7 Saints for Pentecost

As the Feast of Pentecost approaches, here are seven saints to help you deepen your devotion to the Holy Spirit.

1. The Virgin Mary. In Catholic devotion we tend to focus—as we should—on the relationship between Mary and her divine Son. But Mary also has a special and unique relationship with the third person of the Trinity. As Luke 1:35 informs us, Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, which came to “overshadow” Mary. This relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit continues long after the Incarnation, which is why—to take just one example—it’s no coincidence that Mary was present, along with the apostles, at the first Pentecost. In True Devotion to the Holy Spirit, Archbishop Luis Martinez writes that both are involved in our sanctification. The Spirit is the Sanctifier by essence while Mary “is the cooperator, the indispensable instrument.” What better way than to learn how to be devoted to the Holy Spirit than from the immaculate virgin whose devotion was so great she conceived a divine Child through Him? Put another way, true devotion to Mary is true devotion to the Holy Spirit.

2. St. Basil the Great. What St. Athanasius is to Christ, St. Basil is to the Holy Spirit. Just as Athanasius’ treatise, On the Incarnation, was, by many measures, the last word on the long-disputed dual natures of Christ, so also was Basil’s work the definitive statement on the divinity of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. Unlike the previous approach to defending Christ’s divinity—which had relied on language outside of Scripture since Arian heretics had an explanation for every verse cited against them—Basil based his case for the divinity of the Holy Spirit on an extraordinarily close reading of the Bible, which makes his work unique both for its theological contributions and its exegetical style.  Click here to read Basil’s On the Holy Spirit and here to read the Office of Readings (from the Liturgy of the Hours) for his feast day.

3. St. Ambrose of Milan. Along with Basil, St. Ambrose was one of the few Fathers who wrote a book—technically three of them—devoted exclusively to the Holy Spirit. Unlike Basil, where the focus was necessarily on the New Testament, where the Holy Spirit is explicitly discussed, Ambrose explores the topic in the Old Testament. His first book interprets the story of Gideon and the fleece as an allegory for the Holy Spirit. The second takes a similar tack with the story of Simeon. The final book expands the scope to the prophets, Christ, and the apostles. Click here to read the books and here for the Office of Readings for Ambrose’s feast day.

4. St. Philip Neri. One of the great Counter-Reformation saints, St. Philip Neri is perhaps best known today—to the extent that he is known at all—as the founder of the Oratories and a friend of the poor and others in need in late medieval Rome. But it’s also hard to think of St. Philip Neri without also thinking about the Holy Spirit. Some saints bore the stigmata, but St. Philip Neri—

body and soul—bore the marks of his extraordinary encounter with the Holy Spirit. Here is how one of his biographers, Father Bacci, describes it:

While he was with the greatest earnestness asking of the Holy Ghost His gifts, there appeared to him a globe of fire, which entered into his mouth and lodged in his breast; and thereupon he was suddenly surprised with such a fire of love, that, unable to bear it, he threw himself on the ground, and, like one trying to cool himself, bared his breast to temper in some measure the flame which he felt. When he had remained so for some time, and was a little recovered, he rose up full of unwonted joy, and immediately all his body began to shake with a violent tremour; and putting his hand to his bosom, he felt by the side of his heart, a swelling about as big as a man’s fist, but neither then nor afterwards was it attended with the slightest pain or wound.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, after his death (sometime later) an autopsy found that two ribs had been broken and curved outward to accommodate his enlarged heart, which “had been dilated under the sudden impulse of love.” Click here for devotional resources and here to read Bacci’s biography.

5. St. John Vianney. One of the greatest and most beloved saints of the nineteenth century, St. John Vianney is perhaps not specially identified with the Holy Spirit in the way that, say, someone like Philip Neri is. But the section of his catechism on the Holy Spirit makes for a stimulating Pentecost mediation. John Vianney seemed to have a vivid grasp of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives as Christians that his writings on this topic are still quoted today. To take just one example: “Take in one hand a sponge full of water, and in the other a little pebble; press them equally. Nothing will come out of the pebble, but out of the sponge will come abundance of water. The sponge is the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, and the stone is the cold and hard heart which is not inhabited by the Holy Spirit.” Click here to read the whole excerpt. (To read his entire teaching on the catechism, click here.)

6. St. Vincent Pallotti. A contemporary of John Vianney, St. Vincent Pallotti is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as “a second Philip Neri.” Like his spiritual predecessor Pallotti was both entirely committed to serving the people of Rome and he had a special connection to the Holy Spirit. As the story goes, when he was a struggling student, his mother encouraged him to pray to the Holy Spirit for help. He did, asking for just one ray of illumination, according to one account. After the novena, he soon became a star student. Click here to read more about his prayer life, here to read more about him, and here for a prayer to him.

7. Pope St. John Paul II. Like John Vianney, Pope St. John Paul II is not specially associated with the Holy Spirit. But, it turns out that the third person of the Trinity was a major emphasis of his teaching. John Paul II was one of the few popes to dedicate an encyclical to the Holy Spirit. He has also left us a series of Wednesday audiences and a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

image: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • Matt Malicki

    Appparently Pope Francis called St. John XXIII the “Pope of Openness to the Holy Spirit” at the canonization Maybe we could add a #8? 🙂

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Oh, this list could go on forever! But, a very find addition.

  • noelfitz

    This is another great and inspiring article.

    But was Our Lady present at the first Pentecost? The true answer may be the
    traditional one – ‘yes’, but it really depends on the verses Acts 1:13-16.

    13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were
    staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew
    and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of
    James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain
    women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— (NRSV, Acts 1:13-16).

    A correct translation of the Greek is not ‘Friends’ but ‘Male Brothers’, using ‘Friends’ is
    dishonest. I looked at 37 English translations, only the NRSV uses ‘Friends’,
    most use ‘Brethren’ or ‘Brothers’ but Douay Rheims is most accurate using ‘Men,

    This says in the upper room there were eleven men and these and others, including Our
    Lady, constantly devoted themselves to prayer. Peter stood up among the 120,
    but it does not say this was at Pentecost or where it was.

    In Acts 2:1 we see 2:1 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” Here we are not told who the ‘they’ were and where this took place. Was the upper Room large enough for such a crowd? The context seems to imply a male-only gathering, and considering the patriarchal nature of the time, it would be surprising if women were present. But in Christianity such distinctions may have disappeared

    So it is interesting to speculate whether Our Lady was present or not. I would love to hear from participants here a proof one way or the other.

  • adevar@hotmail.com

    Why is that you had 6 men and only one women on your list?

  • Maria

    Thank you for a good article and references !
    Wondering what the prayer of the Apostles and of The Mother might have been like …were there issues of guilt and shame and fear of unforgiveness , may be even a bit of contamination of the judasic spirit – not much in the habit of watching secular T.V but watching a Briish sitcom yest . helped to realise how much the spirit of scorn – the beast like the leopard is there that can eat away the sense of reverence and of human dignity !
    Was it that sense of contempt ,after himself having been given the power toheal, to cast off demons and Judas getting may be angry and despairing that The Lord seems powerless at so many levels , such as against the Romans !
    Being with The Mother, filled with humility , ever knowing from the purity of her heart , the lowliness of humans and herself an enemy of our enemy , likley helped to cast off such spirits – possibly even from those who were to hear Peter , thus helping them to receive The Spirit !
    In our own times , there are those who deal in issues of family healing ( such as Fr.Yozefu ) who emphasise of the need for such focus – to cast off evil spirits that could have gained access and that need to be expelled .
    Hope that doing so with the help of The Mother would help to keep persons, in praise and gratitude to The Father , always trying to do His holy will and from falling into the trap of being decieved into selfglorification of looking at that power as that of oneself – which was the sin of the angels , who fell iinto adoring themsleve for their beauty, which , apart from God , turned into ugliness and wickedness !
    That also could explain how God, esp. in the Old Testament would refer to the enemy claims against us, as ‘My wrath ‘ – since even in their rebellion , the fallen angels still belong to God and go to HIm to accuse us !
    The Lord’s infinite merits , through His Incarnation,Passion and Resurrection counter same to the proportion with which we accept same , in trust , on behalf of others in our lives too !
    One puzzling verse in the NewTestament is how The Spirit was ‘not yet given’ and yet we read about David pleading with God , not to take away the holy Spirt from him ; would it not be that The Lord has opened the way for us , to ask and recieve The Spiriit , unlike in O.T times when such a gift might have been reserved only for special people and purposes !
    And we can even ask for that Spirit , not just for us but for others too – which might have been too , the focus of the prayers in that Church gathering of the Mother and the Apostles !
    May The Mother take us in , by her maternal authority and all those in our lives ,past and present and future too , to be with her – casting off what need to be cast off , invoking in The Father of life and love into hearts and glorifying the Blessed Trinity !

  • Mark Chance

    How many women should the list have included?

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Thank you!

  • JohnnyVoxx
  • noelfitz


    Thank you so much for your reply to my post. I really appreciate it, as I was somewhat
    disappointed initially as there seemed little interest in my contribution. Your
    post shows CE at its best, as it gets to the heart of the problem, with the words
    of St JP II, even though scripture does not explicitly show that Mary was
    present at the first Pentecost.

    Was Mary present? My answer is probably ‘yes’. Our religion is not a ‘Sola Scriptura’ religion. In the old day we used to rely on scripture and tradition, but now there is
    considered one source, combining both scripture and tradition. Tradition has it
    that Mary was present, even though a careful reading of Acts does not explicitly
    show this.

    I have read the reference you have given carefully, so I have not replied before now.

    Thank you once more for your excellent reply to me and thanks to all associated with CE, this brilliant, encouraging, sound, charitable, Catholic site.