holy-spirit-saint-peter-basilica-romeTemples of the Holy Spirit 

by Fr. John Henry Hanson, O.Praem

Contemplating the mystery of the Divine indwelling, Blessed John Henry Newman is enraptured at the thought of the Holy Spirit’s presence within himself: “My very body,” he prayerfully wonders in his Meditations and Devotions, “this earthly, fleshly, wretched tabernacle—even my body is Thy Temple. O astonishing, awful truth!”[1]

In such meditations, and in a sermon especially focused on the subject of “The Indwelling Spirit,” Newman seeks to understand the Lord’s promise that “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you” (Jn 16:7). On the surface, it would seem otherwise. The absence of Christ under His human appearances seems quite disadvantageous, not the preferred thing for disconcerted and timid disciples. Questions of fidelity, strength, direction, wisdom, etc., naturally surface in the mind of any sincere but realistic disciple.

Yet it must be so, the Blessed Cardinal affirms. The Holy Spirit’s presence within us should be at least comparable to that of Christ’s, otherwise “Christ’s going away would be a loss, and not a gain, and the Spirit’s presence would be a mere pledge, not an earnest.” And so he concludes that the Spirit “comes to us as Christ came, by a real and personal visitation.” A pledge, after all, is only a promise, but an earnest (or deposit) is an actual “down payment” on an amount to be given fully only in the future. An earnest is a real, if germinal, portion.

Although it is “not by measure that God gives the Spirit,” our earthen vessel on its pilgrimage heavenward is capable of receiving only so much of the Gift (cf. Jn 3:34). An apt parallel is the Psalmist’s avowal: “I shall know the fullness of joy before your face, O Lord” (cf. Ps 16:11). We have joy in the Lord here and now, and are exhorted to rejoice in the Lord always, but the uncertainties of life necessarily render it imperfect. Joy to the full, perfect and lasting, only comes when we no longer fear its loss. And this is the state of those who stand before the light of God’s face.

Newman’s awe stems from the fact that our earthly tent shelters the Holy Spirit in a real if ineffable way, going beyond “merely giving me good suggestions, inspiring grace and helping from without.” Invoking the Holy Spirit’s “infinite compassion,” he gratefully addresses Him: “Thou hast from the first entered into my soul, and taken possession of it. Thou hast made it Thy Temple.”

If we would share Newman’s deep awareness of the Spirit’s residence within, we know that some personal changes are called for. But of what kind? Are we asked simply to “make room” for the Spirit by quitting one or another of our bad habits, reducing the clutter in our interior life so as to accommodate a distinguished presence? The Lord never wants us only to sweep the house clean and leave it tidy but empty. More than rearranging furniture—shifting the contents of our inner life—the Holy Spirit demands an entire handing over of the keys to our house, the “earthly, fleshly, wretched tabernacle,” so that He might, as in Newman’s prayer, take full possession of it.

In other words, we become a temple upon the Spirit’s entry, not before. We ourselves cannot lay the foundations and raise the walls and parapets. Construction work of this kind is God’s, for “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps 127:1).

But to invite Him in, as the liturgy of Pentecost urges us to do, is to say “Come” to the only One who can set our house in order.[2] The assorted materials or elements in us that need healing, evening out, solidifying or softening, cooling or warming, are like so many structural add-ons that only a master architect can fashion into a harmonious, decorous whole.

We simply can’t see clearly enough what needs to be done, nor have we prudence and courage enough to carry out what we might see. It is God the Spirit who must sort through all of the incompatible clutter that we lug around—holding them up before us, before a soul growing increasingly simpler and clearer, asking, “Do you still want this? May I rid you of this now?”

If, as Newman says, Jesus substitutes the Spirit for Himself in Christian souls, then He brings about in us more than a change of attitude, or a new lease on life. In the Gospels Christ enters the Temple to cleanse it, to claim it for Himself and His Father. The Holy Spirit is sent to us by both Father and Son for the same purpose: we are purchased by Christ so that His Spirit can range freely within us, governing and purifying our hearts and minds, making us into a dwelling fit for Himself.

He helps us not only to jettison this or that vice, but to do the great and main work for which He has been sent: to build us into Christ. In Him “the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:21-22).

[1] This and all other Newman quotations taken from his Meditations and Devotions, part III, section 14: “The Paraclete,” and “The Indwelling Spirit,” PPS Vol. 2, 19.

[2] See the Pentecost Sequence: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”

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The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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