Blessed Elena Guerra: Apostle of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit Chaplet, written by Bl. Elena Guerra can be used as a Holy Spirit Novena, beginning on Friday, May 27, 2022. The chaplet is shared at the end of this post.

It is a joy for me to write about my friend Blessed Elena Guerra, whom I first met through my husband in 1991 when I was writing the Silver Jubilee edition of As By A New Pentecost.  He said the story of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal could not be told without Elena! In October of 1973, Fr. Val Gaudet wrote an article in New Covenant entitled, A Woman and the Pope. He explained that Pope St. John XXIII called Elena “the apostle of the Holy Spirit.”  In fact, Fr. Gaudet thought Elena’s teaching influenced Pope St. John XXIII to pray his famous prayer: “Renew your wonders in this our day as by a New Pentecost.”

Bl. Elena’s life spanned from 1835 to 1914. She founded a religious order in Lucca, Italy, that became the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit. In 1886, Bl. Elena began to be aware of her prophetic task, which was to write to Pope Leo XIII and urge him to renew the Church through a return to the Holy Spirit. She wrote about a dozen confidential letters to the Holy Father between 1895 and 1903, calling for renewed preaching on the Holy Spirit, “who is the one who forms the saints.”

Bl. Elena told Pope Leo XIII of her desire to see the whole Church unite in constant prayer, like Mary and the apostles in the Upper Room, awaiting the coming of the Spirit: “Oh, if only the invocation Veni! (Come) . . . would become as popular a prayer as the Ave( Hail Mary)!” Her words are full of fire:

“Pentecost is not over. In fact, it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men, and all who want him can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive him well, and He will come to us as he did to them.”

She also wrote, “The mystery of Pentecost is a permanent mystery. The Spirit continues to come to all souls who truly desire Him . . . If they only want Him . . . if they only invoke Him . . . if they only prepare a place for Him in their hearts. . . . Who is hungry enough? Who is thirsty enough? Who is humble enough? Who is zealous enough? . . . It is necessary that we return to the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit may return to us.”

Pope Leo XIII heard the Lord’s call through Bl. Elena. He responded to her first letter by publishing Provida Matris Caritate in 1895, in which he asked the entire Church to celebrate a solemn novena (nine consecutive days of prayer) to the Holy Spirit each year between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. After her third letter, the pope wrote the encyclical Divinum Illud Munus in 1897, which also concerned the doctrine on the Holy Spirit. Bl. Elena was pleased with the Holy Father’s efforts but disappointed with the bishops’ poor response to the call for an annual novena. Following the ninth letter of Bl. Elena, in 1902, the Holy Father wrote a letter to the bishops, Ad Fovendum in Christiano Populo, reminding them of the obligation to make the novena annually.

Bl. Elena formed prayer groups called “Permanent Cenacles.” She often was heard to exclaim, “Let us go to the Cenacle!”

From her early years as an educator, Bl. Elena wrote many pamphlets and books urging people to return to the Holy Spirit. In 1880, she had even approached Don Bosco, while he was passing through Lucca. He encouraged her to continue her apostolate with the youth, as well as her activity as a writer. He said, “You have a pen of gold.”

That “pen of gold” composed not only letters to the pope, but also many beautiful prayers to the Holy Spirit. Elena used the invocation of Pope Leo XIII and wrote a Holy Spirit Chaplet that is used as a Pentecost Novena. This novena is a plea for each of the seven sanctifying gifts of the Spirit, with a prayer that is repeated seven times for each gift: “Father, in the name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.” This prayer is followed by an invocation to Our Lady, “O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.” At the end of the chaplet, there are three additional invocations to Our Lady and a Hail Mary. This prayer is still used today by the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, and I have had the privilege to pray it with them in Elena’s bedroom in Lucca.

In her ninth letter to Pope Leo XIII, on October 15, 1900, Elena begged the pope to exhort all Catholics to pray for the new century and to place it under the sign of the Holy Spirit: “Most Holy Father, I humbly present with confidence to your Holiness that the new century may begin with the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus to be sung at the beginning of the Mass of the first day of the year.”

As a result of Bl. Elena’s request, Pope Leo intoned the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit) in the name of the whole Church, on January 1, 1901. On the same day, an event took place in Topeka, Kansas, that marked the beginning of a great revival in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit destined to sweep throughout this country and around the world. And just over sixty-six years later, we sang the Veni Creator Spiritus on the Duquesne Weekend, using the same Gregorian chant melody used by Pope Leo XIII.

I call Elena my friend because I really am in communion with her and her mission, and I call on her every day. In some mysterious way, the Holy Spirit has used me to make her better known. In 1998, a young Brazilian studying in Rome my book As By A New Pentecost. Although he had never heard of her, when he saw the name “Elena Guerra,” there was a quickening in his spirit. Her name remained in his heart. He wrote to me three years later to tell me of his love for this blessed, and he and I became friends. He served for some time as vice-postulator of Elena’s cause for canonization and has insisted I have a first-class relic of the blessed, which I cherish. There have been significant healing miracles in Brazil through the intercession of Bl. Elena. May the time come soon for her canonization. Let it be! Veni Creator Spiritus!

. . . . .

THE HOLY SPIRIT CHAPLET

This prayer to the Holy Spirit originated with the exhortation of Pope Leo XIII. In a papal brief promulgated on May 5, 1895, he exhorted all Catholics to devoutly make a Holy Spirit Novena. The pope suggested a special formula of prayer: “Send forth your Spirit and renew the world.” With this in mind, Bl. Elena Guerra, “The Holy Spirit Apostle of Modern Times,” composed these invocations in 1896 to ask the Holy Spirit for the grace of a New Pentecost, which renews the face of the earth.

How to pray:

O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father…

1. Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, detach us from earthly things and infuse in us a love and taste of heavenly things.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

2. Come, O Spirit of Understanding, enlighten our minds with the light of your eternal truth and the riches of holy thoughts.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

3. Come, O Spirit of Counsel, make us docile to your inspirations and guide us in the way of salvation.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

4. Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give us strength, constancy and victory in the battle against our spiritual enemies.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

5. Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, be the Master of our souls and help us to put into practice Your teachings.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

6. Come, O Spirit of Piety, come to live in our heart to possess and sanctify all of our affections.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

7. Come, O Spirit of the Fear of the Lord, reign over our will and make us always disposed to suffer every evil rather than to sin.
“Father, in the Name of Jesus, send forth your Spirit and renew the world.”
“O Mary, who by the work of the Holy Spirit, conceived the Savior, pray for us.”

Invocation to Mary:
O most pure Virgin Mary, by your Immaculate Conception you were made a chosen tabernacle of Divinity by the Holy Spirit. Pray for us.

May the Divine Paraclete come soon to renew the face of the earth.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O most pure Virgin Mary, by the Mystery of the Incarnation you became true Mother of God by the Holy Spirit. Pray for us.

May the Divine Paraclete come soon to renew the face of the earth.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O most pure Virgin Mary, persevering in prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room, you were abundantly inflamed by the Holy Spirit. Pray for us:

May the Divine Paraclete come soon to renew the face of the earth.
Hail Mary, full of grace…

Let us pray:
Send Your Spirit, Lord, and transform us interiorly with Your gifts. Create in us a new heart that we may please You and be conformed to Your will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

This post was originally published on RenewalMinistries.net and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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