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The Role of the Holy Ghost Within the Church

Pastoral Letter by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI


Pentecost, 1995

Dearly beloved in Christ,

As we begin the annual novena in honor of the Holy Ghost in preparation for the feast of Pentecost, we should remind ourselves of the important role which the Divine Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, fulfills within the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and also of the great necessity which each individual member of the Church has of His divine assistance. So important is the role of the Holy Ghost within the Church that when the Apostles’ Creed was formulated, it was determined to place the article of faith,

“I believe in the Holy Ghost”

right next to the article

“the Holy, Catholic Church,”

in order to stress the relationship of the Holy Ghost with the true Church of Christ. In this pastoral letter, let us briefly consider the divine assistance of the Holy Ghost within the Catholic Church in general and also in particular, i.e., in each individual member of the Church. May these considerations assist us to greater devotion to the Holy Ghost and inspire us to pray this novena fervently

First of all, when Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ established His Church, He promised His Apostles that He would send another Advocate, Whom He called the Spirit of Truth. We read in the Gospel of St. John:

“And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of Truth Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:16).

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you” (John 14:26).

“But when the Advocate has come, Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness concerning Me. And you also bear witness, because from the beginning you are with Me” (John 15:26).

“It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

“But when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will teach you all the truth” (John 16:13).

From these Scriptural references, we can clearly see the divine assistance which the Holy Ghost rendered to the Apostles — to assist them to teach the truths divinely revealed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Let us notice in particular the words of Christ quoted above:

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you” (John 14:26).

These words are similar to the words of Christ to His Apostles:

“Go, therefore, teach all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:29).

“Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

The Apostles, after the descend of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, fulfilled this command of Christ and preached the gospel to all nations. From their teachings we have received what is known as the Deposit of Faith, i.e., all that has been revealed by God. The Deposit of Faith is made up of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. And after the death of the Apostles, Divine Revelation had been completed and God delivered no more revelation meant for the whole of mankind.

But let us not think that the divine assistance of the Holy Ghost was limited just to the Apostles and ceased to continue after the promulgation of the gospel. For the Deposit of Faith needed to be safeguarded and preserved within the Church of Christ. So, when Christ promised to send the Holy Ghost, He said:

“And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of Truth Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:16).

And also when Christ commanded His Apostles to teach all nations, He added:

“And behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

It was the will of Christ that the mission He committed to His Apostles to teach all nations would continue in their successors, that is, in the Pope (the successor of St. Peter) and in the bishops (the successors of the Apostles). The Pope and the bishops represent the living, teaching authority in the Church of Christ. As the first Vatican Council declared:

“The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of St. Peter not that they might make known new doctrine by His revelation, but rather, that with His assistance they might religiously guard and faithfully explain the revelation or Deposit of Faith that was handed down through the Apostles” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, 1870).

Thus, the Holy Ghost abides with the Catholic Church forever to divinely assist it to teach all nations whatsoever Christ commanded.

“all days even to the consummation of the world.”

And in speaking of this union and assistance of the Holy Ghost with the Church, Henry Cardinal Manning wrote:

“And this union is divinely constituted, indissoluble, eternal, the source of supernatural endowments to the Church which can never be absent from it, or suspended in their operation. The Church of all ages, and of all times, is immutable in its knowledge, discernment and enunciation of the truth”

This is the consolation that we have as Catholics — our Faith today in 1995 is the same Faith that has always been held in the Church of Christ. As Catholics, we can point to any of the infallible teachings of the Church taught during the past 1900 years and declare that it is our belief. Our Faith is exactly the same Faith as consistently taught at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D., the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.), the Council of Trent (1570), the Council of Vatican I (1870) and all the other Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church. Our Faith is exactly the same as the Faith infallibly taught by the Popes, the successors of St. Peter. And when studies the teachings of the Popes and of the Councils down through the centuries, there is such a consistency and an exactness in teaching, that if one were not aware of the individual Popes and Ecumenical Councils involved, it would seem as if all the various teachings had one and the same author.

Furthermore, another marvelous manifestation of the divine assistance of the Holy Ghost is the unity of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is made up of men from all nations, living in so many different areas of the world, speaking in so many diverse languages, having such vast differences in customs and practices; yet, united in the same Faith, in the same worship — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the same means of sanctification — the Seven Sacraments. This unity of faith and worship among all men manifest the divine assistance of the Holy Ghost.

Having considered the assistance of the Holy Ghost within the Mystical Body of Christ in general, let us briefly consider the assistance of the Holy Ghost within the individual souls of the faithful. St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians reminded them of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in their souls:

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God, and this temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16).

This is a very important truth of our Faith. Through Baptism, not only was original sin washed away from our souls, but also our soul was given spiritual life through sanctifying grace. When we are in the state of sanctifying grace, we share in the life of God within our souls; we are adopted children of God; and we are temples of the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, at Baptism, God infused into our souls the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost (infused habits which give us the special assistance of the Holy Ghost to know and do the will of God.) This special assistance of the Holy Ghost is increased when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is the reason that the Church prescribes that those who are to be married and those who are to enter the clerical and religious states should have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

There can be no doubt that we live in very troublesome and confusing times, both doctrinally and spiritually, as St. Paul once wrote:

“For there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables” (2 Timothy 3:3).

Will we persevere in the living of our Faith in these times? Let us heed the words of Pope Leo XIII:

“We ought to pray and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him Who is the never ceasing Fount of Light, Strength, Consolation and Holiness” (Divinum Illud, May 9, 1897).

Finally, as we begin this annual novena in honor of the Holy Ghost, let us recall that this is the oldest of all novenas. It was first made at the direction of Our Lord Himself, when He sent His Apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Ghost on the first Pentecost. And it is still the only novena prescribed by the Church. To pray this novena worthily, let us once again heed the words of Pope Leo XIII:

“You know well the intimate and wonderful relations existing between her (the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the Holy Ghost, so that she is justly called His Spouse. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin was of great avail both in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. May she continue to strengthen our prayers with her suffrages, that, in the midst of all the stress and trouble of the nations, those divine prodigies may be happily revived by the Holy Ghost, which were foretold in the words of David: ‘Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth’ (Ps. 103).”

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

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