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Catholic Thoughts: When the Holy Spirit winks

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I have had a few run-ins with the Holy Spirit in my day and thought that this month in which we celebrate Pentecost would be an excellent time to share what this Holy Breath is up to.

For the most part, we seem to encounter the third party of the Trinity at our confirmation and then each year for an hour on Pentecost Sunday. However, my friends, the Spirit is on duty 24/7 in our daily lives. After all, Jesus warned us He was coming, “I will send an advocate.” We are living elbow to elbow with this Divine Spirit. It is just that we overlook His movements as coincidence, luck, or take credit ourselves for His marvelous works. As we celebrate this season of Pentecost, let’s start by taking a deeper look at what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives:

First, the Spirit inspires and requires. The Holy Spirit leads us to do wonderful things that would normally not enter our minds. Once the idea is planted, that same Spirit requires that we carry the inspiration through to the end. (“Age quod agis,” the sisters would say.) We suddenly remember a task that needs doing at church, we decide at the last moment to send a note to a lonely single mom, etc.

In my life, it happened that a dear friend who lives in Arizona, Christine, came to mind one day shortly after her husband died. So I called her and as she said hello, I could tell she was crying. She said to me, “How did you know to call? I am going through Joe’s clothes. I discovered his favorite sports coat. It still has his scent. I am holding it close and sitting on the floor crying and missing him.” We talked a long time. I listened as she spilled out her heart. It was that old Holy Spirit who led me to call her for sure!

Then there’s the Spirit who puts words in our mouth. You are nervous about speaking a word of correction to your son and somehow you say it just right. You attend the funeral of a child and wonder how to offer condolence to the parents. You find yourself speaking beautifully, better than you could have imagined. It’s the Spirit who comes to the rescue as we give our voices to His voice. Preachers experience this with their charism. They have written out an excellent homily, and for some reason, they put the paper down and preach something entirely different. That second homily is powerful—moving the church beyond anything written on that well-prepared paper. They begin to get more confident in the Spirit who is the real preacher: “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Matthew 10:19).

In my own circumstance, I am often as surprised as you at the content of these articles. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “I am the pencil. God writes.” So it is with each of us. We simply have to give up the controls and allow the Spirit to speak through us.

Finally, the Spirit loves to remind us with a good wink that He is very involved in our lives. A wink is that time when something happens that seems like coincidence. Three people tell you that you need to read a new spiritual book and then you find it on your desk a few days later. Aunt Tillie dies and you inherit $500. The next week your car breaks down and the repair costs $500.

I will never forget one of my favorite God winks. I was traveling to Mountain Home, Ark., to preach a parish mission with a priest companion. As we drove through the small town on our way, Father asked me the chapter and verse of the Jeremiah quote, “I know well the plans I have for you.” I told him I had no idea. I am a Catholic and we don’t know Bible verses. Just then, we stopped at the only stoplight in a small town behind an old junker with “Jeremiah 29:11” on the bumper. Both of us were sure we heard the Spirit laughing!

So, this Holy Spirit continues to inspire and require, put words in our mouth and wink. Enjoy the season of Pentecost this year, and start watching for the Spirit’s appearances.

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