How to grow and receive more of the Holy Spirit


Preparing for Pentecost: How to grow and receive more of the Holy Spirit by George T. Montague, SM

After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles gather in the upper room. “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers: (Acts 1:14).

Who are “all these”? They are the eleven apostles (Matthias, the replacement for Judas, will be added shortly). Luke has just listed them in the preceding verse. The Church is going to be built on these foundation stones. Luke will make it abundantly clear that while the Holy Spirit is leading the community, it is under the earthly authority of the apostles.

This community is first of all a community of prayer. The phrase “All these devoted themselves” tells us that they did more than say a few occasional prayers; they dropped everything and gave themselves to prayer with intensity and perseverance. We can imagine that many fasted, and it is likely that prayer continued through the night watches, with people taking shifts to pray while others broke to eat or sleep. And they did this “with one accord,” all united, the apostles and Mary, in this urgent preparation for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Having experienced her Pentecost at the annunciation, Mary was doubtless the one who inspired this first intercessory prayer of the gathered Church. Paul would later say that the Holy Spirit intercedes within the Christian “with inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26). Inasmuch as the rest of the community had not yet received this outpouring of the Spirit, they must have looked to Mary to show them how to pray in the Spirit in this way. The gift of the Holy Spirit would be new for the disciples. For Mary it would bring a deeper union with her Spouse, a new departure, a new expansion of love.

These days of preparation for Pentecost contain an important lesson. Our ability to receive the Holy Spirit is in proportion to our intense desire and preparation for him. How big a container will we bring to this “Niagara Falls”? A thimble or a barrel? He will always overflow whatever container we bring, because the gift goes beyond the measure of preparation. But we choose the size of the container.

Fr. George Montague is a Marianist priest and biblical scholar known internationally for his numerous books on Scripture and on the spiritual life. This is taken from his book Mary’s Life in the Spirit: Meditations on a Holy Duet (The Word Among Us Press, 2011). Available at

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