A little help from above, even in the mundane

Actually, the Holy Spirit takes the train, the plane, the boat, the bus and every other form of transportation, public or private, day or night, rain or shine.

May 15, 2015

By Mike Nelson
I bet you didn’t know the Holy Spirit took the train.

Actually, the Holy Spirit takes the train, the plane, the boat, the bus and every other form of transportation, public or private, day or night, rain or shine. The Holy Spirit, in fact, is about as good a travelling partner as you will find, which makes sense because the Spirit is sent by God, and how do you find a better travelling partner than that?

Not only does the Holy Spirit travel with us, but sometimes, the Holy Spirit helps us out, in a moment of need — even in the mundane.

I used to take commuter trains to my job, 90 minutes each way, and there is only so much sports you can read and Sudoku puzzles to work on, during those trips. So, on occasion, I would engage in one of my passions: composing liturgical music.

Now I claim no great gift for composing, but it enables me to be more in touch with my faith, which, for me, becomes especially alive when it is connected to music. And I am grateful that a few of my compositions have been sung at my parish, Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura, California.

Those songs all have one thing in common: I can’t recall how I wrote them — except that the Holy Spirit was present, encouraging, cajoling, challenging me to make each song more than a bunch of words and notes on a piece of paper.

I look at this music now and think, “How did this note get here, or that chord there? What made me do that?” I have to believe it was the Holy Spirit, because those are the times when I stopped focusing on what I wanted to write, and instead, prayed for God’s help.

Several years ago, I composed a musical setting for a certain prayer of St. Bonaventure to the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with our parish’s feast day July 15.

Like most of my songs, it was composed primarily on my daily commutes into and out of downtown Los Angeles — scribbling my ideas and my notes with paper and pencil, hunched over in my usual seat near the rear of a car train, with one seat vacant next to me. Or so I thought.

There came a day on the train, when I looked at what I’d written and thought, “This is not so bad.” And I wondered, “Did I do this?” Then I thought some more, and I looked at the empty seat. And I decided the seat wasn’t so empty after all.

Soon thereafter, the song was included as a post-Communion meditation hymn at our parish feast day Masses. The musicians played their parts perfectly, the cantors intoned the verses beautifully, and the assemblies sang the refrain with gusto — all, I have no doubt, having been touched and moved by the Spirit.

We have used the song since then, when appropriate, at Sunday Masses and special celebrations. Our pastor sings the refrain at wedding liturgies as a blessing for the couple.

Of course, composing — on the train or elsewhere — is only one way of recognizing the Holy Spirit as not simply near us but as a force for renewal. And, for that matter, recognizing and appreciating the presence of God through the gifts with which he has graced us. “

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,” we proclaim in our creed. “Giver of life.” I can assure you that every time I remind myself of the Holy Spirit’s presence, I have felt my life renewed, and I have been inspired to use my God-given gifts in his service.

The Holy Spirit is always with us. We just need to make room.

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