The Comforter. The Advocate. The Helper. The Paraclete. We call the Holy Spirit by many names, but do we know how He calls us? Are we drawing close to Him in prayer, or leaving Him on the sidelines thinking of Him only on Pentecost and on the feast of the Annunciation?
Drawing Close to the Holy Spirit
We sat down with Sr. Mary Ann Fatula to talk all about her life in the Holy Spirit and what she wants every Catholic to know about the Holy Spirit. I know you will find her insights just as encouraging as I did!
Would you tell us a bit about your journey with the Lord and how He led you to religious life?
Every day the Holy Spirit inspires every one of us to pray for all kinds of blessings, but He also helps us to become more grateful for past blessings that we so easily may have taken for granted.
In my own case, with each year I grow more grateful for how our family of seven children (with a little sister in Heaven) was so deeply blessed with our beautiful Mom and Dad—faith-filled Catholics who put the Lord at the very heart of our family life. Their devotion to the Lord helped me to realize, even when I was a child, that I was created to belong completely to Him.
From the day of my First Holy Communion, the Lord drew me to go to Mass and to receive Him every morning. I also was blessed to have wonderful, joyful Dominican Sisters as my teachers in grade school and high school. Through them, I fell in love with Saint Dominic, and the Lord drew me to join their Dominican community after high school.
When did you first encounter the Holy Spirit as a Person?
Because of my father’s heritage, I am blessed to be a Byzantine Rite Catholic. The Eastern rites have a tremendous love for the Blessed Trinity, and I am so grateful to have grown up with a love for each Divine Person. I was especially close to the Father and the Lord Jesus, but, when I was a young sister, the Holy Spirit gave me a desire also to know and love Him more deeply.
One day, during Mass in the convent chapel at the high school where I was teaching, we were singing a beautiful hymn to the Holy Spirit, and I was very much drawn to pray:
Most Sweet Holy Spirit, I long to truly know You and love You and be close to You. Draw me to Yourself.
This is a prayer He Himself put in my heart, and He has never stopped answering it. But the wonderful truth is that this is also the prayer the Holy Spirit wants to put in the heart of every one of us, the prayer He wants to answer so intimately by drawing every one of us close to Himself.
How has relationship with the Holy Spirit transformed your prayer life? Your religious life? Your interactions with others?
Because the Holy Spirit is the living, intimate Love between the Father and the Son, knowing and loving the Holy Spirit truly has deepened my prayer as intimacy with Him and with the Father and the Lord Jesus. And this is the same gift the Holy Spirit wants to give every one of us!
It is so natural for us perhaps to spend a lot of our time in prayer asking for favors, and the Trinity surely want to answer our requests in the best possible way. But prayer given by the Holy Spirit is so much more than that. The closer we come to the Holy Spirit, the more our prayer becomes intimacy with the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Lord Jesus, an intimacy that really does fill and satisfy our soul!
When we are close to others, we love to be with them. We tell them that we love them, and we rest in them, as Saint John rested on the Heart of the Lord at the Last Supper. That is how it is when we draw close to the Holy Spirit. How tremendous a gift it is that the Trinity dwell intimately in us through our Baptism! And the Holy Spirit, “who prays within us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26) draws us pray to Him and to the Father and the Lord Jesus in a prayer that rests in Their presence and closeness, in the prayer of simply loving to be with Them.
Closeness with the Holy Spirit also has very much deepened my religious life. The heart of consecrated religious life is belonging completely to the Lord, being free for the Lord and for the things of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the One who keeps freeing my heart and deepening my love for Him and for the Father and the Lord Jesus every day.
Again, the Holy Spirit wants to do this for every one of us in the vocation for which we have been made and to which we are called, whether it is married life, single life, the priesthood, or consecrated religious life. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength and sweetness in our soul to live the responsibilities to which we are called with love and generosity and joy.
As we grow close to the Holy Spirit, who is Love, He never fails to give us more and more deeply a happy heart, a loving heart, a generous heart!
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What is your favorite title for the Holy Spirit and why?
There are so many beautiful names for the Holy Spirit, but the name that is dearest to me is “Love,” because this name is so intimate. All three Divine Persons are Love by nature, but only the Holy Spirit, who is the living, intimate Love between the Father and the Son, is the Divine Person whose own proper name is Love. It is so beautiful and intimate to pray to the Holy Spirit:
Oh Love, possess me. Make me Your own. Fill me with Yourself.
Another name for the Holy Spirit that is precious to me is “Beloved.” I love how Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the Holy Spirit, who is the Father’s and Son’s own Love and Beloved, dwells in us as our “Beloved.” This is so amazing, so intimate!
I am so touched by a beautiful prayer of Cardinal Mercier that begins, “Most Holy Spirit, Beloved of my soul.”
Another name for the Holy Spirit that I love is from the Pentecost Sequence: “Father of the Poor.” This is the name that wells up in my heart when I am in need, especially in desperate need! “O Father of the Poor, help me!”
The Church has given us a rich deposit of devotion to the Holy Spirit, which is on display in your new book. Do you have a favorite hymn or prayer to the Holy Spirit?
Again, there are so many beautiful hymns and prayers to the Holy Spirit which I love, but the one dearest to my heart is the Pentecost Sequence. Every single line in it is so precious, so beautiful, so true.
“Come, Father of the Poor…Of Comforters, You are the Best. You are the soul’s most welcome Guest, our sweet Refreshment here below!”
“Where You are not, we have not, nothing good in deed or thought.”
“Heal my wounds, my strength renew.”
“O most Blessed Light divine, shine within this heart of Thine, and my inmost being fill!”
I also love the short hymn to the Holy Spirit written by Saint Ambrose and used as a hymn for daytime prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. “O Love, light up my mortal frame, til others catch the living flame!”
And there is a beautiful medieval hymn by Adam of Saint Victor that deeply touches my soul:
“O Comforter, Paraclete,”
“Soother of the troubled heart, at your approach all cares depart; You soften hearts, and expel, where You dwell, clouds of heaviness and gloom!”
If you had two minutes to explain to someone how the Holy Spirit could change their life and set them free, what would you say to them?
In Heaven, our ecstasy will be an intimacy with the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that is so fulfilling, so satisfying that we cannot begin even to imagine its joy in this life! We were made for this: to share in the Divine Persons’ own intimacy with One Another. Every beautiful, wonderful, precious, good, and intimate relationship we have here on earth is a delicious “taste of the soup.” But They, the Divine Persons, are the Feast we were made for!
The Trinity made us for Happiness, and so the Trinity want us to be happy—perfectly happy in Heaven, but also happy here on earth. The Holy Spirit is the living Sweetness and Love of the Father and the Son for One another, so when we come close to the Holy Spirit, we begin to taste the sweetness and joy of Heaven in our souls now.
In the Trinity’s beautiful plan of love for us, the Holy Spirit, the Third Divine Person, is the “Giver” of the Trinity’s precious life to us, and the “Giver” of every good gift and blessing that comes to us from the Father through the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. And the unfailing fruit of being truly and intimately loved by the One who is Love, is joy! How can we not profit tremendously, amazingly, from closeness to the Holy Spirit, the Person of Love and Joy Who gives us everything that is good?
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to possess us completely and to fill our souls with His joy!
You can get Sister’s book on the Holy Spirit, Drawing Close to the Holy Spirit, here.
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