May is my favorite month of the year—and for three reasons.
First, May is dedicated to Mary, my favorite saint. My mother prayed to Mary when I was a baby and was given six months to live—and through Mary’s intercession, I was completely healed. Second, May is the month that Felicia and I were married forty-one years ago. And third, forty-five years ago this month, I attended my first prayer meeting.
I went to that prayer meeting to see a friend who had been set free from a heroine addiction by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ll never forget that night. I came away dramatically filled with the love of God by the Holy Spirit. It was the best day of my life.
Yes, I was a good Catholic boy; I was an altar boy, and I was in the choir. But my faith was focused on doing the right thing and avoiding going to hell. Yes, I felt good after receiving Communion and after going to Confession, but I didn’t know Jesus and his love for me. But everything changed at that prayer meeting. I saw Jesus as a person who deeply loved me. I saw what he had done for me on the cross, and that experience changed my life. Over the past forty-five years, I have become convinced that my experience of God’s love is meant for everyone.
An Experience of God’s Love. In this Pentecost issue, we are fortunate to have Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household, as our guest author. Fr. Raniero has preached before Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope John Paul II, and now I guess we could call him “Preacher for The Word Among Us.” I first met Fr. Raniero in the mid-1970s. He had come to the United States to see how the Holy Spirit was moving in the Charismatic Renewal, and during his visit, he himself was filled with God’s love in a new and dramatic way.
These four articles by Fr. Raniero give us a glimpse into his personal experience of the Holy Spirit, even as he gives us some excellent suggestions of how we can deepen our own experience. Over and over in these articles, Fr. Raniero urges us to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to open our hearts to God’s love and presence. I want to encourage you to read these articles closely—more than once, even. That’s what I did, and I’m very glad I did. There is so much here that is worth thinking about and praying about.
Together, let’s pray that we might all have a deep experience of God’s love, which has been “poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Let’s ask the Spirit to help us say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3), to help us to pray (Romans 8:26), and to show us how to display the fruits of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
May the Lord bless you and fill you with God’s love this Pentecost.