Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 6, 2009
Spirit speaks to individuals as well as through Church – papal preacher
BY CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY – Christians must always remember that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to individual consciences and not only through the Church, the papal preacher told Pope Benedict and top Vatican officials.
When people forget that, there is a risk that the laity will be pushed to the margins of the Church’s life, said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
“The ideal is a healthy harmony between listening to that which the Spirit tells me, individually, and that which the Spirit tells the Church as a whole and, through the Church, what it tells individuals.”
In his weekly Lenten meditation March 27 for the pope and his closest collaborators, Cantalamessa focused on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
The Holy Spirit, he said, speaks through individual consciences and through the Church. “It is a theme that has had a broad development in the tradition of the Church: If Jesus Christ is ‘the way’ that leads to the Father, the Holy Spirit, according to the Fathers (of the Church), is ‘the guide along the way.’”
Through the conscience, he said, “the guidance of the Holy Spirit extends even outside the Church to all men and women,” leading them to do good and avoid evil.
Cantalamessa said Christian faith results only from the dual action of the Holy Spirit, who proclaims the truth through the Church and guides individuals to accept it.
“When this is reduced only to the personal, private listening of an individual, the path is open to an unstoppable process of divisions and subdivisions because each person believes he or she is right,” he said.
“But we also must recognize that the opposite risk exists: that of absolutizing the external and public witness of the Spirit,” he said.
“In other words, there is a risk of reducing the guidance of the Paraclete to only the official teaching of the Church, impoverishing the varied action of the Holy Spirit.”
Such a narrow view of the Spirit leads to excessive clericalization and marginalization of the laity, the preacher said.