Preacher: Holy Spirit Speaks Through Conscience

Father Cantalamessa Delivers 3rd Lenten Homily

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2009  ( The Holy Spirit speaks to a person through his conscience, indicating what is right and wrong, and helps him to make the decisions that correspond to the will of God, says the Papal Household preacher.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa explained in his third Lenten meditation that on reading the Scriptures we can discover how the Holy Spirit guides believers in a twofold manner: on one hand, through their conscience and, on the other, through the magisterium of the Church.

The preacher delivered the sermon today to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia in the Vatican’s «Redemptoris Mater» Chapel. It was titled «All Who Are Guided by the Spirit of God Are Sons of God.»

Father Cantalamessa stressed that the Holy Spirit is not only the one who guides us «to the fullness of truth,» according to the words of John the Evangelist, but is also the «interior teacher,» as St. Paul describes him. «He does not just say what should be done, rather he also gives the capacity to do what he commands.»

The Capuchin explained that conscience is the ambit where the Holy Spirit exercises his function.

«Through this ‘organ,’ the guidance of the Holy Spirit goes beyond the Church, to all people,» specified the preacher.

Reasons of the heart

«In this personal and intimate realm of the conscience, the Holy Spirit instructs us with ‘good inspirations,’ or ‘interior lights,'» he continued, and stimulates us «to follow the good and avoid evil, attractions and inclinations of the heart that cannot be naturally explained, because they are often contrary to the direction that nature would want to take.»

However, the Holy Spirit also guides believers through the magisterium of the Church, Father Cantalamessa said.

«It is just as deadly to try to forego either of the two guides of the Spirit,» warned the preacher. «When the interior testimony is neglected, we easily fall into legalism and authoritarianism; when the exterior, apostolic testimony is neglected, we fall into subjectivism and fanaticism.

«When everything is reduced to just the personal, private listening to the Spirit, the path is opened to an unstoppable process of division and subdivision, because everyone believe they are right.»

«We should recognize however that there is also the opposite risk,» he noted, «that of making the external and public testimony of the Spirit absolute, ignoring the internal testimony that works through the conscience enlightened by grace.»

«It is the ideal of a healthy harmony between listening to what the Spirit says to me, as an individual, and what he says to the Church as a whole and through the Church to individuals,» said Father Cantalamessa.

Two goods

The preacher ended by explaining St. Ignatius of Loyola’s doctrine on discernment, which seeks to help the believer to choose «between a good and another good.»

Father Cantalamessa explained that sometimes «it is about seeing which one is what God wants, in a given situation. It was primarily to respond to this demand that St. Ignatius of Loyola developed his doctrine on discernment. He invites us to look at one thing above all: our own interior dispositions, the intentions (the ‘spirits’) that are behind a decision.»

The preacher summarized the method of St. Ignatius: «When we are faced with two possible choices, it is useful to first consider one of them, as if we must follow it, and to stay in that state for a day or more; then we should evaluate how our heart reacts to that choice: Is there peace, harmony with the rest of our own decisions; is there something inside of you that encourages you in that direction, or on the contrary has it left a haze of restlessness… Then repeat the process with the second hypothesis. All this should be done in an atmosphere of prayer, abandonment to God’s will, and openness to the Holy Spirit.»

«The most favorable condition for making a good discernment is the habitual interior disposition to do God’s will in every situation,» Father Cantalamessa noted.

«Like talented actors,» he added «we should tend our ear toward the voice of the prompter that is hidden, so we can faithfully recite our part in the scene of life. It is easier than we think, because our prompter speaks to us from the inside, he teaches us all things, he instructs us in everything. It is enough to just give an interior glance, a movement of our heart, a prayer.»

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