Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

The Holy Spirit: a Reflection for Pentecost

by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, ORC

Descriptive Title

Bishop Schneider Reflection for Pentecost


Quoting from Divinum illud munus, the first Papal Encyclical on the Holy Spirit and the writings of St Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Schneider shows that true Christian life means authentic love and devotion to the Holy Spirit.

Larger Work

Mass of Ages


12 -13

Publisher & Date

Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, Summer 2017

It was 120 years ago, in 1897, when Divinum illud munus, the first Papal Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, was published. With this encyclical, Pope Leo XIII left the Church a real masterwork of Catholic doctrine on the Holy Spirit. In the following quotations we can discover with amazement the ever-valid teaching on the Holy Spirit, a teaching which reveals itself to be relevant to the life of the Church in our own days.

There is only one way to salvation, and this is the Catholic Church, established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all men are invited to enter this way of salvation:

"Our Saviour never ceases to invite, with infinite affection, all men, of every race and tongue, into the bosom of His Church: 'Come ye all to Me,' 'I am the Life,' 'I am the Good Shepherd.' Nevertheless, according to His inscrutable counsels, He did not will to entirely complete and finish this office Himself on earth, but as He had received it from the Father, so He transmitted it for its completion to the Holy Ghost." (Divinum illud munus, 1).

Pope Leo XIII describes in an admirable and concise manner the unspeakable dignity of baptized persons as being by Divine adoption sons of God: "Human nature is by necessity the servant of God: "The creature is a :servants we are the servants of God by nature" (St Cyr. Alex., Thesaur. I. v., c. 5). On account, however, of original sin, our whole nature had fallen into such guilt and dishonour that we had become enemies to God. "We were by nature the children of wrath" (Eph. ii., 3). There was no power, which could raise us and deliver us from this ruin and eternal destruction. But God, the Creator of mankind and infinitely merciful, did this through His only begotten Son, by whose benefit it was brought about that man was restored to that rank and dignity whence he had fallen, and was adorned with still more abundant graces. No one can express the greatness of this work of divine grace in the souls of men. Wherefore, both in Holy Scripture and in the writings of the fathers, men are styled regenerated, new creatures, partakers of the Divine Nature, children of God, god-like, and similar epithets. Now these great blessings are justly attributed as especially belonging to the Holy Ghost. He is "the Spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: "Abba, Father:" He fills our hearts with the sweetness of paternal love: "The Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God" (Rom. viii. 15-16). This truth accords with the similitude observed by the Angelic Doctor between both operations of the Holy Ghost for through Him "Christ was conceived in holiness to be by nature the Son of God," and "others are sanctified to be the sons of God by adoption" (St Th. xxxii., a. I). This spiritual generation proceeds from love in a much more noble manner than the natural: namely, from the uncreated Love. The beginnings of this regeneration and renovation of man are by Baptism." (Divinum illud munus, 8-9)

There is an essential difference between the natural and the supernatural order of existence. There is the presence of God in his creation and in man on the level of nature and another presence on the level of grace, which begins already here on earth in the souls who live in the state of sanctifying grace. God is present and exists in all things:

"By His power, in so far as all things are subject to His power; by His presence, inasmuch as all things are naked and open to His eyes; by His essence, inasmuch as he is present to all as the cause of their being." (St Th. Ia, q. viii., a. 3).

Pope Leo XIII explains more concretely this truth, saying:

"God is in man, not only as in inanimate things, but because he is more fully known and loved by him, since even by nature we spontaneously love, desire, and seek after the good. Moreover, God by grace resides in the just soul as in a temple, in a most intimate and peculiar manner. From this proceeds that union of affection by which the soul adheres most closely to God, more so than the friend is united to his most loving and beloved friend, and enjoys God in all fullness and sweetness. Now this wonderful union, which is properly called "indwelling" differing only in degree or state, from that with which God beatifies the saints in heaven." (Divinum illud munus, 9)

True Christian life means authentic love and devotion to the Holy Spirit. Love and devotion to the Holy Spirit do not consist in extraordinary so called "charismatic" phenomena, such as speaking in tongues, having visions and delivering alleged supernatural messages. Pope Leo XIII shows us the following sound principles of a life according to the Holy Spirit. The words of the Pontiff are touching in a striking manner the very crisis of the Church in our days:

"We must strive that this love should be of such a nature as not to consist merely in dry speculations or external observances, but rather to run forward towards action, and especially to fly from sin, which is in a more special manner offensive to the Holy Spirit. For whatever we are, that we are by the divine goodness; and this goodness is specially attributed to the Holy Ghost. The sinner offends this his Benefactor, abusing His gifts; and taking advantage of His goodness becomes more hardened in sin day by day. Again, since He is the Spirit of Truth, whosoever faileth by weakness or ignorance may perhaps have some excuse before Almighty God; but he who resists the truth through malice and turns away from it, sins most grievously against the Holy Ghost. In our days this sin has become so frequent that those dark times seem to have come which were foretold by St Paul, in which men, blinded by the just judgment of God, should take falsehood for truth, and should believe in 'the prince of this world,' who is a liar and the father thereof, as a teacher of truth: 'God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying' (2 Thess. ii., 10). 'In the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error and the doctrines of devils' (1 Tim. iv., 1). But since the Holy Ghost, as We have said, dwells in us as in His temple, We must repeat the warning of the Apostle 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed" (Eph. iv., 30). Nor is it enough to fly from sin; every Christian ought to shine with the splendour of virtue so as to be pleasing to so great and so beneficent a guest; and first of all with chastity and holiness, for chaste and holy things befit the temple. Hence the words of the Apostle: 'Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are' (1 Cor. Iii, 16-17): a terrible, indeed, but a just warning." (Divinum illud munus, 10).

These words are indeed very up to date in view of the spreading practice of divorce and of a practical legitimization of fornication and adultery in the life of the Church, particularly due to an ideologically erroneous, and tendentious application of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia in several particular churches, abusing thereby insolently even the concept of "Divine mercy".

The true pastoral work and method in helping sinners consists not in confirming them in their sinful life style and saying to them, for example, that the observance of the Sixth Commandment would constitute only an ideal. The only valid path to a life according to the will of God, which will lead to heaven, consists in a constant and humble collaboration with the Holy Spirit, which bestows His gifts to those who sincerely and confidently ask His help in prayer.

Once again we can listen to these encouraging and formidable words of the Magisterium:

"The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness. And chiefly that first requisite of man, the forgiveness of sins, must be sought for from Him: 'It is the special character of the Holy Ghost that He is the Gift of the Father and the Son. Now the remission of all sins is given by the Holy Ghost as by the Gift of God' (Summ Th. 3a, q. ill., a. 8, ad 3m). Concerning this Spirit the words of the Liturgy are very explicit 'For He is the remission of all sins' (Roman. Missal, Tuesday after Pentecost). How He should be invoked is clearly taught by the Church, who addresses Him in humble supplication, calling upon Him by the sweetest of names: 'Come, Father of the poor! Come, Giver of gifts! Come, Light of our hearts! O, best of Consolers, sweet Guest of the soul, our refreshment!' (Hymn, Veni Sancte Spiritus). She earnestly implores Him to wash, heal, water our minds and hearts, and to give to us who trust in Him 'the merit of virtue, the acquirement of salvation, and joy everlasting.' Nor can it be in any way doubted that He will listen to such prayer, since we read the words written by His own inspiration: 'The Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groaning?' (Rom. viii., 26. Lastly, we ought confidently and continually to beg of Him to illuminate us daily more and more with His light and inflame us with. His charity: for, thus inspired with faith and love, we may press onward earnestly towards our eternal reward"(Divinum illud munus, 11)

© Latin Mass Society of England and Wales

This item 11587 digitally provided courtesy of