The Holy Spirit
Fr George Preca was utterly open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Far from being a fanatic, his acute sense of discernment helped him to interpret which inspirations were coming from God.
Today we classify Fr Preca with the forerunners of the Second Vatican Council. His anticipation of the times was due to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, who is continually working in the Church. He was an innovative and charismatic founder of a lay society, docile to Church authorities, practical in his spiritual direction, and a zealous preacher. He used to recite frequently this short prayer:
'God the Holy Spirit, enlighten our senses and enkindle with love
the followers of Jesus Christ'
As a priest and a person familiar with patristic and classical spiritual writings, Fr George was conscious that not every movement of the soul is caused by the Holy Spirit. He adhered to the traditional spiritual doctrine of the Church; that in spiritual life there are three spirits; that of God, that of the flesh and that of the devil. From these notions he derived his reflections upon the right intentions and deceptions in spiritual life.
He was so familiar with discernment of spirits that he wrote a whole book on this subject. He was quite aware that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are humility, attachment to God, and obedience to ecclesiastical superiors even in times of misunderstanding.
In March 1956, the Fr Preca composed a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the SDC Members. It begins: 'Holy Spirit God, who proceeds from God the Father and from the Holy Son, come and stay in us, for we need you so much, and without you we cannot do good works'. Besides the spiritual content of this prayer, Fr Preca underlines that the Holy Spirit is the mutual spirit of the Father and the Son and his mission is to guide us to heaven, where we shall behold the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
This sweet and short prayer delineates the different kinds of help to expect from the Holy Spirit. We ask him not to let Satan deceive us and to control, radically deny ourselves and lead us to sanctification.
In the third part of this prayer he petitions the Holy Spirit to bring to us consolation and to help us live a saintly life, preserved from sin so that when we die we can behold the Holy Trinity. This short prayer shows that the spiritual life of Fr Preca was a Trinitarian one. Although his spirituality, similar to that of his contemporaries, emphasizes Christology, on many occasions he mentions the other two persons of the Holy Trinity as well.
Fr Preca also underlines the relation of the Virgin Mary with the Holy Spirit. In the Salve Filia Patris(Hail Daughter of God the Father), he stresses the fact that Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, a theme which is affirmed in Vatican Council II. In the prayer of The Honour to the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Watch - 4.15 pm) he clearly affirms that the Holy Spirit contributed to the exaltation of Mary above all creatures and consequently in her exceptional sanctification. Fr Preca is not innovative in these affirmations but as usual he expresses this truth in simple and short prayers. In every episode of The Watch, he included a reference to Christ as becoming man through Mary by the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
In the prayer of The Discipline (The Watch - 7.00 pm), he puts three short prayers as an apology for our sins to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In The Profession which the SDC Members recite on the 7th day of each month, after the name of the Holy Trinity, in the same line he specifies God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Besides, in order to teach that the three persons are one Godhead, he underlines that each Person is God.
In the Adoration of Christ's Wounds (The Watch - 4:00 pm), he offers the Wounds of Jesus Christ to the Holy Spirit so that he imparts his gifts to the SDC Members.
Spiritual theology teaches us that the Christian, in his journey to God, becomes adorned by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact some passages in Fr Preca's writings show us that he attained union with God on earth. And it is reasonable to say that if he attained complete union he was also endowed with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. St Paul enumerates the fruits in this way:
"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"
If we read his biography we find how much these signs were evident in his life.
In his teachings and writings, Fr Preca also anticipated the charismatic renewal which is attributed to the Holy Spirit. He preached a radical religious renewal which emphasizes, as the charismatics do, brotherly love and love of enemies, which is a central theme in Fr Preca's writings and teachings.
His prayer for the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and enkindle with love our hearts must be the programme of every Member. It would be a loss of time and a waste of energies, if our life in the SDC is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit and if we did not work for the reign of God with an enkindled heart. The soul of the Christian apostolate is the Holy Spirit. We must be open to him so that he can lead us to live Christian lives in a radical way. We must not forget that Jesus promised us the coming of the Holy Spirit after his departure.
During this year, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, we are invited to be more conscious of His role in us and earnestly pray him, as we do in the Sancta Trinitas, not to let our hearts become attached to this world.
These few reflections show us how profound Fr Preca was. May his prayers help us to grow closer to the Trinity and work for the greater glory of God.
Angelo Xuereb sdc
Qala - Gozo
Preca Calling - Issue 41 (1998)