’s all right to leave the practice of our faith at the doors when we leave and pick it up the following week, or when the summer holidays are over, or the following Christmas or Easter.

In fact, at all times and places, God is with us. The writer of Psalm 139 recognized this when he asked God (in verses 7-8), “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”

If we remind ourselves that God is within us, we will be more mindful of his presence and our need of the wisdom, gifts and comfort available to us through the Holy Spirit.

We can take a cue from the words of the hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I pray that we would be more aware of God’s presence not only on Sunday in his house but every day in our hearts.

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition).

I love a good mystery.

From Elizabeth Enright to Agatha Christie to Earlene Fowler and too many other authors to mention here, I’ve long enjoyed untangling the threads and trying to solve the mystery before the author reveals all. The same goes for the procedurals I watch on TV.

But as our presiding priest pointed out at Mass this week, there are relative mysteries, which we can figure out, and then there are absolute mysteries, such as the Holy Trinity. Since, as he said, we won’t fully understand the mystery in this life or the next, we should simply adore the Lord.

To those who love the challenge of solving a mystery, not trying to solve one might seem unthinkable. And people in general like to categorize and define things in ways that make sense. Think about the way we arrange everything from grocery items to newspaper sections to apps. Not being able to fit everything into neat boxes can make us uncomfortable.

Still, human knowledge, theories and research can’t explain the mystery of the Trinity. The idea that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons but one Lord is a mystery we can only try to wrap our minds around.

Section 233 of the Catechism tells us “Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.”

For those who aren’t cradle Christians, this might seem confusing or incredible. But they can read about the Holy Trinity in John’s gospel, for example:

  • Jesus was with God in the beginning and everything was created through him (see John 1:1-3);
  • he is God’s only begotten Son (see John 3:16-17);
  • Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him (see John 14:9-11); and
  • the Holy Spirit comes from the Father in Jesus’ name (see John 14: 26).

Today we can easily become jaded and even fail to treat everything from holy buildings and books to the Holy Trinity with the proper reverence and respect; for example, consider the way some worship songs treat God as a “buddy” and not as our Lord. I pray that, as we contemplate the mystery of the Trinity, we would still feel a sense of wonder and a desire to simply worship the Lord.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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