The Holy Spirit Working through the ChurchFATHER ROBERT SPITZER, S.J.
Another way in which the Holy Spirit works is by confirming the truths of the faith to us in the context of the body of Christ.
Another way in which the Holy Spirit works is by confirming the truths of the faith to us in the context of the body of Christ. The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium declares:
What the Council fathers acknowledge is that when we loyally defer to the teaching authority of the Church, the Holy Spirit grants us deep insight into the truth of faith, which has the capacity to move, transform, and deepen our love and life.
Have you ever had the experience of reading a book or listening to a lecture, and as you were reading or listening, you began to think, "I don't know why this is wrong, but this sounds wrong." You may have gone to the lecture without any suspicion or any knowledge that would have evoked such a thought, yet you feel that there is something wrong, and even disquieting or disturbing. You may have left the lecture preferring not to follow the lecturer's advice and to leave the entire matter aside. Then, five years later you read an article where this precise idea is shown to be contrary to Church teaching or to the love of Christ. You might have thought, "Hey! I knew that five years ago, but I just didn't know why." I believe this sense of disquiet or disturbance is the Holy Spirit protecting us from what could lead to disruption of life and love.
It might be retorted, "Well, maybe all your reading in theology which has congealed in your subconscious mind led you to the discovery of the potential for aberrancy or error. Why call it the Holy Spirit?" I might find this explanation tempting were it not for the fact that I had such experiences prior to doing any significant reading in theology.
How does one know what one does not know? How does one know that one does not know? How does one have the foreknowledge about an error of omission when one does not know all the possibilities? How does one feel deep disquiet while feeling a great sense of nobility? I am not certain of the answer to this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is not the efficacy of my subconscious mind. Perhaps the Holy Spirit?
Conversely, have you ever had the experience of reading a book by a spiritual writer (say, Article 3 of Question 2 of Part I of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica) and finding yourself absolutely captivated? I have. When I was in college, a friend gave me a used copy of the Summa and indicated that I should at least read part of the first Part. Though I found the style incomprehensible (with all the counter arguments and the responses to the counter arguments), I felt inspired by these passages. I recall three feelings in particular.
First, I felt a genuine sense of being at home with God (similar to the sense of the Mystical Body described above). I also had a sense of Saint Thomas' holiness and a desire to be involved in it myself. Thirdly, I felt not so much an awareness that particular propositions were true, but that I was in the presence of Truth itself.
At the time, I was not able to articulate these feelings, but I knew that Saint Thomas' writings were not only true but also life-changing. As I read through the unusual style and difficult prose, I felt fed, at home, and desirous of more. Again, given my ignorance at the time, I hesitate to attribute these desires, thoughts, and feelings to some mysterious certitude within my subconscious. Quite frankly, I believe that the Holy Spirit was there inspiring, cajoling, guiding, and filling me with light, delight, and home.
The Holy Spirit will not leave anyone bereft of the disquiet of falsity, or the inspiration of truth. All we need do to experience this deeper, life-changing, efficacious, and loving insight is, as the Vatican Council suggests, to defer to the "teaching authority of the Church," and follow the sense of light, home, holiness, and peace that not only brings joy to the soul, but a wisdom and love quite beyond our natural ability. As usual, the Holy Spirit takes care of the rest.
Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. "The Holy Spirit Working through the Church." from Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life (July 18, 2013).
Excerpted from Father Spitzer's book: Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life. Reprinted with permission of the Spitzer Center .
The purpose of the Spitzer Center is to strengthen culture, faith and spirit in Catholic organizations for the new evangelization. Read "Why the Spitzer Center Adopted a Catholic Mission" by Father Spitzer here.
Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. is currently the President of the Magis Center of Faith and Reason and the Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership. The former is dedicated to showing the close connection between faith and reason in contemporary astrophysics, philosophy, and historical study of the New Testament. The latter is dedicated to personal and cultural transformation that supports principle-based ethics and leads to noble and enduring success. Father Spitzer was President of Gonzaga University from 1998-2009. He has published 5 books and numerous scholarly articles, started 6 national institutes, and speaks widely on the philosophy of science, philosophy of God, and ethics. Fr. Spitzer has as spoken to thousands of audiences, and has done ethics consulting for over 300 organizations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Toyota, Costco, the British Prime Minister's Cabinet, the leadership of Costa Rica, Protestant and Catholic leadership in Northern Ireland, and the Orthodox Church in Russia. Father Spitzer is the author of New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, Spirit of Leadership: Optimizing Creativity and Change in Organizations, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: A Practical Guide to Prayer for Active People, Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues, Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, as well as videos such as Suffering and the God of Love, and Healing the Culture.
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