The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Vincentian View: Come now, Holy Spirit

On Sept. 7, our St. John’s community was invited to gather in St. Thomas More Church for the Opening Mass, “The Mass of the Holy Spirit.”  I had the opportunity to preach at that mass, and  I spoke about when I was a seminarian.

One of my summer assignments was to a parish at Auburn University, which was run by the Vincentian Community.  I was young and self-confident.  At the end of the summer, I received my evaluation.  

One of the priests met with me and he told me of some of the good things and gifts which I brought to the ministry.  At the end, however, he said, “Here are three things which you really need to work on.”  He then added, “There are others, but you are not ready to hear them yet.”  

They were important words for a student who needed to grow.

That experience reminds me of the situation that the early disciples of Jesus had. They had been with him for three years—following him, watching him and listening to his words.  But they did not understand everything.  

Some aspects and teachings of Jesus remained beyond their grasp.  They were not yet prepared to listen and learn and change in the ways in which he demanded of them.  As Jesus prepares to depart from them, he offers this as encouragement:


“I will ask the Father,

and he will give you another Advocate

to be with you always. . . .

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom

the Father will send in my name,

will teach you everything

and remind you of all that I told you.”

This is the role of the Holy Spirit.  


It isn’t to start the disciples over with new ideas and actions, but to help them remember what Jesus had taught and to begin to see the way in which these directions applied to their lives.  When Jesus was among them, they were not yet ready to hear these instructions, but after he departs, the Holy Spirit slowly helps with that discipline and desire to change.  The Spirit becomes their tutor.  It is a good image for our community.

Oftentimes, the Old Testament portrays the Holy Spirit as being the bearer of wisdom.  St. Paul reminds the Church that the gifts of the Spirit are varied and given for the benefit of the whole community—the body, the university.  Jesus insists that the role of the Spirit is to give guidance, to open up new possibilities; she invites us to think deeper, to consider more broadly, to see things in a different, better way, to ask new questions and accept new answers.  Thus, we pray for her presence at the beginnings of a school year.  This hope brought our community together for a “Mass of the Holy Spirit.”  We can pray these words which have been part of the Christian treasury for more than a thousand years:

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and set us on fire with the gift of your love.

Come, Holy Spirit.”

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