“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” — 1 Cor 6:19

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Happy Pentecost! A special shout-out to Thom and Heather Jordan on this nearly 20-year anniversary of their Profession of Faith, Confirmation and First Communion, from their sponsors who love them and think they and their family all rock. Isn’t it awesome that our Catholic Church is spread over so much territory? Plenty of breathing room for charity to grow.

Okay…

Today the Paschal Mystery comes to a wrap as the power of the dead and risen Jesus falls down from the Father and explodes in Jerusalem to make the whole cosmos into a City of God.

The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going, keeps the Church moving forward. More and more, beyond the limits, onward. The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete, whom the Lord sends us for this very reason. And He makes unthinkable possible, the unimaginable imaginable! To use a word of St. John XXIII: it is the Holy Spirit that updates [aggiornamento] the Church: Really, he really updates it and keeps it going. And we Christians must ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit. Docility in this Spirit, who speaks to us in our heart, who speaks to us in all of life’s circumstances, who speaks to us in the Church’s life, in Christian communities, who is always speaking to us.” — Pope Francis

Back in 1987 I went through a “Life in the Spirit” seminar and was prayed over for an unleashing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was powerful for me at what was really the beginning of my faith journey. I did not experience the gift of tongues or words of knowledge or other charismatic gifts often hailed by both Pentecostals and Catholics in the Charismatic Renewal as premier signs of “baptism in the Spirit.”  What I did experience, though, was a very intense and sustained awareness of what is often called the “indwelling” of the Spirit (cf 1 Cor. 6:19). In fact, I remember when one of the members of the prayer group I had joined quoted St. Augustine, I thought to myself, “That’s exactly  it!” He told me Augustine said, “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.” [Actually what Augustine really said is even more lovely and poetic in Latin and English: Interior intimo meo et superior summo meo, “Higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”]

God is more interior, “closer” to my innermost self precisely because He communicates to my “self” existence at every second. God is “beneath me,” the “ground of my being,” as the Rhineland theologians of the 15th century loved to say. But God is also insanely close to us because He desires to unite Him-self with our-self. Not united at the superficial levels of our consciousness, but at the source, the core, the origin of who “I” am, the personal spring from which my deepest identity emerges. In other words, God wishes to get dangerously close to my heart, to what makes me who I am as an absolutely unique individual person; to the place where I am stripped of all pretense and deception and empty show and defense mechanisms. There, in that most intimate and supremely vulnerable space within me, where I am “naked,” God wishes to gain entry to become one with me, opening His Heart and Person just as unreservedly to me as He asks me to open to Him.

Whoa.

After that personal experience of the Spirit’s indwelling, of a heightened awareness of my body being His temple, I suddenly became more aware of my words and actions as being done in the presence of God. I developed what I might call an acute case of “holy fear of the Lord,” i.e. a tremendous sense of reverence, awe, fear of offending God who dwelt within. Fear of “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30). That holy fear has never left me in 30 years. In fact, my resolution to give up cussing permanently after my initial conversion experience in 1987 was sealed by this new awareness. I had developed a very foul mouth when I was 13 or so, but after my conversion experience I instinctively knew I had to stop though no one had asked me to.

While I am making this point, let me share a very personal grace I received from the Spirit in that regard six years ago. As I have a bad memory these days, so I cannot recall if I have ever shared it here.

Although I had given up cussing in 1987, and was almost 100% effective in keeping my commitment in the subsequent years, inside of me there was a sewer of language that assailed me night and day. All of the memories and habits of a childhood surrounded by cursing, and years of practicing it with abandon, remained in me. It was especially bad when I would pray. But, at the encouragement of my spiritual director, I had long ago accepted it as a lifelong penance for my sins and the sins of others, and I tried to make the best of it.

In 2011 I went to Confession to a priest who was, by chance, also an exorcist. I had never met him before this. I never mentioned to him my inner struggle with vulgarity, but he himself brought it up — which was a bit disconcerting. Just after absolution he put a crucifix on my head and prayed something like this: “Lord, you know your son here has long struggled with the spirit of blasphemy. And he has been faithful. And now you wish to free him from this so he can worship you in purity of mind and heart.” Later that day, I immediately thought of Exodus 7:16.

It was absolutely astonishing, and I could never explain to anyone what happened with adequate clarity. But I can say that from that moment on, till this day, I have never again been assailed in my mind by vulgarity. While I can call to mind curse words at will, they never present themselves to me. I knew immediately, as soon as he finished praying, that it was gone. I told him so, and he said: “The Lord, the Spirit of freedom, wanted you to first struggle all those years to make you ready to receive this grace. Otherwise it would not be your own, be part of you.” He added, “You know that vulgar and blasphemous words, especially the f-word, are the lingua franca of the demons in an exorcism. Just think of the one time you hear of a disciple using curses — St Peter denying Jesus [Matt. 26:74]. A good sign that Christians should avoid them. A salty word is fine to spice things up now and again, but perverse and blasphemous language that offends God and human dignity are not. We live in a very vulgar culture, which is a symptom of spiritual decay. God wishes Christians to be signs of contradiction that remind the world that we will be judged one day by the way we used the gift of language God gave us to resemble His Word. Go in peace, son.”

O Spirit of Freedom, Spirit who makes of my body your temple, come and abide with me forever. Give me the mind and heart of Jesus and make His prayer my own: “Abba! Father!” Amen.

5 comments on ““Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” — 1 Cor 6:19

  1. Jennifer says:

    Whoa, indeed!
    (Your articulation of His nearness made my heart flutter.)

    What a profound and beautiful infusion of sustained and sustaining grace you received, Tom. Thank you for sharing of it here. I know you usually avoid discussing things like this because of your humility and your concern it will cause others to compare their spirituaI journey with your own, but I am flooded with this intense sense of hope and redemption reading this, I sense it will find especially deep resonance with someone reading here. God bless you!

    • Thank you for the way you expressed this. Extremely insightful. I dread publishing certain posts when I feel they overexpose — but then the compelling drive to write sometimes overrules my revulsion. God reward you.

  2. DismasDancing says:

    My dear brother, Tom:

    Re your June 4th post. I share your concerns/fears over the possibility of “TMI”, sharing too much info in writing in public forums. For I, too, in most of the things I put to paper involving spiritual observations, can, at times, reveal “secrets” that perhaps ought to remain quietly held within my heart except in confession. However, since a major epiphany during an encounter with a newly ordained priest during confession nearly 20 years ago, were I directed today by a confessor to spill my guts barring nothing, I might be sorely tempted to comply, if only through obedience. A “right” obedience that will wound a pride that would rather minimize, nay, destroy, an honest sense of guilt and necessary penance for all the real and valid reasons. The gist of that confession centered around a resounding pride that kept me from knowing and fully understanding that my body is, indeed—and always—a temple in which the Holy Spirit seeks to reside—perpetually—and that my pride and resulting sins were, and are, the obstacles preventing that miracle. I, too, since college and military service, have been, and am—if I don’t watch my tongue—capable of the worst language, especially when loosing (not losing) myself within the sin of anger (“be angry, but do not sin…do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:26-28)). Providentially, that priest became my spiritual director for almost five years until he was reassigned to another town. My heart, mind, and soul miss his charismatic guidance. He is soon to return; my fervent hope and prayer is that we can renew our previous penitent/confessor relationship.

    I cannot claim an experience similar to yours; but that wise young confessor taught me well, such that my prayers still focus on “cleaning up my act” in all facets of my life. My pride would like to insist that things are getting better. From a human perspective, perhaps that’s true. But from your post’s perspective, even one vile blasphemy is a curse too far (to paraphrase a book title). Further, since my experiences with his counsel, naked truth serves me well. Like yourself, I must be cautious that any willingness to “open up” with that truth, especially in a public forum, is couched such that it doesn’t serve to scandalize those who might read, hear, or see it. That said, your openness and your honesty re things of the spirit are refreshing, palliative, and, based on my own experiences, redemptive. Paul also told us to “bear one another’s burdens…In this you fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). In your post, you accomplish that at great personal benefit to your readers. Because the principal burden in our earthly lives is a huge propensity for sin, the “burden” of praying for one another should happily resonate big time with anyone needing, asking for, and offering prayer—because of exactly what comes through in your post. Not necessarily articulated as such; but in and through your revelation we are “happy” to share your/our burden—and redemptive action—because Christ asks us to. Such a personal “confession” of an issue that was—and has been— like St Paul’s, a “thorn” in our collective human quests for spiritual accommodation of the Holy Spirit’s Life within us, enables each of us to quietly share the weight of that experience with you, knowing full well that, somewhere in your own prayers, we, too, will be lifted up to God for His forgiveness and mercy granted through His Son, Jesus.

    For that reason, your post on “cussing” and the resulting effect on our souls as temples of the Holy Spirit had, at least in my view, a much more believable thread because, its revelations came from the soul of a self-recognized sinner seeking redemption through the Divine Mercy of Jesus in the confessional. The actions and prayer of your confessor (acting “in persona Christi”) reminded me of St John Vianney, or St Padre Pio, in that they could “read” one’s soul in the confessional and react completely through the Holy Spirit to change that soul, or heal it completely, wiping away any desire, need, or temptation to continue as a habitual, hurtful sinner. A renewed great trust in that sacrament results for me! Most beautifully, however, your sharing of the entire post draws me closer to a detailed examination of my own wretched conscience wherein I can, without pride, and in striving for a more-perfect humility, “clean up” my personal “house”, making it an appropriately “real” and desirable residence for the Spirit Who grants me life, both physically and spiritually. I am happy for you and that wonderful experience with the Holy Spirit through that Confessor. Thanks be to God for such an awesome blessing! And for the priests through whom they are given us!

    “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of Your Love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created; and You shall renew the face of the earth.”

    God’s Infinite Peace, brother Tom! Thanks for a great reflection and awesome material for meditation.

    • DD, This is not only very insightful but very kind of you to do. It was enlightening and encouraging. Grateful that we know each other, have met and hopefully one day will have the opportunity to visit again. God bless you abundantly! tn

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