THE PRIEST, THE JUBILEE, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Fr Thomas McGovern
Recovery of devotion to the Holy Spirit among the faithful presents a real challenge to priests. It implies a lot of preparation at the pastoral level. It demands that we open up horizons on the role of the Paraclete in the Church, and the part he plays in our personal sanctification. It is an invitation to encourage people embark on the spiritual adventure of discovering 'the Great Stranger', helping them realize how he can truly become the 'Great Friend' of their souls.
However, before we can do this effectively, as priests we need to discover for ourselves the great richness of devotion to the Holy Spirit, and become more conscious of our role as his special instruments to sanctify souls. In this article I hope to review some of the main theological and ascetical elements which might help the priest grow in personal friendship with the Paraclete, and, as a consequence, promote more effectively what the Holy Father asks us to do.
Theology of the Holy Spirit
St Augustine, following St Ambrose, describes the Holy Spirit as the common bond between the Father and Son.  But it was the Fathers of the East, especially St Basil and St Gregory Nazianzen, who created a theology which paved the way for the definition of the divinity of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
As the outpouring of the substantial love of the Father and Son, he is symbolized by the mighty wind which shook the foundations of the Cenacle in Jerusalem, and the tongues of fire which descended on our Lady and the apostles at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-4). This is why Christ compares him to a torrent of living water (cf. Jn 7:38), and why we call him 'the Lord and Giver of life'. While Scripture and theology variously refer to the power and energy of the Holy Spirit's action, this is not a violent or restless movement, but one that has all the tranquillity of a love which eternally possesses and enjoys the object of its love. 
Because the Holy Spirit has also the character of donatio, or gift, in his eternal relationship to the Father and Son, he is also regarded by the Church as a gift to men. Under this advocation Scripture refers to the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit, bestowed on the children of God (cf. Is 11:2-3), gifts, which St Thomas Aquinas tells us, are necessary to acquire the supernatural habits to respond to our baptismal vocation to holiness. 
Together with the theological and the infused moral virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit complete God's supernatural endowment of the human soul. The Holy Spirit is God's first gift to us because it is the very love by which God loves himself and loves us. From this first gift proceeds all God's other gifts to his creatures, both in the supernatural and natural orders.
The existence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is known to us from Scripture, especially through the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 11:1-3). While this text is clearly messianic, its application has been extended to all the faithful by the Fathers and the liturgy of the Church, as for example in the Sequence for the Mass of Pentecost and the prayer of conferring of the sacrament of Confirmation.
St Thomas, analyzing the gifts, tells us that they are habits or dispositions of the soul rather than actual graces, which facilitate the action of the Holy Spirit. Their purpose, like that of the infused virtues, is the sanctification of man.  They are not exceptional charisms, but are given with sanctifying grace. They form part of the supernatural organism, perfect the infused virtues, and are necessary for salvation. 
Space does not allow a review of this sevenfold endowment of the human soul by the Holy Spirit, which has such important consequences for our friendship with God. Let us, however, look briefly at the gift of understanding to see something of the wonder of the Paraclete's action within us. This is described as 'a supernatural habit, infused in the soul with sanctifying grace, by which the human intellect, under the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, is made apt for a penetrating intuition of revealed truths, and even for natural truths, so far as they are related to the supernatural end'.  St Thomas points out different ways in which this gift perfects the virtue of faith in us:
Consequently one of the principal effects of the gift of understanding is to give faith an exceptional depth in the soul. It is easy to see the importance of such a gift for our own personal sanctification, as well as for our work as priests.
Joint Mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit
In their joint mission to humanity the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. Referring to the classical Pauline text - 'God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father"' (Gal 4:6) - John Paul II, at the very beginning of his Apostolic Letter on the Jubilee Year, points out that the mission of Christ is continued in the mission of the Holy Spirit. The action of the Paraclete is expressed under different symbols as, for example, water (Baptism), anointing (Confirmation), fire (signifying the transforming action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), light and shadow (in the Incarnation and Transfiguration), and seal (symbol of anointing in Orders). 
While it was only after the revelation of Christ that the personal identity of the Spirit became known, at the same time we find the Paraclete prefigured in the Old Testament under different symbols -in the work of creation, speaking through the prophets, in the theophanies and the Law, in the expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit, especially in the prophet Isaiah. We see the action of the Holy Spirit illustrated in a special way in the life of John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. But it is with the coming of Christ that the revelation of the Holy Spirit takes place, and this only in a complete way after the completion of the Paschal Mystery. Then the Spirit of Truth is sent by the Father in a permanent way in answer to the prayer of Jesus.
Mission of the Holy Spirit
The mission of the Holy Spirit is best summed up in the Vatican II constitution on the Church:
Through his action in our souls we are fashioned to the image of Christ.  We are, as St Paul tells us, signed with the seal of the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 1:13) in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and, as priests, in the sacrament of Orders. In summary, the great work of the Holy Spirit is to make us love God as a Father with the confidence of children. We thus learn to accept all the events of our lives, even the contradictions, as coming from the hands of a loving Father who cares about every detail of our existence. 
St Paul reminds us that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit man cannot attain to supernatural truth (cf. 1 Cor 2:14). To live a life of faith we need the light of the Paraclete. This faith begins with the infusion of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. It is developed through the example of parents and the catechetical instruction of schooldays. These and other experiences bring home to us in a progressive way the deeper implications of the teaching of Christ, establishing in us a real communication with the content of the faith so that we make it the rule and guide of our lives.
In this sense the Paraclete is the principle of growth in supernatural life, causing us to love the objects of our faith - Jesus Christ, his Blessed Mother, his Vicar on earth, the Church and her sacraments. Our souls are assimilated to these loves, and in turn reflect them under the action of the Holy Spirit. Truths dimly grasped by the intellect become the driving force of our lives.
Holy Spirit in the Church
Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit becomes the soul of the Church, giving effect to the merits of Christ's redemption in his Mystical Body. 'The Body of Christ', St Augustine affirms, 'is animated by the Spirit of Christ'.  He is the principle of divine life in each one of us as members, as well as in the Body which we constitute. Therefore, in spite of all the human vicissitudes that afflict the Church, we can have no doubt that she is permanently assisted by the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:16), and guided into all truth by his special assistance (cf. Jn 16:13).
Since the Holy Spirit resides in the priesthood in a special way, we are the instruments by which the same Spirit wishes to guide the Church to holiness. To us is entrusted the pastoral mission of channeling Christ's merits through the sacraments, and particularly through the sacrifice of the Mass.
Catholic tradition has always seen the Paraclete at work in a unique way in the Holy Mass, where the priest renews Christ's sacrifice of Calvary. 'By the power of the Holy Spirit', writes St John Damascene, 'the transformation of the bread into the Body of Christ takes place'.  As Scheeben tells us, 'under the veil of the sacramental species the Holy Spirit re-enacts the miracle that he once wrought in the womb of Mary, and again in the darkness of the sepulcher'.  According to the ancient liturgies, the Eucharistic act of sacrifice is effected by the fire of the Holy Spirit, when the priest invokes the divine blessing on the offerings in the epiclesis. Being the instruments of such a profound and mysterious action, unless we as priests are striving to grow in friendship with the Paraclete, there is always the danger of falling into the trap of routine at the altar and in the rest of our pastoral duties.
Pastoral Ministry and Spiritual Life
At the Last Supper Christ explained the role and the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the apostles and his future priests. The Comforter will make the teaching of the Master clear to them, recalling what he had preached over the previous three years, gradually leading them into the fullness of truth (cf Jn 14:26; 16:13), because he is the Spirit of truth (cf Jn 14:17). They will be persecuted for their loyalty to Christ, but they will not lack the friendship and consolation of the Paraclete (cf Jn 15:20-26). The Holy Spirit will, from day to day, make clear to the priest new dimensions of the meaning of Christ's life as he attends to the multiple demands of his pastoral work. He will learn how to find Jesus in the most material, the most insignificant duties of each day, and how to give to all of them a redemptive value.
The priest needs to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in his meditation if he is to follow the thrust of grace and appropriate the inspirations that will lead him to a more intimate friendship with Christ, and a more effective pastoral activity. Because of increased bureaucracy, activism is a real danger for the priest today. However, if his plan of work is nurtured in prayer he will learn to identify the intimations of the Paraclete active in his soul, helping him establish the pastoral priorities of each day.
But we can never forget that the Consoler comes to us as the fruit of the Cross:
A generous response to the contradictions of each day, the effort to be patient and kind with people we find boring or annoying, accepting disappointments cheerfully - all this is a most fruitful means to acquire a more intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit.
Although the Sanctifier urges us to climb higher each day along the path of love of Christ, we will always encounter the obstacles created by our over-attachment to the things of this world. We are still fragile, earthenware vessels, and the sublime gift of the priesthood, which has been deposited in us, does not eliminate the threefold concupiscence identified by St John - the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (cf 1 Jn 2:16). What the action of the Holy Spirit does is to make the priest more conscious of sin, of the conflict between good and evil within himself, so graphically described by St Paul (cf. Rom 7:14-24). The consciousness of this interior spiritual conflict is not a neurosis, but a characteristic of the life of every priest sincerely striving for holiness. Because the soul of the priest is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of the bishop's hands, he is enriched with graces and special powers which bring about a specific identification with Christ, if he is faithful to the demands of the daily quest for holiness.
By their prayer with Mary in the Cenacle, the apostles made themselves worthy to receive the Spirit. For us, too, personal prayer is what creates the space and the dispositions to be receptive to the action of the Paraclete in our souls. St Paul develops this profound thought in his letter to the Romans: 'For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words' (Rom 8:26). Thus the Holy Spirit not only enables us to pray, but also guides our prayer from within, and, as a consequence, the Church perseveres in prayer.
Docility to the Holy Spirit
As Blessed Josemaría Escrivá has pointed out, Christian tradition had summarized the attitude we should adopt to the Holy Spirit in one word: docility.  So important is this attitude that the Holy Father talks of 'that new springtime of Christian life which will be revealed by the Great Jubilee, if Christians are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit'.
What does this attitude of docility imply? It means that we should be conscious of the action of the Sanctifier in our own souls and follow his inspirations promptly. It involves recognizing his presence in people and in institutions, and learning to appreciate the gifts he distributes. As such, we read in the hymn Veni, Sancte Spiritus, he is the light of hearts, the comforter, and father of the poor. He heals the wounds of our souls, washes away the stains of our guilt, and renews our spiritual strength.
If we are to follow his inspirations seriously, as priests we need the help of regular spiritual guidance. Otherwise we run the risk of failing to use those graces which are essential for effective evangelization. Could not the limited fruitfulness of our pastoral efforts at times be due in part to our lack of a prudent spiritual guide to channel effectively the action of the Holy Spirit in our priesthood? Spiritual direction facilitates this docility in that it helps us to crystallize practical resolutions which will allow the Sanctifier transform us into other Christs.
The Holy Spirit finds a welcoming repose in the souls of those who allow themselves be guided by his inspirations. This is why, the Curé of Ars tells us, so many unlettered and simple people are wiser than the learned. The Paraclete is light and strength and, guided by him, one cannot go astray. The Curé's life was surely a shining confirmation of this profound truth. 'With the Holy Spirit', he continues, 'we see everything in its true proportions; we see the greatness of the least actions done for God, and the greatness of the least faults'. So 'if we are not led by the Holy Spirit, we labor in vain, and there is no substance, no savor in anything we do'. On the other hand, he maintains that, if the saints were asked why they were in heaven, they would reply, 'For having listened to the Holy Spirit'. 
Preaching and Evangelization
Since Vatican II especially, priests have been encouraged to nourish their preaching by deep reflection on the Scriptures. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the written word of God allows the priest to penetrate deeply into the mystery of Jesus Christ. Daily meditation on the Gospel gives coherence to his preaching, thus allowing him effectively to apply the teaching of Christ to the needs of people. The priest who immerses himself in the inspired word will not shy away from the 'hard sayings' of Christ's moral teaching, but will draw from Scripture the necessary light and fortitude to present souls with the integral demands of the Gospel, with all its challenges, as well as opening up the immense resources of grace that are available to them. In this way he prepares them for an authentic conversation
Do we aspire to the same dispositions when preaching as those which motivated St Paul? 'My speech and my message', he tells the primitive Christian community in Corinth, 'were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power' (1 Cor 2:4). Certainly the priest should try to cultivate a positive style, seasoned with lively examples. But he should never forget that the power of his preaching depends primarily on the action of the Holy Spirit, evincing a response in individual souls. His preparation should therefore include a prayer to the Paraclete not only to guide his thoughts so that he be a good instrument, but also to make fertile the ground in which his words fall. The Curé of Ars moved the hardest of hearts to repentance and tears, not by his eloquence but by his holiness of life - the fact that he allowed himself to be totally appropriated by the Holy Spirit.
The victory of Christ over sin and death is revealed in all its divine splendor with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The apostles, timid men up to then, were now filled with the strength of the Paraclete, and their minds were opened to understanding the Scriptures and the teaching of Christ in a new light. With a new-found fortitude they launched out into preaching Christ and his resurrection from the dead. The hearts of their listeners were so moved that they repented and embraced the faith. That very day three thousand were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:37-41). This powerful activity of the Sanctifier in the souls of the first generation of Christians is evident on every page of the Acts of the Apostles.
But the Holy Spirit doesn't just belong to this unique period of Church history. Faithful to Christ's promise he is always active in the Mystical Body of Christ. 'I will ask the Father', he told his disciples, 'and he will give you another Paraclete to dwell with you forever' (Jn 14:16). This presence is attested to by the growth and expansion of the Church down through the centuries, by the fruitful signs of apostolate and missionary activity, by the witness of the saints, by the heroic fidelity of her martyrs in every age, not least in our own twentieth century,  by the constant flourishing of new spiritual families within the Church, and, more recently, by the renewal of the universal call to holiness.  Despite the presence of weakness and infidelity, these initiatives and developments are a constant witness to the action of the Holy Spirit, inspiring institutions and individual souls to recover once again the fullness and the novelty of Christ's saving truth.
The Holy Spirit and Sin
The same Holy Spirit, who is the Sanctifier, communicates the merits of the Redemption in a special way through the Catholic priesthood. This was uniquely evident on the first Easter evening. To the great joy of the disciples Christ appeared to them in the Upper Room and greeted them with the words 'Peace be with you'. 'Receive the Holy Spirit', he told them, and then, breathing on them, invested them with an incredible power: 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' (Jn 20:21-23). The forgiveness of sins is an immediate consequence of the gift of the Spirit by Christ to his priests. 'This', John Paul II points out, 'is one of the most awe-inspiring innovations of the Gospel'. 
In a world that is in danger of losing the very sense of sin, the Holy Spirit makes plain to us its essentially offensive nature. As Christ explained at the Last Supper, 'it will be for him to prove the world wrong about sin' (Jn 16:8); it is no longer a question of merely breaking a law; it is to reject the love of our Father God; it is to crucify Christ again.  The priest is not immune from being influenced by this loss of the sense of sin, which is perhaps reflected at times in our limited availability for confession. Yet for the priest,
Because one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to a deeper understanding of the Cross, it follows that priests should have a profound sense of reparation; reparation for their own sins and those of the people entrusted to their care. This is also a logical consequence of our role as mediators. How often do we pray 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Lk 23:34)? By prayer such as this we will merit the effective action of the Holy Spirit in people to inspire them to contrition and a return to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
We need a deeper appreciation of the role of the Holy Spirit in souls if we are going to draw more people to share the joy of forgiveness in confession. John Paul II helps us to do this by his extensive commentary on those enigmatic words of Christ: 'He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment' (Jn 16:8). No one but the Holy Spirit can convince man, or the human conscience, that the victory over sin was achieved by the greatest sin of all, the sin of Deicide, the killing of the Man-God on the Cross. Without reference to Calvary man is ignorant of the mystery of evil attached to sin (cf. 2 Thes 2:7). 
Man can reject the action of the Holy Spirit through the loss of the sense of sin and remain impenitent. John Paul II points out that this resistance in the internal forum of conscience also takes on an external dimension in society as philosophies of materialism or death. And, in contemporary society, abortion is perhaps the darkest sign of this culture of death.
These are different forms of enslavement, and it is the work if the Holy Spirit to lead man back from this denial of his true purpose, and to experience once more 'the freedom of the children of God', because 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (2 Cor 3:17). Thus the priest, through the work of the confessional, has the power to restore to man the greatest freedom of all - liberation from sin.
The whole Christian life is in fact 'like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the "prodigal son" (Lk 15:11-32), we discover anew each day'. When this pilgrimage takes place in the heart of each individual, it extends to the whole of the believing community. John Paul II urges us to make our preparation for the great Jubilee
Here we have the foundations, not only for an effective programme of evangelization, but also for a deep renewal of the life of Christ in ourselves, and in the souls of those entrusted to our care as we approach the year 2000.
John Paul II's 1982 Holy Thursday Letter to priests took the form of a prayer to Christ to reinforce the action of the Holy Spirit in his ministers.  We will conclude our considerations by drawing on some of the thoughts in this letter.
The Holy Father prays that we would persevere in giving thanks for the unmerited gift of the priesthood and be strengthened in our fidelity to it. He asks that we would avoid grieving the Spirit (cf. Eph 4:30) by our lack of faith or reluctance to witness to the Gospel, by any tendency to conform to this world, or by any desire to hide our priesthood and the external signs of it. His petition is that, in spite of our unworthiness, our hearts would be filled with hope 'through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' (Rom 5:5), and that our priesthood would be renewed through the power of the Sanctifier.
We need to reflect on these words of the Vicar of Christ so that our appreciation of the 'gift and mystery' of the priesthood take deep root in our souls. The ministry of John Paul II is surely one of the great blessings of the Holy Spirit for our time, and an enduring example of how to prepare through evangelization and conversion for the great Jubilee ahead.
1. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 44, published 10 November 1994.
2. Cf. ibid., no.45.
3. Cf. De Trinitate, 15, 19.
4. Nicene Creed.
5. Cf. Matthias J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, London, 1961, pp.99-131.
6. Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, 68, 2.
7. Cf. ibid., I-II, 68, 3.
8. Cf. Jordan Aumann, OP, Spiritual Theology, London, 1995, pp.88-98.
9. Cf. ibid., pp.251-2. Chapters 10 and 11 of Aumann contain a very insightful and practical discussion of the relationship between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological and moral virtues.
10. Cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, 8, 1.
11. Cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, 1.
12. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 694-701.
13. Lumen gentium, 4.
14. Cf. Summa Theologiae III, 23, 2, ad 3.
15. Cf. Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, Dublin, 1982, no. 64.
16. Cf. Scheeben, op. cit., p.394.
17. De fide orthodoxa, 13: PG 94, 1139.
18. Scheeben, op. cit., p.509.
19. Cf. Escrivá, op. cit., no.137.
20. Cf. ibid., no.130.
21. Cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, 18 (italics in the original).
22. Sequence for the Mass of Pentecost Sunday.
23. Cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, 12.
24. From 'Catechism on the Holy Spirit', as published in Thoughts of the Curé D'Ars, Rockford Ill., 1984.
25. Cf. constitution on divine revelation, Dei verbum, 25. John Paul II reminds us that 'Christians should turn with renewed interest to the Bible' in preparation for the Jubilee (Tertio millennio adveniente, 40).
26. Cf. John Paul II, Address 21 April 1993, 'Priests: Preachers of the Gospel' in Priesthood in the Third Millennium, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, 1994, pp.25-31.
27. 'At the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs. The persecutions of believers - priests, Religious and laity - has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world. The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, as Paul VI pointed out in his homily for the canonization of the Ugandan martyrs. This witness must not be forgotten' (Tertio millennio adveniente, 37).
28. Cf. Lumen gentium, 39-42.
29. Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 29 (2 December 1984).
30. Cf. ibid., no.18.
31. Pope John Paul II, Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination, London 1996, p.86.
32. Cf. Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, 31 (18 May 1986).
33. Cf. ibid., no.57. See also the encyclical Evangelium vitae, 4, 11 (25 March 1995).
34. Tertio millennio adveniente, 49.
35. 25 March 1982, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 5 April 1982.
Section Contents Copyright ©; Fr Thomas McGovern 1997-2000
This version: 17th January 2003