By: Michael J. Donohue
The Third Person of the Holy Trinity has always held for me a certain mysterious fascination. Within the profoundest of all mysteries, the Trinity, there exists the Holy Spirit. No mere creature, or lesser part, the Holy Spirit, if we can but know it, is what a short book I read at college called “Our Greatest Friend.” (To be completely accurate, the edifying little book is titled, “The Holy Ghost—Our Greatest Friend,” available from TAN Publishers…one of those great devotional booklets for the layman left out of print and nearly lost in the early post-conciliar period.)
I am just old enough to have first thought upon the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. One of my earliest memories, at the age of three, perhaps four, is of my Irish grandmother teaching me the Sign of the Cross. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. That traditional first, innocent step into the greater reality of existence, guided by a loved one blessed with faith. Along with Grandma Ella’s tutorial in her wonderful brogue (which had been softened I’m told only marginally after decades in her adopted country) naturally came the shamrock and Saint Patrick’s metaphor of the Trinity. I accepted it, of course, as a child does and because my grandmother told me. However, for a long while, my understanding of the Holy Spirit never really advanced much beyond that simple, happy acceptance.
To some degree, this reflected a certain willingness in me to accept teachings passed to me by those who formed my faith, learned priests, devout family members, and like-minded friends. But in the case of the mysterious Holy Ghost, this left a bit of weakness in my understanding of a central teaching of our faith. For that matter, for many of us, I think the Holy Spirit manifests last of the Three Persons in our intellectual and devotional lives. Perhaps this is fitting given the great work He stands ready to help us realize.
“After Pentecost the Gospel began to be proclaimed by the Apostles, notably by Peter, who spoke in their midst and in their name. Chosen by Jesus during his public life, invested by him with an official mandate, they had received full powers to bear witness to the saving event of the resurrection and to discuss in God’s name the conditions under which men could receive its effects. But it was only after Pentecost that, filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to exercise these powers” (The Christian Centuries, Volume I, Jean Danielou).
We are all called, baptized, and confirmed to be worthy vessels of the Holy Spirit and do great things, whether seemingly large or small, public or private. The Church was born at Pentecost, and the Third Person of the Trinity, our Comforter, Advocate, and Helper, the Paraclete, was sent by the Father and entered formally into all our lives, as Jesus Christ had told his disciples. It is certainly worth our time to learn more about Him, incorporate Him into the understanding of our faith and our purpose, and yes, pray to Him, “Our Greatest Friend.”
I commend to you our great bishop’s two-part column series this month in the Arlington Catholic Herald on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost, and which was published on the Encourage & Teach blog. Bishop Loverde’s motto as a bishop is this blog’s eponymous Encourage and Teach with Patience, which perhaps is quite apposite when it comes to the Holy Spirit. But as the good pastor, teacher, and spiritual father that he is, Bishop Loverde wants us to fully share in the Love of God. “So, just as the Word of God is the Son of God, so the Love of God is the Holy Spirit” (Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, St. Thomas Aquinas).
Mike is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Loverde’s spokesperson. A native of New York, he holds a BA in Political Science from the George Washington University. Mike and his wife have two sons and live in Washington, D.C., where they attend Church of the Annunciation.