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.
I am so grateful for reflects & the responds of other readers. It is so encouraging to read of the vast activity of the Holy Spirit. I too pray that my heart can become increasingly more alert, shaken & be frozen to the Presence of the Spirit. May you continue to share your gifts with all of us. MaryAnn
Rebecca, Thank you. Every morning I pray “Lord fill me with your Holy Spirit and go thru me and out to everyone I meet today”.
Next month we are embarking on a journey with the Holy Spirit. This is our response to Pope Francis’ invitation to leave the noise and be silent with God.
A Spirit-filled New Year to you and all you dearly love.
I appreciate very much this suggestion of leaving room for the Holy Spirit. I pray this way every night but, at times, I rush along on my own agenda. The Suscipe is one of my morning prayers. I long to live totally as God wills. Blessings to all as we endeavour to do God’s will.
Thank you Rebecca, I was searching my heart this new year for this very thing. You placed into words I was able to embrace and hold deeply in my heart while reading. My 2018 journal now envelopes a treasure of how I can leave room for the Holy Spirit each day and all I do. I want so badly to live for God’s will and for the His Devine grace to fill my heart.
Thank you again and may the Peace of Christ surround you and your family throughout the year
Loved this meditation because sometimes I have been surprised by the Holy Spirit. I pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout the new year.
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.
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.
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!
Rebecca, thank you for writing this, much food for thought and prayer.
Thank you. I hope you will become more aware of God’s surprises for you every day through your prayer.
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.
Wow! That sounds really wonderful! Prayers for you as you embark on this endeavor.
Very helpful and challenging. Thank you.
Thank you, Deirdre. Yes, Pope Francis’ and Fr. Delp’s words are challenging – seems to be a challenge worth taking on though!
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.
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!
Very inspirational food for the soul.
Thank you, Thomas.