Receiving the Holy Spirit

I am a newbie to the Catholic faith (in fact hoping to be received into the Church this Easter). Prior to this my Christian background is literally just about 3 months attending a Baptist Church about 15 years ago.

My question is this:

I have just watched nearly 6 hours of David Pawson (not a Catholic but a great Bible scholar) on Youtube talking about the Christian life etc.and it has awoken an old insecurity that has made me wonder if i have in fact ‘got it’.

Mr Pawson was asked about receiving the Holy Spirit. He stated that it was an essential for knowing yourself as a follower of Jesus and that everyone who has the Spirit would know it as when the Spirit comes to dwell within it’s a significant and sometimes earth shattering kind of experience.

Well i have never had that kind of experience. Of course i question my motivation for wanting it as a possible reason why it hasn’t happened. Do i want it for myself or others? Do i want it as a kind of status symbol?

Is this sort of experience more common in charasmatic churches?
For anyone that found their faith slowly and without ever having had a eureka moment does this have any significance. It confuses me.

I have just watched nearly 6 hours of David Pawson (not a Catholic but a great Bible scholar)

A “great” Bible scholar would be able to assent to the reality that the Christ established His Church with St Peter as His Chief Vicar, and established the Sacrifice of the Mass with the Holy Eucharist within seven sacraments.

He stated that it was an essential for knowing yourself as a follower of Jesus and that everyone who has the Spirit would know it as when the Spirit comes to dwell within it’s a significant and sometimes earth shattering kind of experience.

Where did Jesus teach that “everyone would know when the Spirit comes to dwell within”?

What Jesus did was to establish His Church and promise His Apostles:
Four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later to the Twelve also].

**Sole authority to Peter: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

Then, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18). “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26). “But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15).

Thus the Holy Sprit guides to Truth not to error.

You receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism. At your Confirmation you are then sealed and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.The Catechism likens this to what happened at Pentecost.
There is no second annointing or earth shattering experience that I have ever heard of. Some of the saints like St Therese have referred to a type of conversion where they are drawn more deeply to follow Jesus. Some also claim that a physical experience often called Baptism or release of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of Christian growth. Again there is nothing in the Catechism which teaches this.

St. Paul was literally knocked off his horse and blinded when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Do all Christians have that kind of experience when they become Christians?

The Good Thief was nailed to a cross next to Jesus when he asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his kingdom. Do all Christians have to be at the point of death before accepting Jesus?

I don’t want to minimize the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, but I think it is fair to say that God will decide what each person needs. Some conversions are “quiet” and some are quite dramatic. But they are not all the same.

I would contend that many conversions begin at the Baptismal font. That is where many of us first receive the Holy Spirit.


I have struggled with the idea that we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. Here is one verse that makes me question it.

Acts 10:47-48 (RSVCE)

47 “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

So here they received the Holy Spirit and then were baptized. Has it now changed and we only receive the Holy Spirit at baptism? A little confusing.


Agreed. In The Fulfillment of All Desire, Ralph Martin highlights the different paths by which the saints have come to know God.

Some are dramatic turn-arounds - like St. Augustine. Others started strong, cooled off and then caught fire again - like St. Teresa of Avila. But others were close to God from their earliest childhood - like St. Terese of Liseaux.

And all three of these are Doctors of the Church!

To assume that you don’t have the Holy Spirit within you because you have not had a strong emotional experience is a huge mistake.

Lack of anger and a habitual disposition to pray for the people who hurt you is a better indicator IMO but for someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, he is there whether you feel him or not.


PS: Saul wasn’t riding a horse in the Bible. The horse comes from the painters who like to paint the event that way. There is no horse in Acts 9.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov
I asked Father Seraphim, “can I know that I am in the grace of the Holy Spirit? I do not understand how I can be certain that I am in the Spirit of God. How can I discern for myself his true manifestation in me?” Father Seraphim replied: “I have already told you, Your Godliness, that it is very simple and I have related in detail how people come to be in the Spirit of God and how we can recognize his presence in us. So what do you want, my son?” I want to understand it well" I said. Then Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: 'We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don’t you look at me?" I replied: I cannot look, Batiushka, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain."
Father Seraphim said: “Don’t be alarmed, Your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself, otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.” Then bending his head toward me, he whispered softly in my ear: “Thank the Lord God for his unutterable mercy to us! You saw that I did not even cross myself; and only in my heart I prayed mentally to the Lord and said within myself. ‘Lord, grant him to see clearly with his bodily eyes that descent of thy Spirit which thou grantest to thy servants when thou art pleased to appear in the light of thy magnificent glory.’ And you see my son, the Lord instantly fulfilled the humble prayer of poor Seraphim. How then shall we not thank him for this unspeakable gift to us both? Even to the greatest hermits, my son, the Lord God does not always show his mercy in this way. This grace of God, like a loving mother, has been pleased to comfort your contrite heart at the intercession of the Mother of God herself. But why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look, and don’t be afraid! The Lord is with us!”
After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe. Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders; yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its brilliance both the snow-blanket that covered the forest glade and the snowflakes which besprinkled me and the great elder. You can imagine the state I was in!


“How do you feel now?” Father Seraphim asked me.
“Extraordinarily well;’ I said.
“But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?”
I answered: “I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.”
“This, Your Godliness,” said Father Seraphim, “is that peace of which the Lord said to his disciples; ‘My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you’ (John I4:27). What else do you feel?” Father Seraphim asked me. 'An extraordinary sweetness” I replied.
And he continued: “This is that sweetness of which it is said in Holy Scripture: ‘They shall be drunken with the fatness of thy house, and of the torrent of thy delight shalt thou make them to drink’ (Psalm 36:8). And now this sweetness is flooding our hearts…. Mat else do you feel?” An extraordinary joy in all my heart."
And Father Seraphim continued: ‘When the Spirit of God comes down to man and overshadows him with the fullness of his inspiration, then the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy, for the Spirit of God fills with joy whatever he touches. You my son, have wept enough in your life on earth; yet see with what joy the Lord consoles you even in this life! What else do you feel, Your Godliness?"
I answered: ‘An extraordinary warmth.’
“How can you feel warmth, my son? Look, we are sitting in the forest. It is winter out-of-doors, and snow is underfoot. There is more than an inch of snow on us, and the snowflakes are still falling. What warmth can there be?”
I answered: "Such as there is in a bathhouse when the water is poured on the stone and the steam rises in clouds.’ ‘And the smell he asked me, “is it like the smell of a bathhouse?”
“No,” I replied. "There is nothing on earth like this fragrance. When in my dear mother’s lifetime I was fond of dancing and used to go to balls and parties, my mother would sprinkle me with the scent that she bought at the best shops in Kazan. But those scents did not exhale such fragrance.’
And Father Seraphim, smiling pleasantly, said: I know it myself lust as well as you do, my son, but I am asking you on purpose to see whether you feel it in the same way. It is absolutely true, Your Godliness! The sweetest earthly fragrance cannot be compared with the fragrance that we now feel, for we are now enveloped in the fragrance of the Holy Spirit of God.
Our present state is that of which the Apostle says, The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans I4:I7). Our faith consists not in the plausible words of earthly wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (see I Corinthians 2A). That is just the state we are in now. Of this state the Lord said, There are some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power’ (Mark 9: I). See, my son, what unspeakable joy the Lord God has now granted us!"
I don’t know Batiuslika,’ I said, “whether the Lord will grant me to remember this mercy of God always as vividly and clearly as I feel it now. ‘I think,’ Father Seraphim answered me, 'that the Lord will help you to retain it in your memory forever, or his goodness would never have instantly bowed in this way to my humble prayer and so quickly anticipated the request of poor Seraphim; all the more so, because it is not given to you alone to understand it, but through you it is for the whole world, in order that you yourself may be confirmed in God’s work and may be useful to others. The fact that I am a monk and you are a layman is utterly beside the point. What God requires is true faith in himself and his only-begotten Son. In return for that the grace of the Holy Spirit is granted abundantly from on high. The Lord seeks a heart filled to overflowing with love for God and our neighbor; this is the throne on which he loves to sit and on which he appears in the fullness of his heavenly glory. Son, give me thine heart (Proverbs 23:26; see Matthew 6:33), for in the human heart the Kingdom of God can be contained.”


Angela of Foligno

This searching and beholding (whereby God is seen in such a manner that the soul can behold naught else) is so profound that much doth it grieve me that I cannot make manifest aught whatsoever of it, seeing that it is not a thing the which can be touched or imagined or judged of. Moreover, the soul doth know in many other ways that God hath without doubt entered into it, of the which ways I will now speak of two.

One is an holy unction which doth so instantly revive the soul, make meek all the members of the body, and cause them to agree together with the soul, that they cannot be touched or offended by anything whatsoever the which could even in the smallest degree agitate the soul. Therefore doth it feel and hear that God speaketh within it, and by means of this great and in all ways unspeakable unction the soul doth understand with the utmost certainty that God is within it, because no saint nor any angel in Paradise would have power to grant this. But seeing how that it is a thing the which cannot be expressed, it grieveth me that I can find no words wherewith to describe it in comparison of that which it truly is.

Wherefore I pray God that He will pardon me, for this is not of mine own will, and if I were able and if it were pleasing unto God, I would make manifest somewhat of His goodness. The other way whereby the soul knoweth that God is within it is by an embrace which He doth give unto the soul. There is neither father, nor mother, nor son, nor any other person whatsoever who can embrace the object beloved with so great a love as that wherewith God embraceth the soul. For He doth embrace it with such love and draw it unto Himself with such sweetness and gentleness that methinketh there is not a man in the world who can declare it, nor express it, nor believe it unless he hath himself experienced it ; and although he might perchance divine somewhat of this love, yet could he not possibly know it as it truly is. Of a surety, God doth implant most sweet love in the soul, the which doth make it burn for Christ alone. And it beareth with it so great a light (whereby it understandeth the fulness of the goodness of God which it experienceth within itself) that it hath understanding of much more than it feeleth within itself.

Then hath it the assurance and certitude that Christ dwelleth within it ; but all that we can say is as nothing in comparison with that which it really is. Then the soul hath no more tears, whether of joy or of sorrow or of any other kind, seeing that when the soul hath tears it is in a lower state. For God poureth into the soul an exceeding great sweetness, in a measure so abundant that it can ask nothing more yea, verily, it would be in Paradise if this should endure, its joy being so great that it filleth the whole body ; and all injury which the soul suffereth, whether by deeds or words, is esteemed as naught and is turned into sweetness.


You receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and are sealed when you are confirmed. Consolations are sometimes given to those who the Spirit deems needs them but are not necessary.Faith is not always a warm and fuzzy feeling but just persevering in the truth and even when falling to return to the sacraments and pray for strength and grace.

poetic writings are beautiful but sometimes faith is very quiet and manifests in subtle ways

I asked you this earlier and maybe you missed it. But the Holy Scripture state that, at least in one situation, people received the Holy Spirit and then were baptized. So clearly, in that situation, the Holy Spirit came before and not during baptism. So what is the Church’s teaching concerning this? Thanks.


My personal opinion is this:

  1. God can do what He wants.
  2. These folks were baptized in the Spirit before receiving water baptism for two reasons:
    a. So that Peter would recognize that it was okay to water baptize them
    b. So that we would see that water baptism was still required.

That last point is stated because some Pentecostals seem to think that water baptism is optional, but Peter made sure they were baptized, so we should, too.

Consider the circumstances, how they received the Holy Spirit and who’s presence they were in.

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (Acts 10:44)

Peter himself preached the Gospel to the people. They received the Holy Spirit through Peter’s preaching. They still needed Baptism to be justified and brought into God’s covenant family.

Remember that Peter was able to raise people from the dead, heal lepers and the lame and even his napkins were able to heal.


Yes, I can understand what you are saying, but after checking out the Catechism, it states that we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism. So I am conflicted by the seemingly contradiction of when you actually receive the Holy Spirit…

1262 The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.65


1241 The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.41

Thanks for any light you can shine on this for me! God bless.

I understand what the Catechism states and I am not denying that but want to look at the text of the Bible. You brought up the Scriptures so lets stay with the Scriptures.

The author of Acts of the Apostles (Luke) was showing that Peter had the authority to speak on God’s behalf. During Old Testament times this authority was given by God, on special occasions, to prophets. Prophets spoke the word of God to the people. Prophets spoke on God’s behalf.

Peter was speaking to Gentiles, not Jews. The Jews were astounded that the Gentiles had received the word of God but more importantly, they were astounded that the Gentiles were accepted by God as evidence by the fact that they spoke in tongues.

So we have several things going on here - Peter is speaking on God’s behalf like the prophets of old, his words have power to convert, he preaches the Gospel to Gentiles, the Gentiles accept God’s word, God accepts the Gentiles and gives them the gift of tongues, the Jews are astounded and glorify God that Gentiles are now part of God’s family. That is the message.

I think the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they received might have been a reference to the gift of tongues specifically, not a reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which we receive at Baptism, but that’s not the point. The point is the story and we can’t fully understand that unless we understand the Old Testament context of what is happening.

Acts of the Apostles isn’t an explanation of doctrine. It is about the explosive growth of the Church, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, and then to the ends of the earth. That’s the message. Peter is the new authority, Gentiles are part of God’s family, everything that happened to Jesus also happens to Peter and to the Church - these are some of the points God is trying to make in Acts of the Apostles.


Ok, thanks for the response. I still see a conflict in what the Catechism says and what is written in Scriptures. Saying that Acts isn’t an explanation of doctrine doesn’t diminish the facts that are stated in it.

Anyway, here is another place where I’m conflicted. In Acts 8 Simon the sorcerer along with others believed and were baptized but did not receive the Holy Spirit. It looks like Peter and John went to Samaria (after the baptism) and prayed that the new believers might receive the Holy Spirit. And Simon the sorcerer, although he was baptized, never did receive the Holy Spirit if I’m understanding it correctly.

I read what this says, then I read the Catechism and the two don’t seem to jell. :confused:


The Catechism does not contradict scripture. The Catechism was designed to be read with the Bible. The Bible and the Catechism go together. You are right though. When we look at the text it does say that they had not yet “Received the spirit”. I agree. That’s what it says.

Luke is writing about the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit however. He is not writing about indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit is one of Luke’s themes and he hammers it over and over in his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. Luke is the one who tells us about the drama of Pentecost - the disciples were locked in the upper room out of fear before Pentecost, but spoke in tongues and preached boldly after Pentecost, not even being afraid to die.

Luke was a companion of Paul. It is not incorrect to say that these two were more “Charasmatic” and concerned with the outward manifestations of the Spirit. Luke starts Acts of the Apostles with Jesus’ ascension and then tongues of fire, wind and charismatic outpourings of the Spirit. Drama!

John on the other hand, is more contemplative and concerned with the interior life and indwelling of the Spirit, holiness, virtue, peace, joy and love. John’s gospel and three letters speaks about peace and the Spirit of Truth coming to dwell within us, etc. John is the one who has Jesus say “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit” and then Jesus breathes on them.

Again, we can’t read the Bible like a handbook of doctrine. John talks about the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Peace. Luke talks about the Spirit of Power. They are the same Spirit.


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