Don’t know much about the Holy Spirit? New ‘school’ aims to change that

| January 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

Baptized and confirmed Catholics have been given special gifts, but many are leaving them “on the shelf unwrapped.”

So says Father Michael Becker, who aims to help more Catholics receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Father Becker is teaching a 12-week class dedicated to the Holy Spirit, in which students will learn who the Spirit is and how to experience a relationship with the third person of the Trinity.

“There’s a lot of Catholics who have heard about the Father and heard about Jesus but know very little about the Spirit,” he said. “And many haven’t really experienced the Holy Spirit. … There needs to be a kind of an awakening to the gift. And once there is, wow. Joy floods the soul, and longing for others to experience the Holy Spirit becomes a great mode of evangelization.”

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

The class is the latest offering of the Archbishop Flynn Catechetical Institute, part of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Called the School of the Holy Spirit, the class is separate from the  Catechetical Institute’s two-year course Pillars: A Journey through the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“I feel inclined to help Catholics experience and grow in knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and to realize in their lives the gifts and charisms that God wants to give them to use for the building up of the body of Christ,” he said.

Father Becker thought the timing of the class corresponds well with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ collective appeal to the Holy Spirit as it undertakes the pre-synod process ahead of the 2021 Archdiocesan Synod.

It’s possible for Catholics today to share in the Pentecost experience of Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room, he said, which gave them confidence to spread the Good News.

The CI: School of the Holy Spirit is the latest offering from the Catechetical Institute. In addition to the Catechetical Institute’s Pillars course, it also offers classes in its CI: School of Discipleship and CI: School of Prayer.

Kelly Wahlquist, the Catechetical Institute’s director, said that the new “school” complements its other offerings.

“The two-year foundation Pillars program teaches the basics of the faith by walking students through the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” she said. “The CI: School of Discipleship equips Catholics to live as activated disciples and be sent out into the world to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. The CI: School of Prayer deepens the relationship between the disciple and the Lord, and the CI: School of the Holy Spirit teaches how to be sensitive and receptive to the Holy Spirit, and how to work with the Spirit to build up the kingdom of God. When you put all of these offerings together, you have Catholics who are formed, sent, in relationship with God and empowered.”

Helping Catholics experience the Holy Spirit is fundamental to the Church’s emphasis on sharing faith with others, Father Becker said. “We have lots of programs where we’re continuously trying to help Catholics become evangelistic … with their neighbors or co-workers or schoolmates,” he said. “And yet the most important thing is simply if they taste the Holy Spirit, if they really come to experience that presence, then they can’t shut up about Jesus.”

The course will begin with the Holy Spirit’s historical context in Scripture and the Church, and then dive into the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, with a focus on students’ encounter with the Holy Spirit through prayer, including charismatic prayer. Students will also learn how to be prayer ministers in their parishes. Texts include those by authors Damian Stayne, Father Jacques Philippe, Mary Healy and Randy Clark. The class includes attendance at a Life in the Spirit Seminar Feb. 28-29. Registration for the course (including the seminar) is $150.

The course will be offered at St. Andrew in Elk River, 7–9 p.m. Thursdays Feb. 6 through April 30, with no class on Feb. 27, March 26 or April 9.

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