Praying with Father Kentenich to the Holy Spirit

by Sr. Rita Marie Otto

On Pentecost Sunday, June 6, 1965, Father Joseph Kentenich addressed his “devoted listeners” at Saint Michael’s Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a sermon that echoed the “testament” of Cardinal Mercier of Mecheln (1851–1926). Paraphrasing the Cardinal, Father Kentenich said: “Let me reveal to you an important secret of holiness and happiness. Holiness and happiness are, as it were, identical. The person who is holy will enjoy eternal happiness. The person who does not strive for holiness will not enjoy true happiness on earth or in eternity.”1

Developing this theme during his sermon, Father Kentenich quoted from a prayer by Cardinal Mercier to the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit,

You are the soul of my soul.

I humbly adore you.2

How to Approach the Holy Spirit When We Pray

This reverent address gives us a guide as to how to approach the Holy Spirit when we pray. The greeting makes us conscious of the beautiful gift we have received at Baptism. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). He is “the soul of our soul.” Deep within our hearts, the Holy Spirit continuously calls out in Christ to God the Father with childlike love: “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). He is God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He loves us; he wants to be an active part of our life, forming us from within after the image of Jesus Christ.

The prayer continues petitioning the Holy Spirit to be active in bestowing his gifts and graces:

Enlighten me, strengthen me,

Guide me, comfort me.”

Above all, the prayer begs for the grace to know God’s will:

Reveal your wishes to me

as far as this is in accordance

with the will of the Eternal Father.”

The Holy Spirit Leads Us

The Holy Spirit leads us to follow the example of Jesus Christ who knew, loved, and obeyed the Father’s will. Therefore we ask the Holy Spirit to show us the Father’s will, to guide us in all decision making, and to strengthen us to follow through in fulfilling the Father’s will.

Father Kentenich had a great desire to fulfill God’s wish and will in every moment, in every circumstance, and thus to be God’s instrument in everyday life. Therefore he taught his parishioners to beg the Holy Spirit with the words of Cardinal Mercier:

Show me what Eternal Love wants of me.

Show me what I should do.

Show me what I should suffer.

Show me what I should humbly and

thoughtfully accept, bear, and endure.

Thy Will Be Done!

Sometimes God wants us to act boldly and courageously. Sometimes God desires that we patiently keep silence and suffer with loving acceptance what cannot be changed. In the “Our Father” we petition, “Thy will be done,” but how are we to know what God’s will for us is? The Holy Spirit must show us:

Holy Spirit, show me your will

and the will of the Father.

The end of the prayer declares why the person praying it has such a burning desire to know God’s will:

For I want my whole life to be nothing else

than a continuous, an everlasting yes

to the wishes, to the will of God,

the Eternal Father.

Only when we know God as our Father can we say “yes” to him with childlike trust. Only when we know God’s will can we say our wholehearted “yes” to it. God wills our holiness, but God will not make us holy against our will. The “I want” is important! As Father Kentenich explains, the person who does not want to become holy, who does not strive for it, who does not reach out for it, will not become holy; in vain does such a person expect true happiness, true bliss, here on earth, much less in eternity.3

What Brings God Delight?

The prayer reflects the belief that the Holy Spirit wants to attune us to the will of God, so that we know it not only reflexively, with the knowledge of the mind (for example, by studying the Ten Commandments or by reasoning about it), but also intuitively, with the knowledge of the heart. Father Kentenich teaches us to ask: What pleases the Father (John 8:29)? What brings God delight?

God’s delight is also our happiness! Remember the “important secret” about happiness and holiness! Only through a life of holiness can we find true happiness and bring happiness to others. For this happiness of holiness to be ours, we must turn to the Holy Spirit, the “soul of [our] souls.”

What Must We Do in Order to Allow the Holy Spirit to Penetrate Our Lives?

  1. Set time aside in order to occupy yourself with the presence of the Holy Spirit in your soul.
  2. Think of nothing but of opening yourself to the supernatural world.
  3. Be at home in this world. In the spirit of Saint Paul, set aside the things and interests of this world. Consider them as “rubbish” in comparison to the things the Holy Spirit wants to give you (Philippians 3:8), mainly his gifts and his fruits. 
  4. “Do not sadden the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30) who dwells in you by not turning to him, by not giving him your love, your conscious awareness of how much you love him and how much you need him. Instead, united with him, look deeply into your own heart and inner life; recall that your soul is a temple of the Holy Spirit in the true sense of the word.

Turning to the Holy Spirit Can Be Compared to a Trip

Turning to the Holy Spirit can be compared to a trip: You have been speeding along on the freeway. One impression after another passes you. Suddenly you exit to a peaceful forest. You stop your car and enter another world. Peace and tranquility surround you. You look up at the blue sky, you hear birds singing. There is a peace around you that frees you, and you are open for the rest God wants to give you. Give your soul this gift that it longs for so ardently. Let yourself fall into God’s loving arms. Take time for prayer.

Our Surrender to the Holy Spirit Yields Promised Results

  1. We become people of “holiness and happiness.” We develop a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He is no longer the “Unknown God,” but rather the “soul of [our] souls.”
  2. We share more fully in the divine Life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the trinitarian life. We share in divine light, divine confidence, divine strength, divine love.
  3. We live in the Spirit of God, in the light of God; we see things as the Holy Spirit sees them. In that light, we live our lives in and out of divine confidence and divine light, and lastly out of divine strength and divine love.

The Secret of Sanctity

The submission to the Holy Spirit is, in short, the secret of sanctity. Through it, you grow in holiness, which shows itself through charity when you serve others with authentic love. Your life flows along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace is proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it out, until you arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This last happiness is indeed an everlasting holiness!4


[1] Father Joseph Kentenich, The Game of Love, trans. M. Jane Hoehne, 1973; slightly revised translation, 1996 (Waukesha, Wisconsin: Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, 1998), pp. 27–34.

[2] The prayer can be found in Father Joseph Kentenich, Heavenwards: Prayers for the Use of the Schoenstatt Family, trans. Jonathan Niehaus (Waukesha, Wisconsin: Schoenstatt Fathers, 1992), p. 175.

[3] See Pater Joseph Kentenich, Aus dem Glauben leben: Predigten in Milwaukee 17, Bearbeitet von Pater Georg M. Ritter (Vallendar Schönstatt: Patris Verlag, 1994), 161–184.

[4] For further reflections on the prayer by Cardinal Mercier, see https://diolc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Resources-on-the-Prayer-to-the-Holy-Spirit.pdf