…and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and we shall be re-created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
This is an ancient prayer, based in part on Psalm 104 (this weekend’s Responsorial) and in part on an ancient (8th century!) hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus. This hymn was sung most recently in our Cathedral during the ordinations of our three transitional deacons (including our Gabe Mills!) and our one priest, Patrick Gilbreath. In it we beg the power and presence of the Holy Spirit—both in our Church and in our own hearts and lives. By implication we are also praying to be docile (a fancy word that means “being willing to be led and taught”) to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
There is no other prayer that I can think of that is more appropriate for today and for our current times than this one.
We have a problem, though: if the Holy Spirit is to fill our hearts, it means they must be properly empty (and therefore emptied) first. The great mystics of the Church (like St Teresa of Avila or St John of the Cross) were clear that the first step in the path of spiritual growth is “purgation,” or “detachment”—specifically, from sinful attachments (like cravings for power or prestige or presumption). It goes without saying that the Church as a whole (including hierarchy) needs this purgation—as do I myself personally. What will this purgation look like?
I think we have a good idea of that with the investigations into sexual abuse of minors by clergy and their cover-up by bishops. This is more than the “bright light of truth”—this is a laser beam that disheartens and discourages so many Catholics. Can it be the tool of the Lord to empty us in order that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit? Why not? If God could use a pagan king (Cyrus) to re-establish the Chosen People after the Exile (even being called an unknowing “messiah”—Isaiah 45:1ff!), God can surely also use States’ Attorneys General and grand juries today (if only the clean-up of the Curia were that simple).
Bp Robert Barron has written a response to this crisis, entitled “Letter to a Suffering Church.” I’ve read it, and I recommend it (though with the stipulation that you read chapters 1 and 5 first, and then chapters 4, 2, and 3). I will be making this pamphlet available to the parish in the near future. It may be a lone voice of the episcopacy in this; PTL, his is a credible voice.
So—pray that we ALL be emptied of sin, of cravings for power, prestige, privilege, and so on; pray that we ALL become people of prayer, of service, of love. Ours is supposed to be this kind of discipleship. But it will only happen if we are willing first to be emptied (purged), so that we can be filled, changed, converted, and made into images of Christ.
How open are we to being re-born in water and the Spirit? Are we ready to pray Veni, Sancte Spiritus??