‘You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul’

I looked at my students’ faces. It was prayer time at the start of class. My question had been met with silence. Their non-verbal communication revealed a spectrum ranging from polite interest through boredom. Quite frankly, one sleep-deprived senior yawned. It was one of those moments educators fear. One’s best laid plans have fallen by the wayside. One is left standing alone before a group of capricious adolescents. I tried to rephrase my question to make it more relevant to their world. I said, “You are in college. Your roommate says, ‘Hey you are Catholic. What is this Holy Spirit stuff? Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit in your life?’” In the ensuing silence, I finally realized that perhaps they were afraid to look inside to find an answer that they had not been directly taught. 

Even we adults sometimes fall back into such uncertainty. We just wish for someone to tell us what the “real” answer is. When we imagine Pentecost, we can catch ourselves yearning for the certitude those Apostles felt when they felt those driving winds and saw the tongues of fire. We think that if only we had such striking signs today, life would be so much easier.

This analysis ignores the context and the true gift of Pentecost. To find these, we must look deeper. The Apostles were huddled together in fear. As it was a fear for their lives, their apprehension was a bit deeper than that of an educator whose lesson plan has failed, but the question in all those hearts is the same: “What do I do now Lord?” Though it was delivered with spectacular imagery, God’s true answer to the Apostles was revealed in the courage and strength they found in order to go forth to serve the Lord. This began with their bold proclamations where each person present heard them speaking in his native tongue. 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit nourish the soul. They help ensure our life is aligned with God’s Will and that we are always guided by God’s love. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit include: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In this article, I’d like to focus attention on fortitude, fear of the Lord, and counsel. 

Fortitude gives us the strength to follow through on actions. When we become aware that we have done something that we did not think we could do, we have pinpointed the Holy Spirit active in our life. This was the approach I took with those high school kids. I asked them to imagine some time where they had found the courage to stand up for something or someone. As they smiled and remembered their actions, I asked them to remember how they felt in doing it. I reminded them that this was what it felt like when the Holy Spirit was active in one’s life. 

Fear of the Lord is really a bit of a misnomer for the gift. This gift allows one to humbly recognize one’s true place in God’s world. However, the fear of punishment is diminished as with reception of this gift fear is no longer needed as incentive for good behavior. With this gift, one simply chooses to do, or to avoid doing, something out of love for God. 

Akin to the Apostles, a person will exhibit one or more fruits of the Holy Spirit as manifestation of reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, patience under trial, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, and chastity. Through our expression of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, each of us seeks to work alongside Our Lord to call forth the potential within another person.

The gift of counsel provides that quiet whisper to one’s heart that suggests a direction or action to take. Some people describe this gift as an intuitive feeling of what is right to do. To develop and appreciate this gift, one must patiently discern what the Spirit is saying. In addition, this requires that one be willing to listen frequently and be able to live with following the Holy Spirit one decision at a time. 

As we examine the early Church, we can sometimes confuse the record of events with individual journey. Jesus said, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves” (Lk 10:3). Counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit were as important then as they are to us now in day-to-day living of our mission. 

With Pentecost, God has given mankind the Advocate. We can each decide today is the day we will ask God to help us grow in any or all of the gifts of the Spirit. Before we even finish asking, God’s answer will flood our heart and soul. 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer. biochemwz@hotmail.com.

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