Veni Sancte Spiritus

The Holy Spirit is the movement of God in the world—prompting us, speaking to us, opening doors for us

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Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register:

“I am He whom Thou seekest!”

The great English poet, Francis Thompson, wrote that famous line in 1893, in a poem about the Lord’s great love for us and how He is in constant pursuit of our love in return. The poem is called: The Hound of Heaven and it describes a love—God’s love—that knows no bounds. A love that is relentless. A love that pursues us—that pursues our love—no matter how far we might run from the Lord. 

The Hound of Heaven is a stunning poem. It bespeaks a God who will forsake all else to pursue his beloved, to seek out his lost sheep. And it has led hundreds of souls to surrender to themselves to love of God—including the Servant of God, Dorothy Day, who converted to the Catholic Church after hearing the poem recited, and she never forgot it.

The Hound of Heaven describes the Holy Spirit, who we celebrate in a particular way this Sunday at Pentecost. The letter to the Romans says that Holy Spirit comes “to the aid of our weakness,” drawing us into a life in Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts records the Spirit descending upon the early Church as tongues of flame—setting hearts on fire, and setting the world on fire for Jesus Christ.  In fact, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to draw men and women into relationship with him—to move in their hearts, by grace, in order to bring them to life in Christ Jesus.

St. Augustine famously recalls the Holy Spirit moving in his heart to draw him to life in Christ—ultimately speaking to him, instructing to take up the Gospel and to read it – tolle lege! In my life, I know the Holy Spirit prompted me to the curious restlessness that first led me to seek God, and to the courage to follow after Christ with all my life.

The Holy Spirit is the movement of God in the world—prompting us, speaking to us, opening doors for us—all so that we might come to know, love, and serve God the Father. 

Paragraph 737 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, “the Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may ‘bear much fruit.’”</p>

We can know the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the words of Sacred Scriptures, words that were inspired by that same Spirit. We can know the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the Magisterium, which is guided and protected by him. We can know the Holy Spirit in the liturgy, where he draws us into the fellowship of the Trinity. And, we know the Holy Spirit as he speaks in our lives—calling us, prompting us, speaking to us—to know Christ, and to bring others to him. 

The Holy Spirit is the promise that the Church will never be abandoned, never left orphaned—that God will always be with us. And that the Holy Spirit, the Hound of Heaven, will always pursue us and find us and proclaim God’s love: “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest” says the Hound of Heaven, “I am He whom thou seekest!”

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