I came to an appreciation of the Holy Spirit in my thirties as I taught the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit to my fourth graders. I didn’t quite understand it as a child the first time around. I will say this, the Holy Spirit is amazing! When you ask to be strengthened in the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, courage, piety, counsel, and fear of the Lord there is clarity of purpose and direction that follows. Fear, not so much that you are afraid of God but more that you are in awe of God’s love and power in our lives, is what is meant by “fear of the Lord”. This comes from paying attention to how God works in your life. It leads to giving your all for God because you appreciate the magnitude of His love. Exercising the gifts through prayer, results in the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all things that allow us to live in right relationship with God and one another. All things we need in our world. All things we need to continue the work of Jesus. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit to renew the face of the earth.
Recently, I was exercising at the Wisconsin Athletic Club, the people there are friendly and I enjoy the opportunity to keep my body loose for school recess. The room I was exercising in was shared between myself and two other men. One of the men I had never seen before, the other had become an acquaintance. At one point I moved to another part of the building when, shortly after, the man I was an acquaintance with excitedly came up to me. He eagerly told me that he started a conversation with the third man in the room and it turns out he was a VP for none other than the famous website Facebook and had the wealth to prove it. As much as I was surprised to hear that such a man had somehow found his way into the WAC in Brookfield and had been in the same room as me, I was more surprised at my indifference to such a fact. I simply could not match or come close to the excitement my friend was displaying. I found this quite strange. After all, this man was, according to my friend, worth many millions if not billions, how could I not be at least somewhat excited to think I was a mere feet away from him.
As the week went on I mulled this over and an answer slowly became clear. While this man represented the pinnacle of worldly wealth, it pales in comparison to what myself and every Catholic has. For in my poor and unworthy hands, I have held the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, my hands have held God himself. When I enter through the doors of the Church, I find myself in the same room as the God who was born in a manger, walked on water, forgives sins, created me and died for me. What could this man offer to me that I do not already have?
The longer I am a priest, the more I am in awe and gratitude for the great gift of the Eucharist. The world can offer me many things, but it cannot offer me God himself. Perhaps that is why it is so fitting that the word “Eucharist” means Thanksgiving.
Every day, I begin my day in prayer. The routine is very simple but well-rehearsed. It is the same prayer I have had for the last nine years. As part of my routine, I pray that I be the vessel by which the Lord fulfills His work. It is a prayer of surrender. Surrendering is not new to me, I have lived my life in surrender to Jesus Christ since I was sixteen years old. When I get that "feeling" it usually falls in line with a moment of change, a moment of conversion at the climax of surrender. We are meant to go through multiple conversions throughout a lifetime as we grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus by surrendering to His will. I recently had one of those moments that moved me deeper into conversion resulting, once again, into surrendering. It is then that I started having that "feeling". I am now left waiting to see what the "feeling" is going to bring. Since my announcement to transition out of the principalship, many have asked what I am doing next. I truly do not have a “next”. I am open to the will of the Father. He will make my path clear but until then, I am here.
Many Saints write about conversion and surrender, as it is a pathway to holiness. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say, "We have to love until it hurts. It is not enough to say I love. We must put that love into a living action. And how do we do that? By giving until it hurts". This loving until it hurts is conversion. It is surrender because it is counter-cultural. St. Faustina brought us the depiction of surrender through the image of the Divine Mercy and the simple yet powerful prayer "Jesus, I trust in you!" Releasing oneself to the will of the Father is liberating yet terrifying.
It is not enough to say yes to God when he has called us for himself. It's very important to put that “yes” into a living action. And how do we put that into a living action? By our total surrender to Him. We understand that He has chosen us for Himself - all that follows is that we allow Him to use us without consulting us. We are human beings and we like to know exactly what He wants, how He wants, and so on. But if we really want to be only all for Jesus, it is important that we give Him a free hand to do with us what He wants, as He wants. Only then can we really say we are only all for Jesus. - Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Thirsting for God, 2000.