Taming the Holy Spirit?

Pope Francis is in continuity with Pope Benedict on the matter of having the Church press forward in the light of Vatican II.  First, Pope Benedict draws a direct correlation between the “traditional innovations” of the Franciscan Order which were misinterpreted by heretical Franciscans and defended properly by St. Bonaventure, and the difficulties of postconcilar implementation:

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”:  Christ’s works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this “spiritualistic utopianism” is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally “other” Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

Today Pope Francis has reiterated the necessity to go forward, emphasizing that the Holy Spirit is not subject to anyone’s presuppositions.  This is the Holy Father speaking.  It is his business to discern these matters:

Put frankly, the Pope continued, “the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.
Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal life. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” He concluded his homily by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.”

Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are in complete continuity here, Benedict emphasizing the balance, avoiding the extremes of an attitude of “the Church is in decline” and “spiritualistic utopianism,” and Francis emphasizing the fact that the Holy Spirit cannot be harnessed or stopped by anyone on the pretext of knowing better than the Church.

I think it is also important to point out that the Holy Father is not vitiating the the dispositions of Pope Benedict in respect to the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy, as long as it is perceived in relationship with the Ordinary Form as “mutual enrichment,” and in respect to the legitimacy and intended fruitfulness of the Council and its reforms.  In any case, the idea of “turning back the clock” did not come from Pope Benedict.

Awsome homily from Pope Francis!


12 thoughts on “Taming the Holy Spirit?

  1. I think some are trying to read too much into it theologically (witness the freaking out by some of my brethren), when it was really just meant to be a homily which made clear the readings for the day, and dealing with the story from the bible that is all too familiar to anyone who reads it: people misusing the holy spirit, and being afraid to be led by the Spirit, trying to lead it instead.

    I found that aspect more satisfying than anything else.

  2. Kevin,

    I agree that people are freaking out unnecessarily, but I think it is also important to consider the fact that the Holy Father brings up the Council specifically.

  3. Kemp – I don’t understand why you find sadness in this analysis of the Pope’s sermon. I find great peace in this. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something.

  4. Well, for better or for worse, the majority of traditionalists do feel that the Extraordinary Form is “better” than the Ordinary Form. I think Pope Francis is trying to get us to stop fighting so much about certain rubrics or traditions that may be preventing us from having a more profound experience of God at worship.

  5. I don’t know. I find myself wanting a little more encouragement and reassurance from the Holy Father that the Traditional Mass is here to stay.

    Or, at least a bit more push for the Latin chant Ordinary and proper Propers for the Novus Ordo.

    We’re really all just guessing at this point. And you can’t blame the traditionalists if they worry so. They’ve always been at the short end of the stick (not finding a place in the parishes’ regular Sunday schedules, they almost always end up in some mausoleum or an out-of-the-way cemetery chapel.)

    It almost feels like having been served by Pope Benedict and elegant sumptuous Extraordinary meal, we’re afraid Pope Francis could pull out the table cloth from under the dishes even before we could taste the dessert.. (I don’t mean to liken the EF to a meal, but you get the point.

    As everyday we wonder if Pope Francis would suddenly take away Summorum Pontificum and then what?

  6. Marietta,

    I’m a proud traditionalist but I’m not too worried. Is he going to have the same approach to the liturgy as we do and benedict did? No. Yet does that necessarily impact us? No it doesn’t.

    As far as the extraordinary form, if this was 8 years ago, then yeah, there might be a cause for concern that people would be deprived of something viewed naughty that the Church held holy for centuries. (Something then Cardinal Ratzinger was very harsh in his criticism about.) Yet the motu proprio happened, and a lot of forces point towards the Latin Mass for better or worse (and let’s not kid ourselves in the eyes of some Catholics in the commentariat it is worse) staying put. The reintroduction did help the Ordinary Form become enriched and helped influence people to begin talking a lot about the sacred in the Sacred Liturgy more.

    And since the motu proprio, in many areas traditionalists are not just part of parish life, they are some of the most active members around. They are having tons of kids, their homeschooling networks aren’t just for trads anymore, (dunno if i will homeschool or not but no denying traditionalists did a lot of good here), and most people when they encounter them in parishes they realize “hey, you guys are nothing like those kranks on the blogs the commentariat says every traditionalist is like. You guys are actually sane!”

    In short, if you think this is God’s will, we aren’t giving His will a lot of credit.

  7. Just today I learned that a new Protestant group seeking to eventually plant a new church in our town got the blessing of the ‘conservative’ pastor at the local university parish to use the Newman hall for their meetings and services as they advertise to build up their community. Work of the Holy Spirit, I suppose.

  8. Pingback: Confronted with the Truth | Mary Victrix

  9. I love the words of Pope Francis!

    Interesting point – how many who have an attachment to the EF and who claim Pope Benedict as their hero do not actually embrace the whole of his message about the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form?

    In Christ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s