Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

conversion, Education, faith, Gospel, New Testament, sacraments

The Holy Spirit and Pope Francis

the holy spirit and pope Francis
the holy spirit and Pape Francis

Who is the Holy Spirit?

In December of 2016, Papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamassa preached his first Advent sermon on the second “post-concilior” period. With the passage of fifty years since Vatican ll, we’ve ended a period “characterized by problems with reception” of the litiurgical changes and entered, the Franciscan Capuchin theologian declared, “new innovation in theology and the life of the church with a specific name: the Holy Spirit.” His is a radical, provocative and compelling statement, is it not?

Before moving on to my subject, “Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit,” we’ve got to stop and ask ourselves, “Who is the Holy Spirit?”

“What do we know about him?”

The third Person of the Trinity, right.

The effusion of the Love between God the Father and His Beloved Son, yes.

But do these help us understand this third Person?.

A read of the catechism’s definition of Baptism, offers comprehension of the Holy Spirit’s power and majesty. When baptized, each of us is left with an indelible spiritual mark.

“No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. Through the sacrament, the Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of eternal life…Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift  because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath  because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Although I’ve written about the sacrament of baptism before, this first still sentence jolts. And seems to command a repeat. “No sin can erase this ‘indelible spirtual mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.”

The second ‘post concilor’ period

is a far from evocative phrase. And yet all of Christianity has entered a ” new innovation in theology and life of the church with a specific name: the Holy Spirit.”


We can say that the intuition of St. John XXIII about the Council as “a new Pentecost for the Church” found its actualization only later after the conclusion of the Council, as has so often happened in the history of the Councils…In the coming year, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church will occur

It is one of the many signs—the most noticeable because of the magnitude of the phenomenon—of an awakening to the Holy Spirit and charisms in the Church. The Council had paved the way for this reception, speaking in Lumen gentium of the charismatic dimension of the Church alongside the institutional and hierarchical dimension and insisting on the importance of charisms.  In his homily for the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday in 2012, Benedict XVI affirmed,

Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit.

Papal Preacher Gives First Advent Sermon

Quickly, Father Cantalmassa explains the new theology is no substitute for traditional theology but rather inclusion of what has been lacking: affirming the Holy Spirit as the “light of dogmas.” And exhorting the Creed ‘from the ground up.’ By that the priest means renewed appreciation of the Holy Spirit as third person of the Trinune God. Observing that Protestant theologian Karl Bath named this renewed emphasis on the Holy Spirit as Third Article Theology. the Papal Preacher emphasizes the universality of the doctrrine. This develpment has occured throughout all of Christianity.

Eloquently, the Papal Preacher explains the ‘unknowablity’of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit, nevertheless, will always remain the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects. He is like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we can see the effects of its passing. He is like the light that illuminates everything around it but remains invisible.
This is why the Spirit is the least known and least beloved of the three Persons, despite the fact that he is Love in person.

Papal Preacher

The Holy Spirit and Pope Francis

Although we know we should accept what’s happening as God’s will for us, we kvetch. About too much rain, not enough, or too hot or cold. And all too often, about whether the priest and/or parish is too liberal or too orthodox. And so for each of the popes I’ve ‘known’, John Paul ll and Benedict, people complained.

But it’s impossible to miss the negative–at times, scandalous, opinions of Catholics regarding Pope Francis’s encyclicals, decisons, off-the-cuff comments and just about everything he says or does. Most recently, the simmering negativity erupted into a raging boil with his New Year’s missive on blessing ‘irregular’ couples–same-sex married men and women. Reminiscent of his apparent softening on the church’s stance on reception of the sacraments by divorced Catholics, the resulting cacophany of shock and outrage has been deafening. Countless priests, scholars and a few bishops are claiming that Pope Francis has comitted heresy and cannot remain as pope.

But could there be something else happening here?

“The Holy Spirit, nevertheless, will always remain the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects. He is like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we can see the effects of its passing. He is like the light that illuminates everything around it but remains invisible.

Father Cantalmassa is referring to Jesus’ exhortation to Nicodemus when the elder questions how one can be reborn. “How can a man enter his mother’s womb a second time?” The leader of the Pharissees approached Jesus secretly, in the night…frightened yet irresistably drawn.

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. 

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,.

Could there be something else happening here?

Only after a friend–Catholic but doesn’t practice his faith–commented about the “Communistic theories of Pope Francis” in his encyclical on the envirnoment, did I read Laudato Si. And wondered how anyone could read “Communistic theory” into a document staunchly based on Saint Francis’ love for creation and the writings of previous popes about the wounds on the earth caused by our excessive exploitation. But I suspect, like my friend, they didn’t bother to read the document. But just took the opportunity to jump on a bandwagon of criticism

A few years later, when Pope Francis delegated to parish priests authority to discern whether divorced Catholic parishioners merit exception from the church’s prohibiton of the Body and Blood of Christ to divorced men and women, I was delighted. I have not read Pope Francis’ 264 page document concerning this decision nor do I feel the need to. This merely seemed a reasonable, just and merciful decision.

When the Pope placed limits on the Tridentine Mass because adherence to the Latin Mass was obstructing universal acceptance of Vatican ll, I believed he was correct in doing this. I know Catholics who believe Vatican ll to be heresy–refusing to accept the Novus Ordo Mass as licit.

And finally, Pope Francis’ with recent declaration of blessing ‘irregular couples,’ a most disturbing pattern reveals itself. The language of Pope Francis’ document, once again, is reasonable, just and merciful. That is, if we take the time to find an interpretation not fueled by anger, rebellion or disobedience. Like theolgian Father Joseph Iannizzi’s fine Theological Explanation and Clarification of Fiducia Supplicans. In just twenty-two pages, Father Ianuzzi dispenses with all the garbage. Quite clearly this is something else happening here-its symptoms are division, disunity and deceit.

The secular media has a track record of perpetuating a false narrative of the Church to the dismay of many Christians who often fall prey to dishonest reporting. Indeed, no sooner had the Vatican released its FS Declaration than the secular press, faster than the truth got its boots on, distorted the Declaration’s message by putting into the mouth of the aging Roman Pontiff words he never uttered. Such false headlines, emerging from the press and reiterated by far-right and far-left secular, Catholic and Christian journalists read, “Vatican Approves of Gay Unions with its Blessing,” “Pope Endorses Same-Sex Marriage,” “Sin is no longer sin in the Catholic Church,”etc. To better grasp the magnitude of the spiritual harm
generated by false journalistic reporting, consider its foreseen consequences by both St. Don Bosco and Pope
Pius XI.

Theological Explanation and Clarification of Fiducia Supplicans

Here’s a better lens than mine with which to view Pope Francis:

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Gospel Mk 2:13-17

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blessing same sex couples, pope francis

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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