Veni, Sancte Spiritus

There are days and then there are days. You know the kind I mean. There are the days when we need every ounce of grace just to get through. If one is a praying Christian, those days are saturated with inward groanings directed toward heaven. Why? Because, even under duress, a Christian is aware that something, er, Someone upholds them every day. It is the Lord: "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

In those challenging moments of my life, there is really only one prayer to pray. In fact, it is so simple that that maybe I should pray it every day, so I may be more mindful of the grace He supplies in a personal and direct response to my utterance: "Come, Holy Spirit!"

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

I have friends who are intimate companions. My husband is the dearest and nearest one of all. For years his unselfish love has been sanctifying me and teaching me what it means to give one's life away for the sake of another. I'm also blessed by many devoted family members, friends, kindly neighbors, and a parish community. The upshot being, I've never suffered from lack of support during my times of need. That is not to say I have not suffered. Only that I have rarely suffered for long periods alone. I realize the enormous privilege and depth of that blessing. I also realize that I may yet have to suffer by myself someday. But I trust that I will never suffer alone for I have a greater Friend, an Advocate . . .

You, of comforters the best:
You, the soul's most welcomed guest:
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

I remember being frightened by the dark as a child. Even at my age, I still can get spooked when I walk the dog in the dark. Fear of the unknown and what we cannot see is a common human frailty. But once I came to know Christ, a curious confidence began to pervade my dark moments—a stubborn hope won't let me go, even when I'm feeling skittish.

Years ago I tacked a beautiful reminder from Fr. Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, a 19th-century Dominican preacher, to the door of my office: "All I know of tomorrow is that Providence will rise before the sun." Daily, I must place my trust in something more than myself and my own limited ideas, and look for the Spirit's guidance to illuminate my path. I need to deliberately ask the Spirit to equip me in both word and deed, to be my all in all.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

My friend Jane has a sign up in her house: "We are all just bozos on the bus." It's a public acknowledgement that we all suffer from common vulnerabilities and flaws. And yet, all Christians are called to holiness. Our "bozo-ness" makes up the raw materials that only the Holy Spirit can repurpose and put to good use. It's not an excuse for inaction or irresponsibility on our part. It's a reason to call upon the Holy Spirit yet again.

So it is best to 'fess up: I am the maker of mistakes, I am guilty of sins, and I struggle with my own miseries. Sometimes they leave my heart frosted over, immobilized by what I think is an impenetrable crust . . .

Heal our dryness, pour your dew;
Wash the stain of guilt away;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Once upon a time, as a teenager, I came to accept the love of Jesus for me on its own terms. It was a love beyond all telling, and still is. It changed my life and created a yearning to fall deeper in love with Jesus, as well as compelling me to share his love with others.

This desire to be a follower has never been an easy path. I have to recommit to it, and then recommit again.

Sometimes, even on my best days, I might make a poor witness to this faith. Still I stumble on . . . at times a lover of Jesus, at times a bozo. But whichever one shows up, I'm always hungry to be fed and nurtured by the power of the Holy Spirit, both in my own prayer and, most especially, via the grace found in the sacraments.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord,
Give them joys that never end.

Amen. Alleluia.

Pentecost is one of those very holy days in the life of the Catholic Church. In significance, it ranks right behind Easter and Christmas. You'll hear about it the New Testament as the readings are proclaimed at Mass this Sunday. It universally celebrates the birth of the Church, but it can also be a day of re-birth for us personally.

When you come across this prayer—Veni, Sancte Spiritus—in the Sequence, let me recommend you pray it with a genuine openness, from the heart.

Then watch what kind of day you have. And what kind of life you might have. I will, too.

6/8/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Catholic
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  • Pat Gohn
    About Pat Gohn
    Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press.