The Holy Spirit, our “Advocate” (Jn 14:26), is the Director of all directors, who guides our life’s formation as a whole. The Spirit breathes courage in us when we feel powerless; bestows peace on us when we feel afflicted; and restores hope when we are beset by doubt and despair. When we cannot pray as we ought, the Spirit “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26), filling our hearts and enkindling in us the fire of love that releases us from enslavement to sin.
Only the Spirit can empty our wayward hearts of impurity, strife, jealousy, anger, and dissension and grant us the lasting fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
We attribute to the Spirit’s healing power those times when confusion and chaos reign in our inner life and in the world. The Spirit helps us to comprehend the deep thoughts of God (Isa 55:8) and to experience the power of sacred words to touch and transform our lives.
Many are the times when we pray for the strength to surrender to the Father’s will as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. We enter these midnight moments of life anxious and afraid, but the Spirit assures us that we are not alone. God’s grace sustains and comforts us. Once the Spirit inspires us to say yes to the Father, as Jesus did, we know there is no need to fear the unknown.
An awesome example of the Spirit’s leading occurred in the life of Edith Stein (1891-1942), St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. When she read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she knew that she was in the presence of truth. She converted from Judaism to the Catholic faith in 1922, twenty years before her death in Auschwitz.
The Spirit revealed to Edith that nothing is accidental and that her entire life—even its most minute details—fell under the canopy of Divine Providence that would one day be unveiled to her in all its splendor. In the words of Scripture, she received “the seal of the promised Holy Spirit…the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14).
Having entrusted her nothingness to God, she saw in retrospect that every aspect of her past, good or bad, was an important link in the chain that brought her to a deeper acceptance of the mystery of the Cross. Before her final testament to grace, she came to the conclusion that it was only through embracing her suffering in the spirit of Christ’s atonement for the sins of humanity that she could become a full partner in the pattern of salvation history revealed by his death and resurrection.
Despite the dangers surrounding her, Edith did not succumb to fear. Rather she set her sights on the faith that sustained her. When the Gestapo arrived at the Carmelite convent in Echt, Holland, Edith took her sister Rosa, who was also in residence there as an extern nun, by the hand and said to her, “Come, Rosa. Let us go for our people.”
In his homily at her canonization Mass on October 11, 1998, St. John Paul II said: “Her faith included a true spiritual sharing in the vocation of the children of Abraham.” Teacher, philosopher, loving daughter, convert, cloistered nun, prolific author, martyr, saint—Edith
expressed from the fullness of her Carmelite spirit that only when we abandon ourselves to the incomprehensible God are we ready to see pathways to spiritual renewal in the richness of the ordinary.
Thanks to our being temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16), we can attend in awe-filled abiding to the “still small voice” in the core of our being. Daily life, in dialogue with divinely inspired lights and insights, enables us to remain faithful to Christ under all circumstances.
To prepare our minds and hearts for the coming of the Spirit, we must banish our attachment to whatever separates us from listening to God’s will. By freeing our memory from useless worry, we come to accept the revelation that God wants us to worship him “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
Though death was a forbidden topic of conversation in the household where she grew up, Edith developed an empathic attitude to this inevitable passage from time to eternity. By no means did she believe in suffering for its own sake. The Holy Spirit taught her, as he teaches us, that love flowing from the Cross overcomes all lovelessness and turns the darkest of nights into the dawning of an eternal Sabbath.