Leave Room for the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit - dove

When I sat down earlier this month to think about my New Year’s resolutions, I wrote three columns: Mind, Body, and Spirit. As I was contemplating my Spirit column, I kept remembering Pope Francis’s frequent admonitions to leave room for the Holy Spirit. While I did want to include this in my list of resolutions, I struggled with how to fit this concept into the column. I’m accustomed to listing specific, concrete, and quantifiable actions like, “I will pray the Examen every night,” or, “I will help at the food pantry twice each month.” I just couldn’t nail down the specifics of, “I will leave room for the Holy Spirit.” How would one quantify this? What are the steps one would take to accomplish this? How could I fit the Holy Spirit into the box?

Fortunately, Pope Francis has shared his wisdom about this very dilemma:

Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program, and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision…The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit?

Pope Francis makes me want to tweak my list. Who can say no to fulfillment, true joy, true serenity, and “God’s surprises”?

If we are going to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, it’s not just about listing quantifiable actions. The spiritual life is a relationship between God and us—God loving us, God calling us, and God waiting for us to respond to God’s invitation. When we leave room for the Holy Spirit, we say yes to being an active listener to God’s whispers in our heart. We say yes to seeing with the eyes of the heart as we witness God’s love displayed for us throughout the day in countless small ways. We say yes to the grace of the Spirit that allows that complete surrender of which St. Ignatius speaks in the Suscipe and the First Principle and Foundation. And we say yes to responsiveness, openness, and flexibility to the unpredictable stirrings of the Spirit—the Spirit which brings surprises that are greater than we could ever plan or imagine. The Holy Spirit just doesn’t fit in a box.

Fr. Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit martyr of the Holocaust, learned to abandon himself fully to the Spirit during his last months in a Gestapo prison. In his last writings, Delp called upon the Holy Spirit to fix a world seemingly beyond repair and advised his parishioners that: “Man facing the Ultimate, must be someone in a state of being shaken, with an alert, awakened heart that does not freeze up, does not become weary, or cramped, or deadened, but sees things as they are.” (Advent of the Heart, 92)

This year, I have resolved to pray for the grace to be the kind of person of whom Fr. Delp speaks—a person “in a state of being shaken, with an alert, awakened heart that does not freeze up.” And I think it’s a good year to welcome that fulfilment, true joy, and true serenity, and God’s surprises of which Pope Francis speaks. I want the kind of heart that is responsive to the whispers of the Spirit, a “Yes-Lord-I-am-listening” kind of heart. And, for that kind of heart, I need to leave room for the Holy Spirit.

About Rebecca Ruiz 23 Articles
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has worked as an ethnomusicologist, composer, and writer, in academia, and, for the past 14 years, in domestic refugee resettlement in the Diocese of Arlington, VA. She and her husband have two children and live in the Washington, DC metro area. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”
Contact: Website

14 Comments on Leave Room for the Holy Spirit

  1. Thank you for this, Rebecca. I’ve just returned from a 6-day retreat at St Beuno’s in Wales and I hope to find a way to hold on to the feeling of closeness to God that silence brings. These thoughts are very helpful.

    • Dear Anne,
      Sounds like a wonderful retreat! Yes, I often find holding onto that feeling of closeness a challenge after a retreat too. It can be hard to keep listening as closely when leaving the quiet environment of a retreat house and returning to the busy-ness of daily life. I think that’s one of the reasons why I find Pope Francis’ challenge to continual openness to the “God’s Surprises” through the Holy Spirit in our day-to-day life so exciting!

    • Thank you, Deirdre. Yes, Pope Francis’ and Fr. Delp’s words are challenging – seems to be a challenge worth taking on though!

  2. I am working on a year-long program for myself to “make room for the Holy Spirit.” I am modeling it after a program I led at our parish prepared by Fr. Jeff Kirby, of the Diocese of Charleston, “Doors of Mercy.” Hope to have it all in place this month so I can dedicate each month in 2017 to some aspect of the Holy Spirit, His gifts, His fruits, art work, music, readings, theology. I should have started sooner. Maybe I won’t get it all together, but if not, I’ll use it during 2018. I’m not as talented as those who put together Fr. Kirby’s program, but it’s a great exercise for me personally.

  3. Rebecca, many thanks for your thoughtful reflection which has given me pause to look for ways to “be shaken with an alert, awakened heart that does not freeze up.” You have thawed portions of my heart and brain by your kind and insightful piece.

    • Thank you, Barry. Fr. Delp’s words are so poignant. Great quote to put up on the wall to remind ourselves of this whole year!

  4. So true,we need to open up and let go ourselves n allow the holy spirit to take charge.The19th annotation retreat cleanses us n our true self is opened.Thanks to Ignation Spirituality.

  5. Such a timely piece! Thank you for your thoughts. I read and re-read it this morning, and will keep Fr. Delp’s quote as part of my morning prayer to remind me daily of how much I need the Holy Spirit. Yes, Lord, I am listening.

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