By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator
Scriptures record a spectacular display of the Holy Spirit rushing upon the apostles as tongues of fire and sending them on a mission to spread the Gospel message on that first Pentecost.
Since that birth of the church, some are still confused about who the Holy Spirit is or unaware he is actively working through the sacraments of the church and its teachings. As Pope Francis said to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday in 2014, “Church is one that surprises us and stirs things up.”
Victoria Harris said myths about the Holy Spirit and his gifts prevent Catholics from utilizing them for God’s glory and building up the church.
She spoke about her journey with the Holy Spirit at the Women in Spirit meeting May 23 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge.
Harris grew up as a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Baton Rouge and attended Sacred Heart School. She graduated in 2006 from St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge. She moved to Nashville and began a career in Christian music. She has performed at Christian musical festivals, appeared at March for Life events with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and performed music at retreats led by internationally known speakers.
She moved to Dallas and developed Arise Ministry at Mary Immaculate Parish in Farmers Branch, Texas with her pastor, Father Michael D. Forge, whom Bishop Michael G. Duca vested when he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Dallas. ]
Father Forge encouraged Harris, who studied the gifts and role of the Holy Spirit with scholars, clergy and lay people at Dunwoody Seminary in Yonkers, New York, to research the Catholic Church’s response to teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation movement within the Pentecostal Church. She examined the teachings of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in California about such things as laying of hands on sick people, speaking in tongues and prophesying. She said this “Bethel Phenomenon” has caught on nationwide. \
Her experiences led her to write “Holy Spirit 101.” In February 2016, the curriculum received a nihil obstat and imprimatur from Bishop (now Cardinal) Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas.
Harris acknowledged miracles happen, such as cures, freedom and deliverance, at Bethel. She also discovered their teachings focus on the gifts as an end in themselves rather than a means of redemption and building up of the body of Christ as taught by the Catholic Church and its Charismatic Renewal ministries.
Before looking at gifts of the Holy Spirit, people must understand who he is, Harris said.
The Holy Spirit is not a nebulous spirit, but God’s active presence in the world, she emphasized.
Jesus revealed to the disciples at the Last Supper who the Holy Spirit is when he said the father will send them another advocate, “the Spirit of truth,” who will be with them always.
Jesus said, “The advocate, the Holy Spirit that the father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26).
But those gifts did not end with the disciples and the early church, Harris said.
“We celebrate the mystics and the lives of the saints. But the church believes that all baptized people have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit and thus the potential to yield his power through charisms,” Harris said. </span id=”17″>
She pointed out that Lumen Gentium states, “It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the church that the Holy Spirit sanctified and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but ‘allotting his gifts to everyone according as he wills (1 Cor 12:11).’ ”
Nor are those gifts for “the most holy among us,” because the gifts are ultimately from God, Harris said.
“One’s ability to yield to God’s spirit to prophesy or pray for the healing, for example, is not an indication of the personal holiness of that individual. It is tempting to give glory to an individual who has laid hands on another and brought healing, but all glory should really be going to God.”
This demonstrates that no one “owns” their gifts, but it is through grace they are able to do so, according to Harris.
Another Holy Spirit myth is that God gives people specific gifts and they can only operate in those.
“When we read the Scriptures, we see the apostles and disciples operating in many gifts and charisms, typically the gifts that is most needed to call to conversion the individual in front of them,” said Harris. “We don’t receive gifts. We receive the giver of the gifts, the Holy Spirit himself. And just as a pipe allows water to flow through it, so we cooperate with the Spirit to allow him to manifest his presence through us. However he manifests we call a charism, but it is the same Spirit.”
Harris said it is not prideful to ask God to be able to yield to the Holy Spirit and move in the charisms, because the church needs the laity to be docile to God’s Holy Spirit, according to Harris.
There should also be a proper understanding about the manifestation of the gifts, Harris said.
“Tongues doesn’t always need to be translated,” Harris said. “There are two forms: a private (between a person and God only) and a public tongue. The difference between the two is the public is translated.”
People may also misunderstand the gifts of healing to mean the cure or absence of some malady.
Harris noted Pope Benedict XVI was prefect (as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith when it published “Instructions on Prayer for Healing” in 2000.
“In it the church identifies that in the Catholic world we have three levels and three modes of healing – physical, emotional and spiritual – and that when Christ healed people he healed them with their eternal destiny in mind. When the church approaches healing it approaches with that spiritual healing – that internal healing – that is highest, first and prominent,” said Harris. “Earthly death is part of the journey to heaven.”
She encouraged people to think about people on their deathbed who have said they “are ready to meet the Lord,” or disabled people who have said they are in a better place spiritually and emotionally.
There’s also the myth that the Holy Spirit comes with the consolation like heat, warmth, an overwhelming peace and goose-bumps. If these signs are not present, the Holy Spirit is absent.
“(Such) consolations are gifts that God often sends to encourage us, but they are not necessary for God to do his good work,” Harris said.
She said to understand the movement of the Holy Spirit one should turn to the church.
“The Holy Spirit has always been present supernaturally in the sacraments of the church. The fact that a priest consecrates the bread and the wine and it becomes the body and blood of Christ is the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Harris. “And in the sacrament of confession the Holy Spirit moves through that priest and offers us absolution and reunites us to God the Father and the church.”