I’d never experienced the charismatic movement before, so I was somewhat excited when several months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a charismatic prayer group at my parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. I was thrilled by the intensity of the group’s faith.
Over the course of the night, the group ran a session of The Wild Goose series, a 14-part video series created by Fr. Dave Pivonka. The term “The Wild Goose” was used by the ancient Celts to describe the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Pivonka describes the Wild Goose Project as “a simple attempt to invite Catholic Christians into a more profound life-giving relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship marked by the love of God which breathes life into our daily existence. The Holy Spirit is not merely something relegated to Confirmation but the Spirit desires a relationship with us that will take us on the greatest adventure imaginable; a journey to the very Heart of God. The Holy Spirit desires to be present to us in a manner that brings light out of darkness, freedom out of bondage, order out of chaos and life out of death. Such is the power of the Wild Goose.”
Try to Understand Him
As the meeting drew to a close, I was struck by something one of the members said. She opined that “The problem with most believers is that they try to put the Holy Spirit in a box. So many people simply don’t understand Him and are afraid to let Him take control. So instead, they try to box Him in or not think about Him at all.” This got me thinking about several things.
Pope Francis said, “The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going, keeps the Church moving forward. More and more, beyond the limits, onwards. The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete, whom the Lord sends us for this very reason. And He makes unthinkable choices, but unimaginable! To use a word of St. John XXIII: it is the Holy Spirit that updates the Church. Really, he really updates it and keeps it going.”
But how many of us really take the Pope’s words to heart? How many of us ever stopped to ponder how different our lives would be if we allowed the Holy Spirit to guide us more often? Would we be even more on fire for our faith? Would we be like the Apostles on Pentecost, drawing other people to us, wanting to have what we’ve got? Don’t forget about 3,000 people were baptized on that day! Have we ever stopped to imagine what our churches would look like if they were filled to the brim, standing room only, by joy-filled Catholics who fully embrace and live out their faith?
The fruits of the Holy Spirit
What if, instead of jumping at an opportunity to tear each other down, we were to exercise the fruits of patience and kindness? Wouldn’t it be great if we could go throughout our day without giving in to road rage, gossiping with our coworkers, or nitpicking every little thing to death? Wouldn’t it be nice to rest in the knowledge that, no matter what’s going on around us, we don’t have to be slaves to our circumstances and ever-changing moods?
How many marriages and families would be saved if more people truly understood and exercised the fruit of chastity? How many more young people would answer the call to be priests and religious sisters if we encouraged them to be guided more by the Holy Spirit and less by academic success or athletic prowess?
As Fr. Mark Bialek (pastor of St. John in Westminster, Maryland) said in his homily on January 13, “Isn’t it about time [to] allow the Holy Spirit to be set loose? And not to be afraid of the unexpected. Not to be afraid of the path that Christ might call us to walk. Not to be afraid of the future and what might lie in store. The Holy Spirit many times makes a mess. The Holy Spirit calls us to conversion. The Holy Spirit calls us to examine our hearts. The Holy Spirit sets the world on fire and purifies us so that we can be with God: melting away the impurities of our lives, our society, and our world. So that we can be perfect as God, our Heavenly Father, is perfect. But in order for that happen, that means we have to give up control.”
His Plans for Us
In my own life, it has meant stepping out in faith, especially when there didn’t seem to be a clear solution ahead. It has meant taking sometimes little and sometimes big steps. It means trusting that God knows best, and remembering Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
When I was 21, I never would’ve imagined that one day I’d be leading teens to Christ as a youth minister, or playing guitar with a worship band. But, over the last 14 years, I have been doing my best to let the Holy Spirit lead me. He has helped me find the right words in moments of tension and heated arguments. He has comforted me when all I wanted to do was break something in anger or frustration. He gave me wise counsel when I had trouble deciding on the best course of action.
Do I know Him perfectly? Of course not, there’s always more to learn about Him. But maybe what we all need, as Catholics right now, is His presence in our lives. To borrow Fr. Mark’s words: “Isn’t it time we allow the Holy Spirit to be set loose?”