Understanding when the Spirit shows up

By Maximus Cabey | Special to the Compass | May 21, 2021


Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit? How should we pray for the gifts of the Spirit? And how will I recognize when one is given to me? — Green Bay


This year, Pentecost falls on May 23. For Catholics, Pentecost commemorates the Holy Spirit being sent by God the Father and Our Lord Jesus, to birth the church and usher in a new era. In this era, the Spirit makes his abode in the hearts of all who will repent, believe the Gospel and are baptized. The Holy Spirit writes God’s law on our hearts, gives us eternal life and makes us truly children of God. When we receive confirmation, the grace of the indwelling Spirit received in baptism is renewed and strengthened as at a new Pentecost.   

Why are so many Catholics uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit and his charisms? Many of us treat the Holy Spirit the way most Protestants treat Our Lady. This is unfortunate. The Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead. He desires that we know and experience him deeply. What would happen if we remembered him always, talked to him in our hearts throughout the day, and asked for his guidance and graces? We would change the world. 

It begins with a simple prayer: “Good morning, Holy Spirit!” “Come, Holy Spirit!” “I love you, Holy Spirit!” or “Holy Spirit, guide me.”

What are charisms? These are gifts, the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit’s loving presence, that reveal things we would not know otherwise: prophecy, words of knowledge and discerning of spirits; power to accomplish things beyond our ability, such as, healings and miracles; or the grace to speak or pray things beyond our natural limitations (speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues and powerful preaching). 

Charisms are the Spirit’s supernatural way of meeting needs through the vehicle of our expectant faith. Charisms cannot be earned. They are not given as rewards for holiness or for performing feats of asceticism. They are given freely to any of the baptized who seek to learn about them, who ask with faith and perseverance; and who, in humility, willingly risk looking foolish as they learn to use these. The best way to discover our charisms is to pray for opportunities to lovingly meet the needs of others and keep our eyes and ears open for the Spirit’s promptings.

What does the Holy Spirit’s voice sound like? Much like your own inner voice, but filled with greater peace, wisdom, kindness and generosity. Have you ever experienced just the right illustration or analogy when talking to a friend? Have you ever felt prompted to an act of kindness or generosity greater than is usual for you? 

These are everyday examples of the Spirit speaking to us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak with internal images — “a picture is worth a thousand words.” We get better at recognizing his voice by reading the Scriptures regularly and studying what the church teaches. 

If you’d like to learn more about the charisms, I recommend “The Spiritual Gifts Handbook” by Mary Healy and Randy Clark and “Lord, Renew Your Wonders” by Damian Stayne. Also check out the Encounter School of Ministry, hosted at St. Thomas More Parish in Appleton. To learn more, see encounterschool.org/greenbay


Cabey is the child and youth faith formation director and ecumenical officer for the Green Bay Diocese. He is a former Eastern Orthodox priest who was officially received into the Catholic Church in 2016.

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