“Meditations on the Holy Spirit” by St Alphonsus Liguori as lessons of prayer and charity in everyday life
“Meditations on the Holy Spirit” by St Alphonsus Maria Liguori are the first publication in Polish of the “Novena to the Holy Spirit” by this bishop and Doctor of the Church. This Saint, passionate about evangelisation, teaches us about prayer and love in everyday life. Following the example of the desert fathers, he asks us: Have you emptied your heart so that it can be filled with the Holy Spirit?
In his introduction to the meditations, St Alphonsus stresses that the Novena to the Holy Spirit is “the most important of all novenas because it was the first to be celebrated by the Apostles and Mary in the Upper Room.” He encourages us to consider the texts of the meditations not only before Pentecost but throughout the year.
“We know well by faith that the Holy Spirit is the love with which the Father and the Eternal Word mutually bestow themselves, and therefore the gift of love which the Lord grants to our souls, and which is the greatest of all gifts, is especially attributed to the Holy Spirit. (…) It is therefore fitting that in this novena, we should, above all, draw attention to the great value of God’s love, that we should desire to receive it, and expect it through pious exercises, praying in a special way that we may become partakers of it since God has promised it to those who humbly ask for it: «The Father from heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Lk 11:13)»” – justifies the author.
It is shown in the foreword how beautiful was Alphonsus Liguori’s collaboration with the Holy Spirit in his long life. The book “Meditations on the Holy Spirit” consists of ten meditations, arranged according to St Alphonsus’ characteristic method of composition: the actual meditation, feelings and prayers. The very titles of the meditations, such as “Love is the light that enlightens the soul”, point to the source of inspiration, namely two liturgical hymns: “Veni, Creator Spiritus” and “Veni, Sancte Spiritus.” The author opens the reader’s heart to the desire of the Holy Spirit and encourages „practical” love. As we see in the attitude of Alphonsus, the daily rhythm of prayer can permeate a lifestyle. Accordingly, the publication also includes Liguori’s prayers to the Holy Spirit.
What do they offer the ‘reader’ of the 21st century?
Modern man, who values reason, often acts irrationally. He wants to follow the truth, the good and the beautiful, he seeks spirituality, witnesses of faith and teachers of prayer. St Alphonsus Liguori also had such desires. His journey of faith, his spiritual struggle, his life choices, his rich spiritual and writing legacy make him a spiritual guide, docile to the Holy Spirit. By virtue of his legal education and experience, St Alphonsus Maria would have had reason to regard reason and evidence as paramount in everyday life. Meanwhile, the many talents he possessed he trustingly placed at God’s disposal. He lost nothing. On the contrary! He was endowed even more, becoming the founder of the Redemptorists, evangelising with word and pen the rejected, the poor and the socially excluded.
Each “little work” of St Alphonsus is a trace of his fascination with the Word of God, his knowledge and appreciation of the writings of the Fathers of the Church and of the Saints. This is also found in the “Meditations on the Holy Spirit,” in which the author captures the attention of his readers with the way he expresses his feelings during his conversation with the Triune God. The simplicity, sincerity and uncommon tenderness of St Alphonsus in addressing the Holy Spirit open the hearts of those who read the texts of the meditations. The texts of the meditations make us aware that we often throw the Comforter out of our lives. The saintly passionate evangelizer teaches us to pray and to love in our daily lives. Following the example of the desert fathers, he asks us: Have you emptied your heart so that it can be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Where did the idea to publish them come from?
It is a sign of the times to discover the presence of the Holy Spirit in personal life, in the events of everyday life, in the history of the Church and of nations.
“While looking for the publications of St. Alphonsus Liguori, I came across a 19th-century edition of the «Novena to the Most Holy Spirit.» I was already partially familiar with the works of this Apostle of Mary, and I had no doubt: whoever venerates the Mother of God cannot disregard the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. I was, however, amazed why there was no modern edition of this novena. I thought: It is a pity that the spirituality of St. Alphonsus Liguori is often reduced to the Passion and the Virgin Mary, while his entire spirituality is reflected in his music, poetry, architecture and paintings, such as the painting he designed, which depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Holy Spirit in her chest,” confesses Dr Jadwiga Zieba, publisher of “Meditations on the Holy Spirit.”
This was the beginning and the decision to prepare for publication “Meditations on the Holy Spirit.” Besides, the publication is part of the evangelistic publishing profile of the publishing house “Studio Słowa” (eng. “Word Study”), which is hidden in the message: “The Word draws man towards truth, good and beauty.”
Who worked on publishing the text?
It is worth noting that „Meditations on the Holy Spirit” are not published by the Redemptorists but by “Studio Słowa,” established in 2014 on the initiative of Dr. Jadwiga Zięba. It is made up of editors Barbara Cabała and Sylwia Palka, translators Agnieszka Caba and Barbara Rzepka, and Joanna Panasiewicz, graphic designer.
The publication is largely a completed version of the book by St Alphonsus Liguori entitled “Novena to the Transfiguration Spirit.” “Novena to the Holy Spirit,” which was translated by Father Aleksander Jełowicki (1804-1877). It was published in Warsaw in 1894, in the printing house of Stanislaus Niemiery. In order to spread the apostolic zeal of the author, Latin biblical quotations or maxims of the saints are quoted in Polish and enriched with footnotes on the basis of the Italian edition of “Opere ascetiche,” and the style and language of the publication have been modernized.
The publication “Meditations on the Holy Spirit” by St Alphonsus Liguori is available on the website of “Studio Słowa.”
Dr. Jadwiga Zięba – publisher of “Meditations on the Holy Spirit”
Fr. Dr. Marek Raczkiewicz CSsR