Madonna House

A Hidden Life in the Spirit

by Fr. Pat McNulty

I’ve always liked the feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit.

Yeah, but when it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t seem to me it’s very high on our Catholic evangelical list. Most other believers just get right in there with the power an’ drive out them demons an’ heal them people!

Seems like we Catholics putz around until you’d think we don’t know if we believe in the Holy Spirit or not.

Well, perhaps we haven’t given as much evidence of the kind of faith-power in the Holy Spirit in our lives as we should, but there’s been a marvellous revival of that kind of power in the Spirit in the Catholic community in recent years.

But now, through the same Holy Spirit, we have the advantage of being able to look at the gathered faith experience of thousands of people over almost half a century to warn us of some of the immature, even dangerous, expressions of life in the Spirit.

And so, once again, we have understood more clearly that the primary life in the Spirit is not an evangelical event for us Catholics but rather it’s how the Spirit gradually leads us fully into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning with our baptism.

For some, especially as adults, that may bring about a profound public expression of the power of the Spirit as it did for the apostles. For others, it may be a quieter journey leading them perhaps to an unknown martyrdom by the power of that same Holy Spirit.

And for some that Spirit takes them into the depths of a union with Jesus that is so profound nobody believes them while they’re still on this earth, but after they die…..whoaaaaaaaa, talk about the power of the Holy Spirit!

But it still seems to me like we have to water everything down. Sorta like we’re afraid to let loose and let God when it comes to the pow’r of the Spirit.

Oh, my friend, you make me sorry that I burned all my journals this year before you had the chance to read them.

You’d see that there was a time in my life when I did try to “water everything down” and I damn-near drowned myself in the process at the very time I was deeply involved in the new “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” in our midst. Took me almost 25 years to let loose of that and “let God.”

And when I finally did, I was utterly surprised, shocked, at where the same Spirit led me.

Hey, I was a good pastor (ho hum) and a good preacher and teacher. (ho, ho, hum, hum).

And here I am in this rag-tag family of wounded believers back in the back-bush in Combermere, Ontario (where?) in a silly little cabin at the side of a huge field where I can hear the cows moo and smell the cows’ poo all summer long right outside my window.

And all the time learning a whole new life in the Spirit in ways I never dreamed of, and I’ll wager it’s a power lots of believers don’t even know about, my friend.

Well, if I don’t know about it, then it’s just like I said. We Catholics never talk about it. So talk, ole man. Talk!

Talk? Maybe we do too much talking. However, there is a line in a prayer we pray on the feast of the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father which, to me says it better than I can.

On the feast of the Ascension, when we finally turn our hearts to the great feast of Pentecost we ask Almighty God to, grant that we [who believe in the Ascension of Christ] may in the Spirit dwell already in heavenly realms (Collect for the Ascension).

Now I’m assuming that that really means to dwell in the Spirit in heavenly realmswhile we are still living an ordinary life here on earth, still doing all the simple, messy human things the Son of God did on earth—life in the Spirit—until he ascended into heaven.

Keep in mind, Reverend, when I said “talk,” I didn’t mean write a whole new article.

I’m just going to share an example of that “dwelling in the Spirit already in heavenly realms,” which happened this week in my messy, everyday life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I seldom listen to music anymore. In the silence of the poustinia, except maybe during Christmas and Easter or other special times, I generally find it a distraction.

But I do love classical music and so the other night, right in the middle of Lent, I listened to a CD and heard some music I did not recognize.

I looked at the insert, found the name of the composer and later looked up his name on the internet because I wanted to know who he was.

There I discovered that he was very much affected by the works of Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher who died at the age of 44. He had lost his mind in that terribly lonely land where one can only believe in one’s self, since all else had seemed to fail.

I always thought of Nietzsche as a rather arrogant philosopher, mad at God and mad at the world who needed someone to “take it out on”—namely us!

But through the music I became newly interested in his life and after a short tour on the internet library, I came to see this poor, wounded man with different eyes.

He made me very thankful for the faith I have been given. He made me very humble when I looked back on my life and realized that there was no reason why I did not follow his path and lose not only my mind but my soul as well.

But most importantly—and this is where the Holy Spirit comes in I think—one evening I found myself sitting in the light of my altar candles looking into the eyes of my image of the Sacred Heart as if I were holding this poor man to my own heart and begging Jesus for gentleness and mercy toward him like He has been so gentle and merciful toward me!


Now that might not look like the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit to some, but this is how God allows me to sometimes “dwell in the Spirit already in heavenly realms.”

You start with life: a little sadness leading to a little music, the name of a composer, curiosity and suddenly you’re way off somewhere else in the Spirit doing things in heavenly realms you never dreamed you could do.

Do I hear water runnin’ agin, Reverend?

Well, what if the sound you hear, my friend, is not my “watering things down? What if it’s the sound of Nietzsche’s tears, or others like him, looking for someone to touch their hearts from afar?

What if that’s also part of the famous evangelical power of “healing” and “driving out of demons” in the Spirit!

Imagine for a moment if by “dwelling in the Spirit already in heavenly realms” quietly in our everyday Christian life, we could personally befriend any soul that ever lived and walk together in the mystery of the merciful heart of Jesus, sort of like a new Adam and Eve walking together with God in the Garden before the Fall. What if?