I’m probably dating myself with this question: How many of you remember David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists? Honestly, I was not a regular watcher of the show, since it was on too late at night. But as I was doing some research for this article, I visited some of his Top Ten Lists on YouTube. He certainly had a sense of humor!
Upon reflecting on list-making, I realized that there is something ingrained in the human psyche that likes creating and reading lists – especially those called the “top ten.” It seems that we like to put our lives in neat categories. As I continue my series on the Holy Spirit, I would like to share with you a top ten list on how to foster inspirations from the Holy Spirit, according to Father Jacques Philippe in his book, “In the School of the Holy Spirit.”
But before I begin the list, let me share with you a basic notion that these next few reflections are built upon. To quote Father Philippe, “God loves everyone with unique love; he wants to lead them all to perfection, but at the same time has very different paths for different people. This means that the frequency and the characteristics of the inspirations of grace will differ from one to another. We cannot force the Spirit, and God is the master of his gifts.”1
So how do we open ourselves to the gentle whisperings of the Holy Spirit? This is where Father Philippe offers a top ten list, which we’ll examine in the next several articles. The list is his, the explanations are mine.
- Open our hearts to a spiritual director – Opening our hearts to a spiritual director, a spiritual friend or even in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is something that God blesses. It shows that we are working on acquiring the virtue of humility, since truly opening ourselves makes us transparent to another. We expose not only the glory of God found within our soul, but also our warts and moles and all those items that live in our spiritual closets or under our spiritual beds. The understanding of humility as a virtue is somewhat twisted in our society. Humility is not about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less. It’s knowing that you are part of a greater community; that the world does not revolve around you. Our battle to live this virtue is all about the fact that “You are not God” – something our first parents wanted desperately to be.
If you truly wish to connect to a spiritual director, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (717-657-4804 or firstname.lastname@example.org). I can share with you the individuals in our Diocese who are engaged in this ministry.
- Examine the movements of our hearts – I often tell those with whom I engage in spiritual direction or retreats that the longest 18 inches in the world is the distance between our minds and our hearts. Our heart is the sanctuary that God built within us the moment we were baptized. By looking at and understanding how our hearts move us, we can begin to understand the whispers of the action of the Holy Spirit. “It means we should live in such a habitual disposition of desire for God, inner calm, prayer and attentiveness to what is happening within us that, if a movement of grace is born in our hearts, it is not swamped or listed in the ‘background noise’ of other things competing for our attention, but can emerge into our consciousness and be recognized as divine inspiration.”2
With this being said, we are not infallible. There are indeed times in which our “disordered” hearts move us towards things that are not of God. This is where sin comes into the picture and where we need to revisit #10 on this list!
I will continue the top ten list of how to open yourself to the Holy Spirit in my articles to follow. So, in the words of David Letterman, “Drumroll, please!”
1Philippe, J. In the School of the Holy Spirit. (2002). Scepter Pubs, p. 26
2Philippe, pg. 41.
(Do you have a topic that you would like Sister Geralyn to write about? Send your suggestions to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness