Not only our prayer books and Catholic magazines but cyberspace too is full of options these days for praying a Pentecost novena to the Holy Spirit (including, for example, daily reminders sent to your Inbox). I myself just bookmarked, for daily use, an iTunes coverage of the Taizé version of the chant Veni Sancte Spiritus, which still moves me, more than thirty years after I first visited Taizé. I have also decided to add to my own Pentecost novena the so-called “Collect for Purity” from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which I learned by heart many years ago during my studies at an Anglican College in Great Britain:
to whom all hearts are open
all desires known
and from whom no secrets are hid:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ our Lord.
Many people know this prayer as a jewel of the Anglican liturgical tradition. Few seem to know that it is actually a Catholic, early medieval prayer text that Thomas Cranmer found in the Sarum use and translated, with slight changes, for his Book of Common Prayer. The earliest, medieval text appears in a set of Votive Masses to the Holy Spirit, two of which are ascribed to Alcuin (+ 804), possibly the author of the Veni Creator Spiritus (text in Patrologia Latina 101:446: “Missa de gratia Sancti Spiritus postulanda”). – As I have argued elsewhere, the Western liturgical tradition, rather than being Spirit-impoverished, actually has a rich tradition of devotion and prayers to the Holy Spirit. One only needs to know where to look. I invite you to join me in entering and living, in prayer, this rich tradition in these days before Pentecost.