“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26)

Saint Pope John Paul II was once asked the question, “How does the Pope pray?,” to which he answered, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.19). I am no expert in mystical prayer, but the Pope’s answer leads me to believe that he had reached a very high level of prayer.

Ralph Martin relates in his book, Hungry for God, that he had the privilege of attending Mass with Pope John Paul II in the Pope’s private chapel. Martin relates what he witnessed when he entered the chapel:

“As we entered the small chapel…the Pope was already there, kneeling in personal prayer, as he usually was before Mass. But this time there was a difference. Audible groans were coming from the Pope as he prayed. And they continued during Mass as the readings were read, as Communion was distributed. And I knew it wasn’t simply that the Pope had physical or spiritual suffering to contend with, although he certainly did, but that we were experiencing that prayer of the Spirit Paul speaks about in Romans 8, where the Spirit helps us pray in groans and sighs too deep for words. Experiencing the Pope’s personal prayer has opened me to more dimensions of the Spirit’s work in my own prayer” (pages 57-58)

The Pope’s incredible intimacy with the Holy Spirit was no doubt the fruit of having yielded his life to God. Pope John Paul II was probably the most extraordinary person of our times. I read in another book that the Pope once told a group of people that he had prayed a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit since he was 12 or 13 years old (The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come,” p. 7). How important it is, therefore, for us to increase our devotion to the Holy Spirit,  for the Holy Spirit is the “master of the Christian life”. The Holy Spirit fills us with the graces, virtues and charisms we need to imitate Jesus. Oh, Come Holy Spirit, Come! Beseech the Holy Spirit!

It is well known that Saint John Paul II was deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He had entrusted his life to Mary’s maternal care and mentioned at one point during his papacy that his consecration to Mary was a major turning point in his life:

‘The reading of this book (True Devotion to Mary) was a decisive turning-point in my life. I say “turning-point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey. . . . – This ‘perfect devotion’ is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.”

One way to draw nearer to the Holy Spirit is through devotion to Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Saint John Paul II’s life is, no doubt, a testimony to this remarkable phenomenon, and confirms in a dramatic manner what Saint Louis De Montfort had said in True Devotion to Mary:

“The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary , His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ” (#20).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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