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Spiritual Life

How to participate with the Holy Spirit

Sometimes gold flakes surface along the periphery. The first or last picture in a photo shoot is the winner. The opening or final page of a book delivers the line that you hold to your heart. Or the wind-down of an interview – right after the formal conversation has wrapped up – produces a comment that stops you in your tracks.

This morning I interviewed a Catholic counselor, focusing on the nature of his work. Once we’d covered my final question, I asked how he likes his job.

“It’s been a joy,” he said. “My mantra is, ‘What wants to happen today?’ In the guidance of the Holy Spirit, things are always trying to happen. And once in a while, we pay enough attention to join our energy to what God wants to happen.”

What a thrilling prospect! God is always at work but in mostly hidden ways. If we can attune ourselves to his promptings, we can actually assist him. We can accelerate his cause, we can connect the dots, we can be his hands and feet.

Immediately I thought of my aunt Jan, an empty nester whose generosity and availability flows from a deep prayer life. She trusts in God, she trusts the stranger in her midst, and she jumps at any chance to somehow connect the two.    

Because Jan is paying attention and always in conversation with God, she sees these opportunities more than the rest of us. She joins her energy to God’s, as the counselor put it.

Take her morning walk to Mass, which begins at 7:30 a.m. three miles from her home, at St. Odilia Catholic Church in Shoreview, Minnesota.

One morning she was passed by an 81-year-old man on a motorized scooter. They struck up a long conversation. Soon Jan was serving Dale lunch at a nearby park and giving him flashers and a reflective visor for safer night-time scooting.

His life story spilled out. Dale had studied under Ansel Adams and befriended Jack Kerouac. He’d been widowed. And most recently, he’d lost the right to drive a car.

Jan checks in with Dale regularly and plans to help with his next camping trip.

Another morning Jan relieved a biker who had been chased by two lost dogs on his way to work. She assumed reign of them, keeping the wilder one from the highway and finally securing her collar in order to call the owner.

Then there was the time a priest friend from Indiana called about Craig, a parishioner who had gone into cardiac arrest right before a flight made a layover at the St. Paul-Minneapolis airport. Jan zoomed into action. She and her husband, Rick, hosted Craig and his wife for three weeks.

“I pray for the people who God puts in my path,” Jan said. “And I ask God to remove all the obstacles keeping me from him.”

Spending 10 minutes in silence every day listening to God has been crucial for Jan. If God can work through a donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem, she figures, he can work through her. “I believe I’m right where God wants me to be – and if I’m not, he will direct me.”

Her generosity is fueled by gratitude. “Look, look, look! God has been so incredibly generous. I can’t possibly not return that generosity.”

Every day in service to God is an adventure. It’s also a source of abiding peace.  

“Something is happening in my life recently,” she said. “I just cannot believe how God is so generous in showing us his ways: ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be frustrated. I’ve got it under control.’”  

As the seasons shift and a new school year clicks into gear, may we pay attention to openings from the Holy Spirit. May we rise each morning with holy curiosity, asking, “What does God want to happen?”

Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.