Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A New and Right Spirit by Regina Madonna Oliver from A Promise of Presence by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna Oliver

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses. ... A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you.

Ezekiel36:25-27 (NRSV)

Unsplash: Joel Valve

In the corner of Broad and Erie Avenues in north Philadelphia, I stood waiting for a trolley that would turn down North Sixth Street and deliver me to the front door of St. Veronica Convent at Sixth and Tioga. Without warning, the sky darkened and let loose a downpour of cold rain. Within minutes, I was a sodden mass of blue serge-this still being the days of long, trailing habits. My shoes squished with each step. For some unaccountable reason, however, I laughed! I found myself actually enjoying the ridiculous­ ness of the situation and laughing with complete abandon. Once seated on the trolley in my waterlogged condition, I reflected on my response. Why had I laughed? Why did I seem to enjoy my soaked-down-to-the-skin  state? This was not the way I would have responded a month before, or even a week before, if caught in a thunderstorm. What had happened that could account for my bizarre behavior?

The previous Thursday I had been prayed over for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The resulting transformation within me was subtle, so subtle that I hadn't recognized it at first. Only incidents like this proved to me that something had definitely happened.  I had changed! I was not responding to frustration in my usual character. This was definitely a different me, a better me, who could stand in the pouring rain and laugh.

For years I had been at odds within myself, suffering from an inner tug-of-war that happened to many sisters in the wake of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, particularly when we perceived no reform taking place in our religious communities.  At first, I didn't know why I vacillated from a spiritual high one moment to anger and disillusionment the next. The misery was frequent, but I had chosen to accept the misery while continuing to pray, "God, change me! Change me the way you did St. Teresa of Avila. When she could no longer tolerate her lukewarmness, she fell on her face before you and refused to get up unless you would change her. I believe you will change me! At the right moment you will hear my cry and do for me what I cannot do for myself. You will change me so I will no longer react to things the way I do now. You will give me a new way of seeing, and I will know that you have changed me! I will be able to point to the day and the hour of my deliverance."

Standing there in the teeming rain at Broad and Erie, I knew that prayer had been answered. With a fresh sense of serenity, realized that I was no longer responding in a flight-or-fight pattern to every story that circulated about unhappy sisters in miserable circumstances in Victorian-style convents. I was beginning to see my concerns as problems to be dealt with rather than personal threats.

Primarily, I could see God in charge of a whole process of renewal and change in the church and in religious life that was bound to take time for its total accomplishment. I began to enjoy an inner peace-a peace that others noticed and commented on. Just as I had prophesied, I could point in wonder and thanksgiving to the day and the hour when God answered my cry from the darkness. I can still cite the moment: a Thursday night in July,



Read the promise at the beginning of this reflection, and talk to God about your need for transformation and longing for God to do in you what you cannot accomplish on your own. Do not let God off the hook in your prayer. Keep telling God about your tremendous need.


Stand with God and objectively look at yourself and your need for change. Begin to see the deep-seated  cause of your current  misery.

If you cannot do this, ask the Holy One to let you see what the source of your problem is.


Make this your prayer today:

Create in me a clean heart, 0 God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. ...

0 God of my salvation  and healing...

my tongue will sing aloud of your liberation.

Psalm 51:10-12, 14 (NRSV)


Make this your prayer today:

0 God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1 (NRSV)


As your prayer today, use this passage from Isaiah to capture the feeling of seeking and finding God:

You shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;

the mountains  and the hills before you shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12


Reflect today on the words from Jesus' Last Supper found in John

14:25-26 and 16:13. Spend time with God reflecting on all that the

Holy Spirit will teach you and how the Holy Spirit will guide you.


Commit this mantra to memory and repeat it throughout the day:

My soul hungers for your peace, my God. May I be conscious of your nearness today. 


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