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The Holy Spirit and the Celtic Wild Goose

Holy_Spirit_Wild_GooseThere are a variety of images in both Scripture and tradition that help us to grasp the meaning of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament we encounter the Holy Spirit as “ruach” the very breath of God. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and she was filled with God’s life. When Jesus was baptized, the spirit of God descended upon him as a dove and empowered him for mission. On the day of Pentecost, a rush of wind shook the house and heart of the disciples and flames of fire rested on their heads, transforming their fear and uncertainty into faith and conviction.
In the Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented not as a peaceful dove but instead as a “wild goose.” The wild goose reveals a spirit which is passionate, noisy, and courageous. This symbol reminds us that God’s spirit cannot be tamed or contained. I suspect the wild goose was at work in the election of Pope Francis and continues to stir up the world through his homespun yet poignant language and prophetic actions.
There is an ancient tale about a flock of geese that through their loud cackling forewarned the lookouts in a Roman city-state of an invading army. Throughout Christian history the prophetic cries of saints, movements, and religious communities — like the calls of those geese — have alerted the Church to the need for renewal and reform. The work of renewing and reforming is never done in isolation but as part of the community of the faithful which is very human and often fearful and uncertain.
The Holy Spirit works through ordinary human beings like you and me to bring God’s healing and purifying presence to all of creation. Ask the Spirit of the living God, the “wild goose,” to send upon you, our Church, and our world an outpouring of God’s spirit, transforming our fear and uncertainty into faith and conviction.
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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4 Responses to “The Holy Spirit and the Celtic Wild Goose”

  1. Hello, Sr. Terry,
    This is so wonderful! I told some folks I was with on Pentecost about the wild goose, and a few times over the weekend we were surprised by a goose in unexpected places. What a great reminder to be aware of the Holy Spirit in our lives, especially when we would otherwise miss the Spirit’s promptings and presence. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  2. Anna Kelly says:

    Sr. Terry,
    Did you hear this story, directly from Ireland, I might add? Even after glass could be put in church windows the one above the sanctuary was always left open so that if wild geese flew into a church they were free to fly out again. This was to continue the tradition of the Irish church that Spirit must always be free to come and go as it desired. I thought you would like to hear this story from my homeland. I come from Co.Derry.
    God bless.

  3. RENEW says:

    What a wonderful tradition it is! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Sara Scott says:

    I had a vision yesterday in church of a goose, and I was flying on it- it was silver. Then it turned to gold, and then to white. It was only about 2 sec. and I put it off as a crazy thought. Later in the day, I blurted out the vision to a friend at lunch, and she told me about the holy spirit being likened to a wild goose! That describes me perfectly when it comes to God.

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