Novena to the Holy Spirit:
After his resurrection from the dead and before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to stay in the city until they are ‘clothed with power from on high.’ (Luke 24:49)
Faithful to the Lord’s wishes, the disciples returned to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus’ (Acts 1:14). When the day of Pentecost came, the promise of the Father was fulfilled and ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:4).
To be a follower of Christ, we, like the first disciples, need to be clothed with power from on high, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday falls on May 19th this year. Beginning today, May 10th, we might wish to return to our own special ‘upper room’ and make a Novena of prayer leading up to this celebration.
Let us pray:
Divine Being, in possession of my soul,
Holy Spirit, hidden in my inmost being,
Sacred Flame, consuming from within my bones,
Spirit of the spirit of my flesh,
No longer need we search for you abroad,
since you surround us on all sides,
and are present in the very depths of our being.
We imagine you as dwelling in the highest heaven,
yet you are to be found here among us
in the lowliest places. (Nicolas Barré: Spiritual Canticle 1)
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of your faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in your consolation.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessed Nicolas Barré
Nicolas Barré founder of the Infant Jesus Sisters was born in France on October 21st 1621. He was educated by the
Jesuits, joined the Order of Minims of St. Francis of Paola and ordained priest in 1645. He died in Paris on May 31st 1686
17th century France suffered the ravages of war, a terrible plague and in 1662, when the Institute of Infant Jesus Sisters had its beginnings, half the children in Rouen died of famine. Many were homeless and wandered the streets as beggars and for some, prostitution was the only means of livelihood.
Nicolas Barré was very concerned about those who were ‘far from God’ and very disadvantaged. He saw the need to make basic education more accessible to all. Nicolas deplored what he considered to be a great evil: the lack of education and learning. There were hardly any schools for girls and very few for boys. Most primary school teachers were poorly educated and religious education was almost non-existent; there was profound ignorance of the gospel.
Nicolas invited others to join him in meeting this need and the first non- fee paying school was opened near Rouen in 1662. He urged his teachers not to wait until pupils arrived at the school; they were to seek out especially those who might have been at risk. He also set up Trade Schools so that girls could earn their living. Again, the education offered was to be entirely free and any profit derived from the pupils’ work was to go to them.
Nicolas encouraged the first members of the Institute to offer human and spiritual support in a variety of ways depending on the needs of those they met. He encouraged them to go out to people in their surroundings; to find those who had lost direction in their lives and to look after people who were sick and abandoned. He led them in ‘prayer of the heart’ by contemplating the mystery of a God who out of love for humanity became ‘even a little child’. This way of praying deepened their humility and their abandonment to the will of the Father in union with Christ. The history of the Institute up to the present day bears testimony to an amazing spirit of courage and daring born from this dependence on Providence, especially when its members are faced with what may seem like insurmountable obstacles! Here is one of my favourite quotes from his writing:
‘It is in the valley of the greatest misfortune and tears that God is pleased to bring the soul to the heights – heights that reach even the infinity of God’s greatness. Experience shows that one can see the stars shining more brightly from the bottom of a well than in full daylight from the ground above’. (R.R.)
The work of Nicolas Barré is carried on today by the international Institute of Infant Jesus Sisters and by lay women and men who are inspired by his spirit. Nicolas Barré was beatified on March 7th. 1999.
Margaret Walsh IJS (Infant Jesus Sister) (October 2012)
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