Reflecting on the Holy Spirit’s Guidance This Pentecost

Stained glass window depicting the the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the Church of Ostuni Apulia Italy.On May 19 this year, we’ll celebrate the birthday of the Catholic Church: Pentecost. Several thousand years ago, the third person of the Holy Trinity made its debut and gave the Apostles the strength, wisdom, and courage they needed to spread the Gospel to all nations. But if you’re anything like me, it can be easy to forget about this pivotal day in the Church’s history since it doesn’t come with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Easter has an entire three-hour ceremony which includes the induction of new Catholics to the Church, the four-week season of Advent builds the anticipation of Christmas, and every Ash Wednesday triggers a flood of Catholic memes about the various ash crosses on social media. 

While it’s true that Pentecost may not be amplified by the same bells and whistles, this solemnity provides its own value, reminding us of the Holy Spirit’s inspiring presence in our lives. It’s easy to forget how active the Holy Spirit can be, but hearing the message of Peter’s courageous witness, the proclamation that changed the Church forever can draw attention to the Spirit’s activity in our own lives. For my part, I am reminded of the Holy Spirit’s good guidance in my own life.

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I think back to when I was a senior in high school making the decision of where to attend college. Of course, choosing what school to attend is pivotal; so much prayer and discernment was needed. Many people gave me advice and promoted different schools (usually whichever one they went to), and as I witnessed schoolmate after schoolmate gleefully announce their choice of college, I felt stuck and frustrated. I looked at plenty of schools that offered practical majors such as business or computer science, but I wasn’t particularly compelled to attend them. The school I was most drawn to was Christendom College. 

Christendom emphasized community and had an unflagging commitment to Catholic orthodoxy. Its curriculum was built on the Catholic liberal arts tradition, offering theology, philosophy, and classic works of literature in place of contemporary conventions such as engineering. Many friends and family members were skeptical about the school because of this and thought it was therefore less practical. However I connected with the school’s goal to expand its students’ minds in a broader sense, helping them achieve the ability to think and reason effectively. Though the school’s vision was unconventional, its fascinating curriculum and the prospect of spending four years engaging with passionately Catholic young people was impossible to overlook.

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The writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a personal favorite of mine for many years, held the answer to my questions. St. Ignatius reminds us that the Holy Spirit’s movements in our souls take away sadness and disturbance and, in doing so, draw us to good action. The thought of attending Christendom brought peace and confidence that I would be well-prepared for the work of evangelization. After months of prayer, discernment, and exploration, I had my answer.  

I finally decided to take the liberal arts route, choosing history as my major. By exploring the actions of the Catholic Church over the past centuries and learning about the multifaceted motivations of the men and women who shaped history, the Holy Spirit guided me to a greater understanding of his Church and the nature of the men and women who fill her pews. 

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Now that I’ve graduated, I can confidently say that during those four years, my life changed for the better. I made strong friendships with great people, grew both spiritually and emotionally, and became a better, stronger, wiser person because of the choices I made. But I didn’t make it alone. As we approach Pentecost, a solemnity to celebrate the Holy Spirit in a special way, I’m reminded of this and filled with gratitude for what the Spirit has done for me. 

I think if we take a genuine look back at our lives, we’ll notice the care and precision with which we’re guided through this chaotic world. My experience with college was only one of many in which confusion and frustration gave way to gratitude as it became clear what the Spirit was doing. This Pentecost, I invite you to reflect upon the confusing moments in your own life. You might find there’s wisdom present there you may not have otherwise noticed.