A Few Facts About The Holy Spirit

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you. (Jn. 14:15-20)

Of all the doctrines of the Faith, the Holy Spirit is probably one of the toughest for us to understand. The Third Person of the Trinity can seem vague, amorphous, unclear. Some of us have the image of a dove (which is Scriptural), but that isn’t wholly accurate. We do not have a “face” to go with the name, in a manner of speaking. Of course, it is a mystery – meaning it is something we will not fully understand this side of Heaven, if ever.

However, that does not mean we don’t know anything about the Holy Spirit. Here are some facts:

  • According to Scott Hahn, we get much of what we can know about the Spirit from the Book of Wisdom:

It was common for Jews of the time to view divine Wisdom as a person (or personification) distinct from Yahweh, and Christians often interpreted the Bible’s wisdom passages as referring to the Holy Spirit. It was a reasonable surmise. For example, in the Book of Wisdom, chapters 7–9, God’s Wisdom is referred to as “holy spirit,” and then described in terms that are strikingly divine (“all-powerful,” “all-knowing,” “overseeing all,” and “more mobile than any motion,” 7:22–23). And, since the Hebrew word for Wisdom, hokmah, is also feminine, Wisdom was addressed in bridal terms (“irresistible,” “more beautiful than the sun,” 7:22, 29).

  • We need the Holy Spirit in order to comprehend God’s thoughts (1 Cor. 2:11), and the Spirit has spoken through the prophets in order to help us gain this understanding.
  • St. Catherine of Siena gives us this beautiful analogy: “Enrich your soul in the great goodness of God: The Father is your table, the Son is your food, and the Holy Spirit waits on you and then makes His dwelling in you.”
  • We know we are “sealed” in the Spirit at Confirmation. That “mark,” says St. Paul, is made because we believe in Christ Jesus.
  • The Holy Spirit is a gift-giver! He shares with us wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. Of course, like any gift, we can choose to use these or we can stuff them back in the proverbial box, shove them in a dark corner of our closet and forget about them. The Spirit gives the gifts, but He will never strong-arm us into using them.
  • And the gifts just keep on giving! The Holy Spirit (just as St. Catherine of Siena said) brings to us luscious fruit as our “waiter:” charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, humility or gentleness, fidelity or faithfulness, modesty, continence or self-control and chastity. Again, we can give thanks and eat, or we can tell the waiter to take it back.

While we may not fully understand the Holy Spirit, it is clear from just these few thoughts that the Spirit is an abundant giver, powerful, and willing to serve us. The Holy Spirit is the love of God the Father and God the Son, poured out into this Third Person of the Trinity, speaking to us through Scripture and the Church. Yes, the Holy Spirit is a mystery – but a mystery willing to reveal itself bit-by-bit as we pray and study and contemplate.

Spirit of life, by whose power the Word was made flesh
in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the woman of attentive silence,
make us docile to the promptings of your love
and ever ready to accept the signs of the times
which you place along the paths of history.

Come, Spirit of love and peace!

To you, Spirit of love,
with the Almighty Father and the Only-Begotten Son,
be praise, honour and glory
for ever and ever. Amen.

[Original art by Waiting for the Word.]

EH headshotElise Hilton is an author, blogger and speaker. Her role at Diocesan Publications is Editor & Writer with the Marketing Team. She has worked in parish faith formation and Catholic education for over 30 years. A passionate student of theology, Elise enjoys sharing her thoughts on parish communication, the role of social media in the Church, Franciscan spirituality and Catholic parenting. To enquire about booking her as a speaker, please contact her at


1 day

Sharing Our Lenten Journey: ODB Films

We’re always looking for great Catholic content to share with you. “Great” certainly describes ODB Films; they take the Faith seriously, but also believe that art is very important. They’ve created a film series, “A Lenten Journey,” that is unique and, we believe, well worth your time. It’s great for discussions from teens through adults, families, small groups or individuals. (If you’d like to follow the entire journey, may we suggest that you go to ODB Films and become a Partner? It’s free.)

On the first Friday of Lent 2017, we are happy to present, That 1 Day. (After you’ve watched this, one of the questions ODB asks us to reflect on is this:  Do you know Christ’s life, His sufferings, and what He did for you out of total love?)


The Baptism Of The Lord

Place yourself at the scene: You see a small crowd gathered around a large, wild-looking man with hair and beard gone bushy – almost savage looking. He – John the Baptist – wears only a tunic made of camel and preaches that the Messiah is near. This John is an almost ferocious–looking creature, but people followed and listened, hungry for not simply spiritual direction but for the sorely-needed Chosen One. They follow this man, this preacher, to the Jordan River.

One by one, John baptizes them with water. He cautions them though: There is one coming who will baptize in water and the Holy Spirit. That is what we all need, because in that baptism is grace.

And one day, as John is preaching and baptizing, Jesus come to the Jordan. John halts: That is Him! That is the Lamb of God! He is the one who will take away our sins!

What does Jesus do? He doesn’t step up on higher ground and begin preaching. He doesn’t tell everyone that what John has said is right on target. No, he wades into the water, and is baptized.

This striking scene, that we celebrate today, gives us much to ponder. As Catholics, we too are baptized. And we are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. This baptism (along with confirmation and Holy Orders) leaves an “indelible seal” upon us. That mark or seal actually changes us, and it’s permanent. We can’t undo it, even if we stop attending Mass, even if we declare ourselves a witch or warlock, even if … we are marked with the sign of Christ for all eternity. For children, it is the parents’ responsibility to nurture the faith of their child, to care for the child’s soul. As the child gets older, more and more of the responsibility for one’s relationship with God shifts to the individual, until that person reaches maturity. And each of us, when we dies, will need to account to God as to how and why we chose what we did for the care (or lack thereof) for our soul.

Jesus’ baptism was NOT a superhero movie scene. He did not enter the Jordan an “ordinary” man and emerge as a shining god or an all-powerful king ready to smash the Roman empire. No, it was a picture-perfect example of what we are to do. We need to seek the Lamb of God through trusted sources. We need to be humble enough to admit that we need help, that we need the grace God makes available to us. We need to strip off all the worldly things that hold us back from our beloved Father. Most importantly, we need to continuously seek ways to live out our baptismal promises: to reject Satan, to believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to live our faith as the Church teaches.

There are not “magicicians” or superpower heroes among the faithful. Instead, there are those who – every day – decide to live out their faith. As Father Bede Jarrett said, “Baptism doe not set us right, but, by the high privilege is affords, it gives us the power to set ourselves right.” And with the grace of baptism, so we must set ourselves right, every day.


Advent: On Fire For God


Today’s readings begin with fire: the prophet Elijah appears in a swirl of flames, and his very words are fire. Typically, we think of fire as being destructive: the recent fires that damaged or destroyed over 1700 buildings in Gatlinburg, TN are a shocking example of fire’s ability to destroy. Yet the fire surrounding Elijah seems not to be destructive. It allows Elijah the power to open and close the gates of Heaven! It is a whirlwind of fire that carries the prophet from sight, into the Heavens.

There is another time when fire appears in Scripture in a similar way: when the Holy Spirit descends upon Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room. Tongues of fire settle upon them, allowing them to speak in languages they did not know, in order to preach the truth of Jesus Christ boldly and convincingly to the Jews gathered for Pentecost.

Yes, fire is destructive. It frightens us, and it should. Even now, with technology, state-of-the-art equipment and trained professionals, fire can wipe out both the natural and man-made with terrifying speed. But fire can also be used to create: photographer Rich Reid marvels at how fire has restored a forest:

After months of planning and executing this assignment, ecstatic is the only way to describe seeing a lush green forest on the last images on each card. This couldn’t be the same forest I left a few months ago? Not only was I amused with the prolific regrowth but also amazed my cameras survived this adventure …

Special thanks to Chuck Martin and Erick Brown from The Nature Conservancy and their fire crew for keeping me safe and providing this incredible opportunity to document fire in a positive way.

Fire can be positive. How? Because God makes it so. Elijah is able to use fire “to shut up the heavens” because of God’s power, not his own. Elijah ascends to Heaven in a chariot of fire because God allows it.

Just as our own words can be destructive (think of gossip or slander), our words can also bring forth life. When we speak life, when we speak of Christ, of God’s tender mercy in our lives, our words (just like Elijah’s) become a means of growth and grace. When we are on fire for God, our words can help sculpt lush new growth. We cannot play with fire, but when we pray with fire, God allows great things to happen.

Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, mom of five and passionate about music.

hopes, dreams, desires

Advent: Time Of Hope, Dreams, Desires

Today’s Advent reflection for the 1st Tuesday of Advent, 2016

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you guest posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s guest blogger is Fr. Aaron Ferris, reflecting on the Mass readings for Tuesday, Nov. 29.]

The Season of Advent is an opportunity to reflect on and purify our desires, hopes, and dreams. Our desires are many and varied, ranging from food to satisfy our hunger to friendship to satisfy our need for love. Our hopes and dreams press on even further. The Prophet Isaiah offers a beautiful reflection on many of our desires, hopes, and dreams: our desire for justice, our hope for the vindication of the downtrodden, our dream of peace and security.

Jesus in the Gospel offers Himself as our satisfaction and fulfillment: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” What do those eyes see? They see Jesus, the One who is the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams, the One who is the satisfaction of all our desires. Blessed are those who see Jesus and find in Him their All.

In and through Jesus we are given a share in the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord promised to us through Isaiah. In and through Jesus we are brought into intimate communion with God who is our Father. In and through Jesus we are given a share in the very life of God.

Amid our many competing desires, hopes, and dreams, we can easily lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the satisfaction and fulfillment of everything. This Advent Season we are invited again to make Jesus the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams and the satisfaction of our desires.

Fr. Aaron Ferris is currently the pastor of St. Mary Great Mother of God Catholic Church in Lowell, MI, and St. Anthony in Saranac, MI. He was ordained in 2009.

prayer journal

Prayer Journal: A Love Letter To God

Prayer journaling is nothing new: many saints have kept them. The point of a prayer journal is not to be a diary, or a chronicle of one’s day. A prayer journal is a love letter to God.

One great thing about a prayer journal is that it’s easy to do. All you need is a notebook – fancy or not – and a pen. You can take your journal with you anywhere, tucked into a purse, a briefcase or backpack. Sure, you could keep a journal online or in a computer writing program, but using your own hand to write your prayers is really best. It requires a different part of the brain to get a thought from brain to fingertips. Using your own hand to write is far more personal than a typed journal.

If you’re not sure what to journal, start with blessings or gratitudes. What are you grateful for, right here and now? It might simply be that you have food for breakfast. Perhaps you’re grateful for a cup of coffee in the quiet of the house before everyone else starts their day. Even in our darkest moments, we can find blessings. A shoulder to cry on perhaps, or a nurse who gently cares for a dying loved one: once we tune our ears and eyes to gratitude, we find it in abundance. If you’re really not sure where to start, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. The Spirit of God never disappoints.

Another way to journal is to use a Scripture verse as a starting point. Perhaps it’s a line from the Mass readings on Sunday that struck a chord with you. Write that line down, and let your prayer flow from that. One might do the same with a song or a line from a hymn.

A prayer journal should be real; don’t hold back. There are times in our lives that we are really mad at God – maybe we aren’t really mad at Him, but we have no where else to place our anger. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, we might rail at God, “Why did you take her so suddenly?? I wasn’t ready!” Pour out your heart. Remember, a prayer journal is not getting turned in for a grade; it’s a conversation between you and God.

Prayer journaling can be easier if you follow a formula, at least at the beginning. Start with gratitude and praise. Then let God know what is on your heart right now. Nothing is too trivial. Maybe you’re worried about your health or there is a difficult situation at your job. Maybe your toddler is sick and you just want her to feel better. Ask God to give you whatever it is you need to manage for that day. Move towards an examination of conscience. Perhaps that situation at work is partially your fault; ask for the grace to mend it. Finally, end with asking a favorite saint or the Blessed Mother for intercession.

A prayer journal can be as simple as a notebook and a pen. Other people like to draw or decorate their prayers; the process of creativity helps them to “zone in on” prayer. Use markers, colored pencils or whatever feels right if you decide to be more creative in your prayer. This process is terrific because it forces one to slow down and really examine what’s on one’s mind and heart.

Finally, don’t get discouraged. Finding your own way of prayer journaling can take some time. It’s a process, and you have to find your own manner of prayer. Just remember: this is your love letter to God, and like any parent, He loves to hear from His children.

glorious mysteries rosary

The Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries

Continuing our week-long series on the Rosary, we contemplate today the Glorious Mysteries (prayed on Sundays and Wednesdays.) We bear in mind just how powerful this prayer is; Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.

The Glorious Mysteries are:

  • The Resurrection. What could be more glorious? The power of sin and death have been conquered, and Heaven won for us. Alleluia!
  • The Ascension: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:1) Jesus ascends to His Heavenly throne, and we faithfully wait for His return.
  • The Coming of the Holy Spirit. What starts off as a room of tired and frightened men, along with the Blessed Mother, becomes a day like no other. Wind and fire sweep through the room, and the Holy Spirit reigns down upon them. We, too, are endowed with the Gifts of the Spirit.
  • The Assumption of the Blessed Mother. While Jesus ascended under His own power, Mary is assumed by God. She became the vessel, the new Ark of the covenant. Born without sin, death holds no power of Mary. We are saved because of her willingness to say “yes” to God’s plan.
  • The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. As mother of the Prince of Peace, Mary is rightfully Queen. Her reign is one of prayer, sacrifice and motherly love for all her beloved sons and daughters. We continuously implore her prayers and intercessions before her Son, our Lord.

Saint John Paul II reminds us that Mary is our example of true witness to the Truth.

The Rosary is at the service of this ideal; it offers the “secret” which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary’s way. It is the way of the example of the Virgin of Nazareth, a woman of faith, of silence, of attentive listening. It is also the way of a Marian devotion inspired by knowledge of the inseparable bond between Christ and his Blessed Mother: the mysteries of Christ are also in some sense the mysteries of his Mother, even when they do not involve her directly, for she lives from him and through him. By making our own the words of the Angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth contained in the Hail Mary, we find ourselves constantly drawn to seek out afresh in Mary, in her arms and in her heart, the “blessed fruit of her womb” (cf Lk 1:42).

The Glorious Mysteries remind us that, despite the turmoil and troubles of this world, we must always fix our eyes on Christ. He has promised us everlasting life. By following Mary’s humble example of “Do whatever He tells you,” we see with the eyes of faith that unending glory awaits the faithful.

A.C.T.S. prayer

A.C.T.S.: A Way To Pray

We all experience times when our prayer lives need a boost. Maybe we slip out of the habit of praying without intending to. Maybe we have a crisis in our life and the only prayer we can think of is “Help!” Maybe we just get stuck in a rut.

Here is a simple way to pray: A.C.T.S. or ACTS.

A: Adoration. We praise Almighty God! We praise Him for his promises kept, for His goodness to us, His beauty in nature. We praise His for the gift of Christ Jesus, His Son, who gave His life that we may have eternal life. We praise the Holy Spirit for endowing us richly with gifts that sustain us. Adoration acknowledges that God is God Almighty, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega.

C: Confession. We fail. We sin. We stumble and fall. Sometimes it takes us a while to get back up again. The Church has a wonderful tradition of examining one’s conscience every night before sleep. Of course, if we are in the state of mortal sin, we must avail ourselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, regularly acknowledging our failings and asking God for his mercy and forgiveness is a valuable part of a solid prayer life.

T: Thanksgiving. We all have things to be thankful for, even when life is difficult or we are facing a crisis. We can be thankful for a kind co-worker, for the offers of prayers from others. We can be thankful for family and friends. We give God thanks for our safe travels, our homes, and every small blessing we receive every day. The habit of thanking God reminds us that no matter what is going on in our lives, God is present.

S: Supplication. Finally, we present our needs and the needs of others to God. We all need protection from evil. We may ask God for healing and restoration, whether from illness or a broken relationship. Of course, God knows all our needs before we even approach Him in prayer, but by bringing our needs and others’ to Him, we acknowledge God’s power in our lives, in our world. We know His promise of answering every prayer perfectly.

If you need a “boost” in your prayer life, try this simple method: ACTS. May we always praise God for His mercy and love!

Pentecost: now what

So, Yeah: Pentecost. Now What?

Pentecost is a big deal for Catholics. The musicians pull out all the stops, the priest wears distinctive red garments we don’t see very often, and there is that whole thing about wind and tongues of flame and the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit was promised and sent.

So now what?

Pentecost can definitely seem like one of those historical events we learned about in school, but it’s never happened since. Just what does that event have to do with us, hear and now?

One of the problems we have is that Pentecost focuses our attention on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a mystery. Now, this doesn’t mean that the Hardy Boys are going to set off in search of clues, ultimately leading to the unveiling of the Holy Spirit, who was really Mr. Snively the bookkeeper, all along. No, a mystery – in the Catholic Faith – is something we cannot fully understand. We trust God and the Church to help us learn, but on this side of Heaven (and maybe even on the other side!) we are not going to put all the pieces together. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying, though.

Scott Hahn, the Catholic speaker and writer, believes that the key to understanding the Spirit is love. The Holy Spirit is, in essence, the overflowing love between the Father and the Son – that love poured out for us on the Cross but on the Church on Pentecost.

Think about it: the Holy Spirit drove out the fear the Apostles had. They boldly proclaimed God’s word. The Spirit allowed them to communicate with those they could not understand before. Doesn’t love do just this? Doesn’t love make us fearless? (Why else would we get married? Have babies?) Doesn’t love make us more understanding of others? Doesn’t love drive us out into the world to bring Christ to others?

Pentecost may have come and gone, but the Holy Spirit remains. Be bold. Be loving. It is your Catholic heritage, a gift from the Holy Spirit.


Pentecost: Receiving The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:2-4

One of Jesus’ last Earthly promises was to send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and send it He did. A driving wind, tongues of fire, the sudden ability to proclaim the Good News in languages unspoken before: what a vivid image. What an incredible experience for the Apostles and for Mary, the Mother of God.

One might imagine that, following Jesus’ Ascension, the Apostles would be concerned about how they would continue the work at hand without Jesus. Yes, Peter had been appointed chief among them, but he was no Jesus. It was hard enough to get people to listen to the Good News when Jesus was the one teaching; what could the Apostles accomplish?

Of course, they had no way of knowing what Jesus meant when He promised to send the Holy Spirit. They had no idea that the power of Heaven would be unleashed and they would be filled with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear and awe of the Lord (the gifts of the Holy Spirit.)

These gifts are not reserved for the Apostles and Mary, nor for any other select group. The gifts of the Spirit are poured out upon any Catholic who has been baptized and confirmed. And yet, the whole thing still seems quite … odd, mysterious, almost unreal. It’s hard to think of ourselves as wise, or courageous, or filled with knowledge. What does this mean for you and me?

The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, put it this way:

This third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the ’spirit’ of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him. He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something ‘out there,’ in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and work backwards. God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and the Son.

And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.

We must believe that Pentecost was not a one time-only event, a bit of history like the Battle of Gettysburg or the signing of the Magna Carta. Pentecost, as Lewis points out, is here and now. It is personal for each of us. It is eternal love, given to us all; we choose to participate in it (or sadly, not.) These gifts of the Spirit, like any gift, must be opened, embraced and used. They are the eternal gifts of love from the One who loves perfectly, eternally; all we must do is celebrate these gifts.