Today’s post is a “guest column” from parish Director of Faith Formation, Barbara Ferreris
One of my favorite worship songs is from John Michael Talbot, “You Will Receive Power” and I would sing it at the top of my lungs in the minivan hauling kids, in the living room, anywhere I could play music! The words are drawn from the Book of Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”( Acts 1:8) If you ask any of my three adult children if there is one song, one phrase they remember from their childhood, it would be this one!
Why would a 20-something young mother blast a worship song through the windows of her minivan or in her living room, you might ask? You see, my relationship with the Holy Spirit didn’t come alive for me until my late 20s. My family was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. We had just begun to experience the true gift of Christian community in action. Military families learn to stick together, and we felt so loved and supported by our community from the Base Chapel. We’d babysit each other’s kids, shovel cars out during New England blizzards, and host each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas when loved ones were deployed. It was through these meaningful friendships that I began to recognize and develop the gifts of the Holy Spirit in myself and all around me. These friendships are still a part of my family’s lives today because “friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them!” (another line from a favorite worship song, by Michael W. Smith!)
So, who is this Holy Spirit and how can we recognize His presence and experience His power in our everyday lives? I know that in my own life, it wasn’t until my good friend and mentor introduced this third person of the Trinity to me in a personal and relational way that I learned how to pray with the Holy Spirit and to recognize His presence in my life. It all started with a talk that a friend gave on a women’s retreat about the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which made it all become alive for me. For the first time in my life, I began praying specifically to the Holy Spirit asking for a greater outpouring of His gifts and fruits in my life. I learned that this simple three-word prayer is as powerful as a novena – “Come, Holy Spirit!” Shortly after I began praying to the Holy Spirit, my entire life took on a deeper meaning and I began to recognize the Spirit alive in me and in others in my life. I began to share more boldly about my faith (courage), wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith (knowledge), began to spend more time in prayer and listen (piety) and then apply that to my everyday life (right judgment and wisdom), tried to put myself in other’s shoes (understanding) and began to appreciate nature and creation like never before in my life (wonder and awe). These are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit conferred upon us in the Sacrament of Confirmation!
So here I am, writing this article for our parish bulletin nearly 30 years later. I am blessed to be able to look back and see what the Holy Spirit has done in my life and in the lives of my family and friends. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that I am entering into my 25th year of catechetical ministry, a precious gift to share my love for our Lord with children, youth and adults and actually get paid to do it! I am one of those few people who can truly say that I love going to work, I love what I do, I love the people I work with, and I love the vocation that God has called me to. Has it always been easy? No, but the presence and power of the Holy Spirit always has guided and directed me to deal with life’s struggles, changes and hardships.
Most importantly, I have seen the power of the Holy Spirit active and alive in my family, friends and ministry. I was blessed to witness the healing power of the Spirit as I went through breast cancer a few years ago – the gentle, kind and loving care I received from healthcare workers was evident like never before. Watching the Holy Spirit call my husband, Ray, to the Permanent Diaconate and witnessing the gifts of knowledge and piety develop powerfully in him, but especially the gift of understanding – this is the gift that has truly come alive in his life. Witnessing the power of the Spirit working through my daughter as she shares our Catholic faith with the high school boys she teaches in Boston, while raising three little children. I witness the power of the Spirit in my sons as they strive to live and share the faith with their wives and children. I witness the Spirit in the dedication and love of the many catechists who respond to the Spirit’s promptings to teach all that Jesus taught us. I see the power of the Spirit when one of the Friars comes in my office and out of the blue says “I heard you need someone to talk to” – only God knew that I was going to ask him for some counsel that day. I witness the promise of the Holy Spirit as I have shared in ministry for these many years with my best friend and colleague, Maria. In all these enduring relationships I hear the scriptural refrain: “I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” (Matthew 28:20)
There is much more to write and share, but I think you get the point. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit is ours for the asking! How do you see the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you ready to experience Him more fully? A simple, three-word prayer – “Come, Holy Spirit!” Ask the Spirit to give you his power and presence in your life and watch what happens! You’ll never be the same – just as the apostles were not the same on the day of that first Pentecost. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witness…” The Holy Spirit has been moving in the lives of believers for more than 2,000 years. How is the Spirit moving in your life? Today, on this Feast of Pentecost, is a good day to reflect on our relationship with the Spirit of the Lord, whom Jesus promised to us and ask Him for a further outpouring of His Gifts and Fruits. Your life will never be the same! “Come, Holy Spirit!”