The Holy Spirit and the Conclave

Matt Schmalz of the College of the Holy Cross explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the papal conclave.  His piece is a reminder that the conclave, above all else, is a deeply spiritual event.  Here is a taste:

When thinking about the papal conclave, it often comes down to what you believe about “inspiration” and how to get it.

When Catholics talk about religious “inspiration,” they usually are thinking about the Holy Spirit. In Catholic doctrine, the Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity. The Catholic catechism refers to the Holy Spirit with the pronoun “he,” and Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “paraclete,” the “consoler” or “he who is called to one’s side.”

For Catholics, the Holy Spirit comes through baptism, and through the other sacraments.  But he also comes in ways we do not expect.  Knowledge and wisdom are among the seven gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to sanctify a person.  There are also special or “charismatic” graces associated with Holy Spirit that are specific gifts related to a particular task or vocation for the common good.

All these gifts of the Holy Spirit figure into how the conclave is designed.

The Mass is more than a ceremony to inaugurate the proceedings. It is a sacrament that bestows grace on those who are properly disposed.  The meditative chanting of “Come Holy Spirit” is not only a petition or plea, it is a way of quieting one’s mind and heart, so that the Holy Spirit can be felt and heard.