The Holy Spirit and you

Relying on the Holy Spirit is a dangerous game. That may sound an odd remark given that Jesus assures us that the Spirit will bring the Church and its members to the truth. But, while the action of the Spirit can be clearly seen in, for instance, an infallible teaching, there are innumerable cases when the Holy Spirit may or may not be at work.

Take for instance someone who prays hard to the Spirit to know if he has a true vocation. When he arrives at certainty how does he know it is the Spirit speaking or whether it is an outcome of a quirk of his character or of his previous experience? A more general example is provided by the formation of conscience. There, we are told, God speaks to the heart, but, notwithstanding our prayers for guidance, are we sure that we arrive at the right answer? We would not, for instance, be surprised to hear two people in good faith disagreeing on a point of doctrine, faith or morals – both believing that they have the Holy Spirit behind them.

We are told to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” Good advice, but what is the test? And in what form is the answer? We would expect the Spirit to be most immediately active when the whole Church is praying for the selection of the next Pope. But Pope Benedict, when Cardinal Ratzinger, said on Bavarian television “It would be a mistake to believe that the Holy Spirit picks the pope because there are too many examples of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have chosen.” If the Church can’t always get it right, why would we think that we can?

You will notice that this posting has a large number of question marks. But please don’t assume that I lack faith in the Holy Spirit. The doctrine is a mysterious one, surrounded by apparent difficulties. I think it would help us all to explore it further and to see if we can unearth some answers.

About Quentin

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86 Responses to The Holy Spirit and you

  1. Brian Hamill says:

    Perhaps the biggest mistake one can make in this area is to think that we ever have God’s backing for our decisions. One can never say ‘I know that God wants me to do this or that action’ rather than ‘I think God wants me to do this or that’. We are always responsible for our individual decisions. God, however, holds primary responsibility for our salvation – the one thing that God really wants us to achieve – and so will work with our wrong decisions to make them positive in the long run. It is interesting that Socrates’ ‘daimon’, some sort of personal premonition, only advised against an action, never for one. This sounds very much like our concept of conscience

  2. John L says:

    Murky waters… When you pray, the devil works hard to instil ideas in your head in the hope you will think they are from God. You have to trust the Holy Spirit or you have nothing. I hope our bloggers will follow Quentin’s suggestion and relate their own experiences. It should result in valuable information.

  3. Galerimo says:

    Like a near death experience the movement of the Beautiful Spirit is a certainty for the one experiencing it. I have always exchanged Beautiful for Holy in my engaging with the Spirit as it seemed the most neglected of those classical attributes and for me the most appropriate. Without a pronoun to help there is still nothing more real than the presence of this Beauty. Recently I reconciled with a friend with whom I had fought twelve years ago. Our meeting was against my wishes even though I had prayed for that friendship to be restored. When it happened was a slow process that I knew was not of my own making – my friend and I went for a walk together and we came to a falls where the water gushed between two high rocky outcrops. We agreed to sit in silence and be with the beauty. A beautiful rainbow appeared over the falls connecting the rocks on either side and God’s beautiful pouring Spirit could not be denied in that gentlly breathing power of promise that there would be no more destruction in this relationship. Theillard is the master to whom I look for the Beauty of God’s Spirit

    • Vincent says:

      What is beauty? I ask this because of its strange ability to lift us to a higher plane, which you describe. If it is not God then it is a manifestation of him, and one that available to all. But perhaps we find it in different things. For me, it is the intricate wonders of evolution. By the way, I think Teilhard is the spelling.

  4. Alan says:

    “while the action of the Spirit can be clearly seen in, for instance, an infallible teaching”

    I don’t understand the difference between the Spirit being revealed to be at work (or absent) here and anywhere else. We would not be surprised to take one more step back and see two people in good faith arguing about the revealed will of their respective Gods.

    • Quentin says:

      Alan, the distinction here lies in the Catholic doctrine which holds that key formal teachings by the pope or by Church in communion with the pope, are preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. But such a guarantee does not apply otherwise.

      You point is an interesting one. Do you know, or does anyone else know, how Islam describes the aspects of Allah?

      There is an important vein in Christian thinking which holds that any description in human terms of God is bound to be faulty.

      • overload says:

        Regarding names and descriptions of God, I am reminded that the Hebrew ‘Tetragrammaton’ YHWH, which most modern Bibles appear to translate as LORD (as distinct from Lord), is said to be unpronounceable. This interests me in reference to the ‘Word’ of God; does the Holy Spirit declare that there is a connection here?

      • Brendan says:

        ” ..important vein in Christian thinking ……. any terms of God is bound to be faulty. ”
        In practical terms ( unspoken prayer ) which this blog has discussed earlier, the nearest one can get to a ‘ description ‘ however inadequate for the Christian is contemplative prayer. I believe the Islamic equivalent is ‘ Sufism ‘. I am far from being able to speak for Islam – in the absence so far of Islamist comment – but their view of God seems similar to Judaism in that He is impenetrable , distant and omnipotent . Because of this ‘ faith ‘ concept one must ‘ surrender to God ‘ -ISLAM – in an all-embracing way in living.

    • Alan says:

      Quentin – “Catholic doctrine which holds that key formal teachings by the pope or by Church in communion with the pope, are preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. But such a guarantee does not apply otherwise. ”

      Doctrine guarantees that doctrine is free from error due to the intervention of the Holy Spirit and that makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is at work in this instance? I feel like I must be missing something here.

      • Quentin says:

        Indeed there is. The, rather circumscribed, guarantee of infallibility is an important element in Catholic belief. Such a guarantee could only be made by God. Christ, by promising that the Holy Spirit would bring us to truth, indicated that this was an action of the Holy Spirit.

        What I wrote is bound to be tautologous for those who don’t accept the premise.

      • Alan says:

        Quentin – “What I wrote is bound to be tautologous for those who don’t accept the premise.”

        I’m not sure that’s where the problem is … or at least not the whole problem. If it were then we could assume the premise for my attempt to express your position as I understood it and the tautology would vanish. It doesn’t seem to. Was it unreasonable of me to describe “key formal teachings by the pope or by Church in communion with the pope” as doctrine? I think there is some other flaw in my understanding of how you put the teachings of the Catholic church beyond the question you ask in this week’s piece.

      • Quentin says:

        The simple claim that we know that the Spirit acts to protect certain types of teaching by the Church from error is gratuitous taken on its own. But in the context of Catholic belief we hold, and offer evidence from Scripture, that Christ promised such protection to his Church. Thus we know the Spirit is in action there. Those who do not start off with that belief are clearly not going to arrive at the same conclusion. I hope I have understood the problem as you see it.

      • overload says:

        Quentin, regarding your reply to Alan.

        Firstly “Thus we know the Spirit is in action there”, do you really mean to say ‘know’, or rather “thus we trust / have faith the Spirit is in action there”?

        Secondly, “those who do not start off with that belief are clearly not going to arrive at the same conclusion.”
        So then, by your own admission (unless I am twisting your words?), it is not surprising that I find this difficult to swallow or rest with, since I did not “start off” thus, am not a cradle Catholic, and am not inclined to be at peace in myself accepting things on blind faith. And yet I am counted one of ‘you’ (you said “we”)!

        That which you apparently count as evidence from Scripture to take you beyond doubt; to many other believing Christians (also ‘us’; ie. is Nektarios one of ‘us’?) provides little or no such evidence at all (can be read completely differently)—not to mention reasoning truth-seeking non-believers (who might potentially be open to ‘conversion’, and/or being Saved)!
        So we can all just differ, and not-even-agree to do so—what does it matter?

        As an end note… I believe the Holy Spirit is the witness to Truth. Regarding God and THS, personal is the fundamental precept. Without this personal witness within my own heart & soul (which does include/embrace reasoning mind, and transcends it)—and this is something which can be shared—, both Scripture or Church (or any of her particulars) remain merely the works or interpretations of man (or worse).

      • Quentin says:

        Overload, I don’t want to get into a discussion about the infallibility of the pope/church etc. All of that is dealt with in the Catechism. My original point was a very small one. If you believe that certain types of teaching are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, then when such a teaching occurs we know the Holy Spirit is at work.

  5. G.D. says:

    When he arrives at certainty how does he know it is the Spirit speaking or whether it is an outcome of a quirk of his character or of his previous experience?

    Having spent years after my initiation into the church searching for ‘my vocation’, with deep prayer and much guidance from others, I now find myself satisfied and at peace with my position in life as a ‘monk in the world’.(staying at monasteries, one as a postulant, one postulancy not taken on the day i was due to arrive, a selection year for the diocesan priesthood, which I and my Father confessor were sure was God’s will; only to be refused)

    On reflection i can see the journey was indeed guided by the Spirit, and each step needed for the healing of my ‘quirks of character’. (Many more to be healed too).

    We are free to misinterpret the Spirit’s inspiration, as we all do in every given moment to some extent, and it’s often that that heals us and leads us forward, closer to God.
    The Spirit guides and is with us all every moment and leads us.

    There is no certainty, no predisposed right vocation for anyone to aim for. It’s the journey that produces our growth. Wherever it leads us, whatever choices we make.
    And we continue to discern, and move on.

    Micha 6, 8. This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God. ……………

    That is our vocation. Whatever choices our quirks of character make in any given moment.

  6. G.D. says:

    Sorry, forgot the quoteation marks. T
    he first two lines are a quote from Quentin’s post

  7. Quentin says:

    At 14:25 this pm the House of Commons voted out the Assisted Dying bill by 330 – 118

    • Brendan says:

      Yes , this is good news at least for humanities endurance and its special character.
      In contrast , when my Parish met its M.P. she said that 95% of her post-bag was in favour of a change in Law. I don’t know as yet how she voted .

      • Brendan says:

        N.b. She ( Labour ) voted in favour of the ‘ bill ‘ and so did my own Labour M.P.and as did the other Labour M.P. adjacent to these two costituencies.

  8. Brendan says:

    How does the Holy Spirit ‘ work ‘ in the divine ‘ economy ‘ ? The CCC – 683-686 for me gives a concise ‘how’ and ‘why’ the Spirit of God ’emerges ‘ and how it acts in the life of the Christian and The Church.
    It seems clear enough that after Pentecost and prior ( though not explicit ) to that when Our Lord promised .. ” an Advocate with the Father ”..that while the believing world recognised and spoke of their God as HaShem – in prayer Adonai – Judaism hinted at – gave only a premonition of ( eg. in the ‘wind’ ) – the mechanics as it were of Gods work. The ‘physical ‘ manifestations and full economy of ‘ how ‘ God worked through Christ with the Father in the Holy Spirit – The Triune God – was revealed in that upper room . Everything changed by the revelation of Pentecost – the world could now ‘ know ‘ and ‘ believe ‘ the full immensity of the saving act of Our Lord given by His Father through the Spirit indwelling in The Church. Everything said and down ..” for the greater glory of God …. ” ( St.ignatius Loyola ) could be perceived through the action of the Third Person of The Holy Trinity
    The Spirit tells me that through my conscience His presence is best perceived and known through a contrite heart ; the entry point through Christs presence in prayer ,to The Father – that is what makes me now and in the future what ‘ I am .’

    • Brendan says:

      Psalm 51:10 ” Create in me O God a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. ”

    • overload says:


      Everything said and down ..” for the greater glory of God …. ” ( St.ignatius Loyola ) could be perceived through the action of the Third Person of The Holy Trinity
      The Spirit tells me that through my conscience His presence is best perceived and known through a contrite heart ; the entry point through Christs presence in prayer ,to The Father – that is what makes me now and in the future what ‘ I am .’

      I wonder if this would be more accurately said that the action of the Third Person is manifested and perceived through the life and tangibility of the Church.

      • Brendan says:

        Overload – There will be plenty of opportunity for Christians to witness to the presence and action of The Spirit of God in their lives . Pentecost ( coming of the Holy Spirit ) was the realisation of this hitherto uncertain /undefined aspect of God in The Holy Trinity .St John Chrysostom calls this act ” divine condescension ” pored out into the world , but THROUGH The Church.
        Yes , it is more ..” accurate …” to say that . But who is the Church – but ourselves now and forever !

  9. overload says:

    I have spoken before on here about becoming a RC, I hope it might be constructive to go into this a bit further…

    I got confirmed at the end of a 3rd year of RCIA (I always approached it rather as it was so called: ‘Journey in Faith’, an exploration of faith). Towards the end of the 2nd, I was not willing to consider confirmation despite pressure from PP and my later-to-be sponsor. At Easter time a distinct and unexpected sense of having let God down came over me. But was it man or God I had let down?—a difficult question.

    Into the 3rd year, I was studying the Bible quite intensely at this time, two passages opened up my faith to make space for confirmation as something viable to my conscience; from Matt 23: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”, which, reinforced by a passage from Paul (“all authority comes from God” and “obey authority”), and reading Ignatius of Loyola on obedience, gave me the confidence that I could get confirmed in good faith. But this was still a battle of conscience and of growing in faith, I think fractured from natural wisdom/judgement/reasoning.

    I signed something in December along the lines “I intend to get confirmed in the Catholic Church this coming easter, and I believe in all that the Catholic Church teaches.” This was difficult to square with my conscience; I could half-justify it on my (sincere) belief in the word “Catholic”; but most importantly a leap of faith which I felt moved to make (with many doubts), trusting in God not my own understanding or intentions.

    • John L says:

      Overload, Far from madness!
      Acceptance of the Creed does not magically remove difficulties, as followers of this blog manifest in our discussions. Approach to God is a continual growth process.
      You have taken the road – hold His hand. Congratulations!

    • St.Joseph says:

      I was baptised in the Catholic Church at 5 days old, Confirmed at 9 and half years.
      Cradle Catholics as we are called! We did not have a choice!
      When someone has been given the grace to convert later in years, they must have the understanding to believe what Holy Mother Church teaches to be the Truth and that She is the one true Holy Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ with the Pope as the Head on earth
      I admire you when you say you took a leap in faith and trusted in God.
      We would have a much holier Church if many would take a leaf out of your book with the humility you show. I pray for you on your journey!

  10. Brendan says:

    Overload – There is a direct relation between ‘ revelation ‘ and ‘ healing ‘. The factor common too , and making sense of the interface between them is… ” the grace of God [ The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit ] which passes all understanding .. ” . Phillipians.
    When revelation is present with being healed ; one will KNOW that one is under the action of The Spirit of God. As I said earlier, this will happen anytime with a heart that is open and contrite.

  11. Brendan says:

    Yes overload . I join John L in congratulations. If I may say so, you sound more sure of yourself in the direction you are going.

  12. Iona says:

    I am currently reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. She had many very intense experiences during prayer, and was extremely concerned to know whether these were genuinely from God or from Satan. She described them in detail to her Confessors (though not to other people, except some “holy and learned men” who may or may not have been her confessors) and received conflicting advice. One of them told her to make a “sign of scorn” to a specific vision which she had experienced; if it was Satan, he would then disappear. She hated doing this, but did it, on a number of occasions, and the vision did not disappear.
    St. Bernadette of Lourdes similarly was told to throw holy water at the Lady (or “the thing”, as she called it before she had even characterised it as a lady); she did so, and Our Lady merely smiled and remained.
    We don’t do this sort of thing nowadays, in trying to discern “spirits” (maybe exorcists do).
    One thing that both St. Teresa and St. Bernadette emphasised, in different ways, is that total humility is essential before any direct communication from God can be received.

  13. Nektarios says:

    Oh what a lovely topic `The Holy Spirit and you’, there is so much here that could keep us going for months.
    I think of those disciples and others in that upper room praying and waiting as the Lord had instructed them for the One he would send, the Comforter and so He is to the Christian believer, but that is not all.
    What I want to say as God the Holy Spirit is incomprehensible. He does not speak of Himself,
    but takes of the things that are mine (Christ’s) and shows them unto us.
    After the might rushing wind, the Holy Spirit entered them and togues of fire was above their heads.

    So the first thing we see is the Holy Spirit in us manifesting Himself as fire.
    What does fire do? The first thing it does is produce light. In this context it means He illuminates, Gives knowledge and understanding of spiritual things we a Christians have in Christ.
    Yes we can, read massive tomes on theology and various other aspects of the religious life, but only the Holy Spirit illuminates, gives spiritual knowlege and understanding.
    One thing the Holy Spirit does not do, is separate what He gives us by way of illumination, spiritual knowledge and understanding from His Word the Holy Scriptures – it is the Holy Spirit who brought it about. He is the true Author of it. Many people have all sorts of fancy notions about the Holy Spirit today. Read in the whole Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit working that brought into being the Christian Church. How do we match up to that?

    The second thing this fire of the Holy Spirit does is to burn. That is, He burns up the dross of sin,
    the effects of it, the pollution of it by applying the finished work of Christ to us, and is continually making us holy, even as God Himself is holy. Is the Holy Spirit doing that in us?

    One other thing I will mention here in this posting – another effect of this fire of the Holy Spirit is warmth. This Holy fire of the Holy Spirit in us will warm the soul and set it aflame for God, That soul so aflame will love God, love Christ, and love all his brethern, without exception.
    Are we so aflame with love for God, for Christ and our Christian brothers and sisters everywhere?
    Do we love to meet together, to speak of Christ and spiritual matters? Do we love?
    Or is our faith, just cold, clinical and analytical? Do we have the Holy Spirit, or just ideas about Him we have been taught or read? Painted fire never warmed anyone.
    There is so much more that the Scriptures teach concerning the Holy Spirit and His work.
    Does the Holy spirit indwell with you, illuminating you, giving you true spiritual understnding according to His Word? Is the Holy Spirit making you truly holy? Are we so warm with this fire of the Holy Spirit we are aflame with love for God and our brethren?
    If we feel the answer is no, then ask God to send Him into your heart. If you feel coldness in your Christian life ask that the Holy Spirit warm you up.
    If we have become distracted by externals of religion or our own opinions, let us ask God to seend the Holy Spirit to illuminate us and give us understanding.

  14. ignatius says:

    I have to say this is a fairly serious subject and one in which we should try to avoid flippancy because it does involve issues of discernment. Discernment is well written up in any classic work such as Loyola or Theresa of Avilla and there is a lot written linking these classical writers to the present day. The subject is an important one because getting at least some basic clue as to whether the impulse in your heart or mind is a genuine push of the Spirit, or not, is very helpful.
    I was sitting in the shrine to the Holy Spirit at Walsingham a couple of months ago and discovered this prayer:
    Short Form of the Prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier:

    O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You permit to happen to me, only show me what is Your will.*

    ‘This prayer is part of A Secret of Sanctity by Cardinal Mercier in which he said: “I am going to reveal to you a secret of sanctity and happiness. If every day during five minutes, you will keep your imagination quiet, shut your eyes to all things of sense, and close your ears to all sounds of earth, so as to be able to withdraw into the sanctuary of your baptized soul, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, speaking there to that Holy Spirit, saying: “O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul…” If you do this, your life will pass happily and serenely. Consolation will abound even in the midst of troubles. Grace will be given in proportion to the trial as well as strength to bear it, bringing you to the gates of Paradise full of merit. The submission to the Holy Spirit is the Secret of Sanctity.”

    The prayer is a beautiful and pragmatic tool, I recommend it

    However we describe the experience the coming up close of the Holy Spirit to our interior lives is of huge benefit as is the practise of learning to listen. It has to be said that learning to still ones heart and try to pick up the breath of God is the practice of a lifetime. On the other hand it is also the case that the impulse to a course of action that will bear fruit for ones life can also be a sudden thing bringing a complete change of circumstance or perspective…unfortunately it is also possible and quite likely that we will from time to time make a complete pigs ear of life simply through unthinking pride, presumption or simple frank stupidity. I do not believe God waits until we develop humility before God decides to speak to us. I do believe that our lives themselves, mistakes and all, can be Gods chisel if we but allow it.

    • Brendan says:

      Ignatius – Your meditative piece brings to mind ” Be still my soul ” to the tune of Finlandia. Yes, the Holy Spirit is aroused in one in many ways – listening arousing/enkindling submission is the key. Personally, I thank God for quiet mornings first thing. I am blessed in being able to be in that situation.
      At other times The Holy Spirit is aroused in me at the thought of correcting an injustice. His presence during Mass is sometimes very palpable. Just the joy/pride of being a Catholic Christian and the overwhelming delight of being alive in Gods Creation ….etc.etc.
      The Spirit of God is the catalyst that awakens one to the consummate presence of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in the soul….” And not only that: we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit even we are groaning inside ourselves , waiting with eagerness [ as adoption as sons ] for our bodies to be set free .” Romans, 8:23 (NJB)
      ” And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness , for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then The Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words ; and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prays that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God .” Romans, 8: 26-27 ( NJB ).
      Saint Paul always does it, for me.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    I have just read the comments on the post ‘With added ‘Holy Spirit ‘ October 2010, that you mention above, 33 comments of which 17 were mine, and I don’t really see if I have anything else to add to that. except that Pope Francis has in this Year of Mercy changed a few rules on annulments, which I see as the work of the Holy Spirit of the realisation for the proper reception of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, giving the full knowledge to couples who take their vows that was God’s plan for true marriage and the family in the beginning!,

  16. overload says:

    John L, Brendan, and St.J, thanks for your responses and encouragement.

    St.J: “When someone has been given the grace to convert later in years, they must have the understanding to believe what Holy Mother Church teaches to be the Truth and that She is the one true Holy Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ with the Pope as the Head on earth”

    I did not read the CCC Compendium until after Confirmation.

    I believe that the RCC has authority in Jesus’ Name, however I do not believe that this authority cannot be both misused and misrepresented, and in respect of this I cannot with faith discern a clear threshold.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Of course you are right in believing that this authority can be both misused and misrepresented.Therefore it is often misunderstood not only by the Heirarcy and the laity.
      As my last comment on the 13th at 11.0 8pm which concerns my comments in 2010,you will understand what I mean. if you read them.
      Judas was one of the 12 and he betrayed Jesus!.
      There will always be disagreements and ambigious teachings around to confuse the children of God.
      The prayer to the Holy Spirit I like as well as others is:
      ‘Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful and you will renew the face of the earth’
      However I do believe that there is a time for praying and a time for ‘doing’!
      How else can the Holy Spirit work only through US, by also being active.
      We all can be, both a Mary and a Martha, as St Theresa the Little Flower says,’ It is the liitle things we ‘do’ for love
      overload remember what Jesus said to Martha, ‘You worry about little things too much, when only a few is necessary.
      Keep the Faith!!.

  17. Quentin says:

    This is a very interesting discussion. I thought that I might comment from a personal point of view.

    At one level, I find that if I have some deep thinking to do — perhaps a moral decision or some other choice — I find that starting with a prayer to the Holy Spirit is very helpful. He doesn’t, apparently, do my thinking for me, but he helps me to purify it. I am more on my guard against irrelevant and self-serving reasons. And my mind seems more easily to spread itself over a wider range of considerations. However nothing dispenses me from taking responsibility for the outcome.

    In another part of the woods, I think of my marriage counselling years. Here I was meeting a great variety of people who were to be found in predicaments of all sorts. But I was struck by the extent of their wish and their bravery to free themselves from these. I concluded that my task was not to exhort them towards improvement, but to help them to remove the obstacles, psychological or practical. Then, like a cork in a bucket, they naturally shot upwards through a kind of buoyancy. So my work was concerned with clearing out rubbish, the Spirit’s work lay in the buoyancy.

    I cannot prove in these matters that it was the Spirit rather than psychology. But I believe that it was both. I think we are too given to seeing body and soul as two separated characteristics. They are certainly different, but in our human natures they are not separated.

    • RAHNER says:

      “I cannot prove in these matters that it was the Spirit rather than psychology.”

      Would it matter if it was just psychology? And if all creation is essentially graced why draw a crude distinction between Spirit and psychology?

      • Quentin says:

        Or indeed between body and soul.

      • ignatius says:

        Yes, thats well put, not sure that those two categories exist as far as God is concerned.

      • Nektarios says:

        Obviously the Holy Spirit uses the psychology a person has, for example, one may train for ministry, for preaching, or just living out the more routine things of the religious or spiritual life, but the a filling of the Holy Spirit, is not about psychology, but power. It is power that is given for a task usually, it is not about sanctification – though that is also an on-going work of the Holy Spirit.
        I would warn you though, Rahner, the Holy Spirit at work in one, is likely to change ones whole psychology, going way beyond the rationalistic textbook understanding.

  18. ignatius says:


    “I cannot prove in these matters that it was the Spirit rather than psychology. But I believe that it was both. I think we are too given to seeing body and soul as two separated characteristics. They are certainly different, but in our human natures they are not separated.”

    Yes I think thats right. We experience the Holy spirit almost as our own ‘best thought’, yet somehow we recognise that we have been ‘spoken to’ rather than having only spoken with ourselves. I think that is because the Holy Spirit comes bringing peace, we become aware of this peace somewhere in the depths of our being .In discussions of this sort it is very tempting to try and be prescriptive regarding experience and theology regarding the Spirit of God, yet all dealings with the Trinity rest in mystery.

    The truth is that we simply do not always know what moves us, brings us consolation ,enlivens us or strengthens us. We human beings are partly a mystery to ourselves because of our spiritual nature to which we are somewhat blind.Thus we are not able to plumb the deep things of God yet something in our spirit responds to God…which we then interpret as best we can. If we ‘interpret’ blindly, through ignorance or wilfullness then we tend to misinterpret or misunderstand. This is probably why the equating of spiritual life to humility is so commonly emphasised in works on spiritual growth.

  19. Brendan says:

    Apparently, science has found that emotional ( psychic tears ) as opposed to tears released from lachrymal glands to clear a foreign body in the eye , contain an endorphin called ‘ leucine-enkephalin ‘ which relieves pain. It is also believed that only humans ‘ weep ‘ , while animals ‘ cry ‘ just to lubricate the eyes from being damaged – which sounds contentious perhaps and open to challenge.. This gives added meaning to he age-old phrase ‘ crying does you good .’
    The fact that weeping tears of joy at receiving the ‘gifts ‘ of the Holy Spirit can only be felt by humans is evidence of the healing effect , spiritual, mental and physical , that God works in his ‘children’ who receive Him.

  20. St.Joseph says:

    Are we to believe that Jesus was speaking about psychology when He asked St Peter ‘Do you love me’? Feed my sheep- Feed my lambs!

    • Quentin says:

      That challenge, St Joseph, provides a very good example.

      First he is referring the psychological tendency we have to boast about our values but fail to put them into action. Second, he points his listeners to a homely experience, familiar every day to his listeners. Psychology tells us that we make decisions by comparison, so he asks us to compare our treatment of humans with the treatment of animals. This may be even more effective nowadays since, being more remote from farm animals, we are more sentimental.

  21. ignatius says:

    St Joseph,
    Sorry but I simply don’t understand the point you are making about the sheep!

  22. St.Joseph says:

    Israel had many shepherds. Ezekiel 34-2. However the shepherds over Israel were bad.
    God promised He would be Shepherd of His sheep.
    He promised He would set up one shsepherd,my servant David ‘And he shall feed them and be their shepherd’
    In John 11 we see Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
    If we compare Ezekiel 34 to John 10 (hope my ref are correct ) we can see God in the fullness of time over Israel (the Church) one shepherd who would rule over them in justice and mercy and cause them to eat the good of the land.
    We can also see from Ezekiel the job of the shepherd. was to rule, guide, to govern.
    Just before Jesus’ departure into Heaven, commands Peter to feed His sheep.
    Knowing there is only one shepherd, now it was Peter whom He also gave the Key’s of the Kingdom to be the one shepherd until His return

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      No, the job of an under-shepherd, as was Peter, is not to rule, and govern them. It is his job however to feed them. This is what Ministry is really all about, and, if there is massive intakes to the Church, the riviving of the Church by years of neglect, then the Lord uses His servants, who He was everywhere to be filled with the Holy Spirit and power.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios. .
        Did I say that? I made the point that Jesus said to Peter ‘Feed my lambs Feed my sheep!

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph,
        Yes, you did say that! To be fair, you said both.
        “We can also see from Ezekiel the job of the shepherd. was to rule, guide, to govern.
        Just before Jesus’ departure into Heaven, commands Peter to feed His sheep.”

        Only the Lord God, as far as the Church as a whole is concerned, He rules over, guides and governs ( that includes Peter, and you and me, despite RCC dogma on the subject. God has not abdicated His responsibilty or `new coventant’ He has made with the whole Church till the last be saved.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Where does it say in Scripture that abortion is allowed?
        We need a Pope to be head of the RC church.We can not wholly depend on our own conscience- for the sakeof society
        Jesus knew there would be controversy.
        Even the laity doesn’t share with the Church’s teachings on abortion or contraception ‘
        The Holy Spirit works through the authority of the continuation of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.
        If I did not believe that I would not be a Roman Catholic.
        It is a great shame when we have so much in common with the Orthodox Church, that we can not resolve this difference and live in peace with each other and agree to disagree!

      • overload says:

        “Where does it say in Scripture that abortion is allowed?”
        St.J, I think I am correct that in the RCC, abortion = murder and abortion = excommunication, and that murder per se does not necessarily (or at all, even if sent to prison?) equal excommunication. Am I correct? And if so, where does it say this in Scripture, about separating out the penalty for sins in this way? You said that Christ wants a Church full of sinners (or rather a Church that does not exclude sinners?), so why excommunication?

      • St.Joseph says:

        My question was to Nektarios,regarding abortion ‘mentioned in scripture’.!
        The point being we need Holy Mother Church to teach us the Truth,the Holy Father when he speaks ex cathedra and the Magisterium .Remember when the Church teaches She speaks to the whole world on faith and morals.Not saying that the whole world believes it, or practices it.

        BTW where did I say the church does not exclude sinners?? Where did you get that from?

      • overload says:

        St.J, where did you say the church does not [wish to] exclude sinners? you said it in “with added holy spirit” (which you referred me to earlier in this discussion).

        I give the quotation you commended (from the Encyclical The Mystical Body of Christ) again here:
        (49 Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members.
        And if at times,there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature,it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits, even at times in the ‘highest members’ of His Mystical Body for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than of the flocks,and that all may increase the merit of their Christian Faith.

      • overload says:

        St.J, can you (or anyone else) answer my question about excommunication for abortion?

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        You asked, `Where does it say in Scripture that abortion is allowed?’ To answer the Scripture does not say anywhere as far as I am aware that abortion is allowed.
        You might like to read in Psalm 106 v 35-39.
        Here it tells us about infanticide, unknown among the Jews until the mingled among the heather and learned of their ways. It was sacrificing their children to the gods of the Gentiles. In Rome the left their babies out in the woods to die – the forefunner of abortion
        one could say.
        Modern day abortion, which is global at horrendous figures in the many millions, over 9 millions in Britain alone since the late 60’s, is usually on the altar of convenience.

        On your latter points, St Joseph, yes the Church must have leadership and it must only have its authority as the Apostles doctrine and teaching permits. This is what I have been trying to show in my previous postings. As a Christian, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, My soul could not rest or have confidence in that which does not resonate with the Apostles doctrine and teaching.
        I am sure we are agreed upon that?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload, thank you for reminding me of The Mystical Body of Christ, which Superview in 2010 told me to read.
        overload, ‘Catholic answers will explain’ to you excommunication and what sins are applicable.or the CCC.
        I cant give you an opinion on anyones ‘excommunication’ details nor would I wish to.

  23. St.Joseph says:

    In reply to Ignatius!

  24. ignatius says:

    Yes but what has this to do with the topic under discussion? In simple terms I cannot see how we have gone from Psychology to shepherds-what are you talking about?

    • Nektarios says:

      Psychology has its uses, but in spiritual matters it is a weighing down effect. Like I hav said before, psychology can do nothing to change the nature of man, his sin, produce in the rebel that is man against God. In otherwords it is worse that useless, an most certainly
      will not feed the sheep.
      Psychology has no answers about death, and absolutely nothing to say on the spiritual life and eternal life.

      • ignatius says:

        That’s very interesting but I wasn’t asking you, I can usually guess your view on any subject in advance!

      • Nektarios says:

        You say, `I can usually guess your view on any subject in advance!’
        I am afraid not!
        Ah, a little `knowledge puffeth up’.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for that info. and as you say Psychology has absolutely nothing to say on the spiritual life and eternal life.

  25. St.Joseph says:

    I dont believe you would understand even if I told you!!! So I am not going to.waste my time. .

  26. Brendan says:

    ” Stories , pop psychology and worldly methodology do no feed sheep. They must be fed by the word of God . They must be fed on the written word of God as it is exegeted properly and applied by the Holy Spirit, ” ( A Christian Apologist )

    • Nektarios says:

      Your absolutely right. We must do our part by way of preparation, then perhaps God the Holy Spirit, will fall among us, like He fell on the sacrifice prepared by Elijah. Oh yes, yes, yes, we the Church need this Holy fire as I spoke of in a earlier posting.

  27. Brendan says:

    ” I [ St.Paul ] know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and have no mercy on the flock .” Acts 29:30
    The irony is not lost on today’s situation pre-Synod.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quite right..
      Thank you for that ‘philosophical comment’.
      ‘The irony is not lost on today’s situation pre-synod as you say’,however I do believe that Pope Francis is doing his best to bring the lost sheep back into the fold.and not as most people think ‘to change the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
      It would have been well if discussions on marriage and fidelity to the church’s teachings had as much concern and publicity many decades ago by those who criticise him , we would not be havinng these discussion today!
      I think he is sent to heal us-and his LOVE for the church.

      • overload says:

        St.J “Pope Francis is doing his best to bring the lost sheep back into the fold.and not as most people think ‘to change the teachings of Holy Mother Church.”
        Yes, changing teaching according to the presumption and whims of man is obviously disastrous… but what if there are some problems with the official teachings themselves? You may not have doubts about this yourself, however here-and-now is it right to repress or ignore any sincere questions about this—might you not be driving sheep away?

      • Brendan says:

        Hold fast St. Joseph and keep praying ! The spirit of God is moving thorough the Church however unperceived by many.

      • Martha says:

        St. Joseph, I sincerely hope that Pope Francis has indeed been sent to heal the church, and that his thinking and decisions are inspired by the Holy Spirit, especially in regard to annulments. As you say, if good sound teaching and marriage preparation had been available for all young people and couples over the last few decades, then there would not be so many invalid marriages entered into without full understanding, and now needing to be annulled in a clear and straight forward process.

        There are those who criticise him at every turn, and even consider him to be the embodiment of the anti Christ, as I have read on some other blogs. Are they well meaning? Have they the best interests of the Church at heart? Are they inspired by the Holy Spirit or are they deluded? How are we supposed to know?

      • St.Joseph says:

        You will have to get aquainted with the Holy Fathers message, on annulments. It is much too complex to discuss ; You must read these things for yourself.
        It is obvious you do not understand it,by the questions you ask.
        I will just say that the Pope is aware of the situation in the past and the lack of proper marriage care,. Read Martha’s .Post!

  28. Brendan says:

    Overload- Simply put ‘ people ‘ drive themselves away – The Church cannot do that. These things are sent to try us – Have Faith!

  29. Geordie says:

    Brendan, what do you mean by “people drive themselves away”? People are driven away by the hypocrisy of the pastors, who do not look after their sheep. They don’t leave God but they do leave the Church. If you don’t accept this, you are burying your head in the sand.

    • Brendan says:

      Geordie – ” The Church cannot do that ” [ drive ‘people’ away ].
      We all know without reminding ourselves that it is very nigh almost impossible to really forgive all the time. However ‘ faith ‘ tells us that ” with God everything is possible .” The Spirit comes and dwelling in us tells one that that is so….and we are moved to comply.
      The Church is the ” the temple of the spirit ” and being the mystical body of Christ WE ( the CHURCH ) as individuals are temples where the Spirit of God resides. Peters reply….. ” To whom shall we go , you have the message of eternal life .”
      Individual sin can change that. People desecrate this ‘ Temple ‘ by their sins ( including ourselves ) – that’s why , I agree that many leave the Church or the practice of the Faith because of they hate the ‘ hypocrisy ‘ of some of its members. This is a good thing but staying in the Church and reminding the Church of its sins – as you do – is the better thing, In this world we are neither saints nor sinners in this world – we are both.
      With prayer and action we stay in the visible Church and so aids Gods action in drawing others to return.

      • Brendan says:

        P.s. – In real terms Geordie , little by little , by the Grace of God we will …. ” hate the sin, love the sinner. ” – Augustine of Hippo.

  30. ignatius says:

    I dont believe you would understand even if I told you!!! So I am not going to.waste my time. ”

    St Joseph
    All I asked was that you simply and in plain English give an account for your comment so that I could grasp your point.. All too often on this blog we get lost in vagueness. If a person tells me they haven’t understood what I said then I try to explain…if I can’t explain my own words it is quite likely I have not understood them either. We have to be careful of this because the discussion needs to have basic coherence or else be meaningless and off putting for others who see merely back biting, opinionating and religious cliche. I am sorry to have wasted your time St Joseph but I was interested in the discussion and trying simply to understand.the drift being taken.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you.
      However I was very surprised that you missed my point, which to me was quite simple and self explanatory So I assumed if you did not understand what I said about’ sheep’etc which has been used so much in the past, at least as long as I can remember in my74 years, you would not be able to understand what I would be saying next!.

  31. ignatius says:

    Thankyou St Joseph but you have still not tried to explain your comment:
    “Are we to believe that Jesus was speaking about psychology when He asked St Peter ‘Do you love me’? Feed my sheep- Feed my lambs!”
    I think you are trying to make a point about the nature of love, but until you simply explain yourself I cannot be sure. This remark is nowhere near self explanatory. . I can think of several possible interpretations but cannot be sure I grasp your meaning unless you say what it is. Now you understand your view is not self explanatory could you explain it please? This post is as it appears, there are no hidden meanings or implications involves just a simple request for clarification.

    • overload says:

      Ignatius & St Joseph, does this rewriting of StJ’s words resolve the problem?:
      “Are we to believe that Jesus was using psychology when He asked St Peter ‘Do you love me’? Feed my sheep- Feed my lambs!”

  32. St.Joseph says:

    Let us sort this out once and for all.

    My comment @ 9.45 on the 15th September above asked ‘ Are we to believe that Jesus was speaking about psycology when he asked St Peter ‘Do you love me? (see question mark)
    Feed my sheep-Feed my lambs’
    This question was not for you personally, however you did not answer my question-only with a question .
    Ignatius HOW about answering my question first?

    • St.Joseph says:

      PS Ignatius.
      If you are stuck or confused a Yes or a No will do.
      Only you seemed to be confused about the sheep!

      • ignatius says:

        I’m not confused about ‘sheep’ I wanted to know what you were trying to say. In other words why were you using the analogy of Jesus’ words to Peter in relationship to the discussion about psychology, spirit and grace. As you can see, several people here have interpreted your words according to their own devices and then tried to instruct me with their views. This is called ‘going off at a tangent’ The topic of ‘psychology’ was in itself related to a comment by Rahner about the way in which grace was mediated to creation. You seem to have used it in a negative sense that was not intended; so quite reasonably I was asking you a question about what you were saying…I thought this blog was about discussion you see. Enough now.

  33. Geordie says:

    Ignatius, you are not the only one who cannot understand what St Joseph’s was getting at. I was hoping you would get an answer for me as well as yourself.
    St Joseph, what was the point?

  34. St.Joseph says:

    Geordie. The subject of psychology was being discussed, so if you read my comment again you will kjnow why I ASKED the question, which I did not get an answer, Now If there you or Ignatius can not answer my question, I am not prepared to go into a long discussion,as it was an answer for me to discuss then when Ignatius made a comment .Yes, No, or I Dont know would be enough.
    Then if it needs a reply I would give one!.
    I was enlightened by Brendan’s comment to mine a 16th September at 7am Ignatius would havde been too if he had read it,.
    Read that, at least he answered my question.
    I can not make it any clearer.
    One has to follow the blog and not pick from pieces of comments without following the stream of the subjects.
    Which Ignatius did by going on to not understanding ‘sheep’ he knew perfectly well what I was speaking about, however he was just being awkward and tantalising. So there you have said it..

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