In the Church we often speak of the workings of the Holy Spirit — of that prompting, that nudging, that can come from God alone in the midst of our everyday lives.
But sometimes it can be a struggle to know what really is the Holy Spirit and what isn’t. We wonder: When do I identify something as the work of the Spirit, and when do I continue to discern? These are major questions in the lives of those seeking to do God’s will.
On Pentecost Sunday, we have the prime opportunity to revisit how we communicate with and are open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives. One way to do this is by meditating on the beautiful sequence, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” that is to be proclaimed at Mass on Pentecost. It’s one of only a few times a year that such a sequence is proclaimed, and the text is well worth our attention. It’s too long to reproduce in its entirety in this space, but three of my favorite stanzas are:
“Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home, Shed a ray of light divine! ... O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours, And our inmost being fill! ... Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.”
In a homily on Pentecost Sunday in 1998, Pope St. John Paul II called the sequence “magnificent,” “worthy of meditation, stanza by stanza” and containing a “rich theology of the Holy Spirit.” Because of the richness and simplicity of the prayer, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” is an optimal prayer to keep handy in the midst of daily living. We can take it stanza by stanza, as John Paul II advises, or, when we are stressed or strapped for time, we simply can invite, “Come, Holy Spirit!” The brevity of those three words does not lessen their impact.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.”
For those of us seeking ways to discern God’s will in the little moments of our lives, this simple yet profound prayer can keep us ever more open to the influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is no small thing. As the Catechism continues:
“The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.”
How beautiful, how true. Come, Holy Spirit!