About ten years ago I was going through a rough time, the kind of struggle when you’re not sure what to do, who to ask for advice, if the problems will ever end, if you have the strength or virtue or courage to take that next best step. I remember the day I sat in chapel thinking, “You know what I need? What I REALLY need? Wisdom. I need some good counsel and the knowledge of what is right. And I need courage in spades right now.”
Midway through my rather impassioned prayer for these extraordinary graces, I stopped. I suddenly realized I was asking for what I already had. I was asking for gifts that had been given to me years ago: the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I felt a bit foolish, but it was also for me one of those life-changing Aha! moments. God wants me to have these gifts and he made sure they were already there for me. So why did I think they weren’t there? Why did I believe I was missing these vital gifts that would help me through life’s rough times?
Well, to put it simply, it is because the Holy Spirit is a very polite Guest and I hadn’t been a very good hostess. I had quite ignored the Spirit to my own detriment. I had spent years working hard and trying my best. Yet I always, always felt disappointingly inadequate. I wasn’t the strong woman I had set out to be or the apostle on fire I had dreamt of becoming. And now, in a moment of crisis, I found my hands empty.
If I felt like I had missed the fire of Pentecost and those lavish gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was my own fault because I had been given all of the gifts I was praying for. I received all seven when I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Right? That’s what we learned in catechism class. So what happened?
What if you are given seeds of rare and beautiful flowers, but then don’t bother to water them? If you are given the crown jewels but then don’t bother to wear them? If you are given the most exquisite bridal gown, but then insist on wearing your work clothes to the wedding? The seeds will dry up, someone else will inherit the jewels, and well…you won’t be the bride, will you?
So I decided to start by being the persistent widow in the Gospel and find a way to ask for an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. True, it was more out of desperation, but it counts! I made myself a chaplet to pray for each of the gifts three times. And I prayed it over and over again. It was like tilling the soil of my own heart, but it worked. Or rather, I should say the Holy Spirit worked!
Now I know that what I need, even in the most desperate moments, will always be there. I don’t wait for the Novena of Pentecost to pray to the Holy Spirit. I bother him all day long. I am absolutely certain that the Holy Spirit doesn’t mind. He knows I need these gifts to strengthen me for the long haul. It just took that really hard time in my life that couldn’t be avoided to finally open my eyes to the Helper, the Consoler, the Counselor who actually lived right in the Temple of my own Heart. The Sweet Guest who was just waiting to be asked.
I added a Marian flavor to the chaplet by ending it with the Angelus. A reminder of Our Lady’s open and willing heart, and a call for me, by every choice I make, to be like her, right here, right now: pure capacity for God, absolute YES to the direction of his Holy Spirit.
Sr Julia Mary Darrenkamp, FSP