On the eve of the Feast of Pentecost, we asked a couple approaching their golden wedding anniversary to share their experience of the Spirit’s presence in their lives.
Peter & Nicole NOWICKI
CANA International, CNC
Life as a couple with a faithful companion
The encounter with the Spirit is an eminently personal experience, but it can be lived together, in a group of course, but also in a couple. Thus, for each of us individually, our ‘official’ baptism in the Holy Spirit took place at the same time and together at the end of our first CANA week in the summer of 1986. We were welcomed by a couple who must have been the same age as we are today; the wife prayed for Nicole while her husband prayed for Peter. Apart from the warmth felt on our heads where their hands rested, we can both say that there was no immediate revelation, nor any dramatic act to distinguish this prayer request from any other. However, seeds were planted and immediately began to sprout.
For him, for her
For me, Peter, the realisation that the Holy Spirit was at work came on a Saturday morning, a good week after my baptism in the Spirit. Suddenly I had a deep desire – seemingly out of nowhere – to ask for the sacrament of confirmation… even though before then, throughout my adult life, I had been really committed to the Church. Since then, I have realised how the Spirit is an unwavering companion at my side at all times. Very often I say a short prayer to ask for support, for example before a presentation in my professional life, or now for any other such event. In my heart, this flash prayer is always followed by a word of thanks. All this is to share this experience of an easy and natural relationship with the Holy Spirit: a companionship that I have become accustomed to feeling.
For me, Nicole, my curiosity was aroused… was it possible that the Spirit was manifesting Himself concretely in my life, as He seemed to manifest Himself in the lives of the believers around me? I was not disappointed, unlike the day of my confirmation at the age of 8 when nothing seemed to happen but I felt protected afterwards. Suddenly, I experienced that the Spirit was having fun guiding me precisely: the Word was coming alive with an unexpected taste; I was surprised at the way the Spirit was at work in the prayer group, in the fraternal life, in my professional life with its ups and downs, in our family life… It was as if a path of discovery was opening up before me, before us. It is up to me to be faithful to it in order to invent each day to the end what the Lord is calling me to, calling us.
For both of them together
The Spirit is at work in our couple too, since we are united by the sacrament as “one flesh”. Over the years, certain signs develop: greater patience and tolerance towards each other, the desire to forgive each other, peace between us which others may recognise as a grace to be shared with other couples. This was often said to us in the CANA sessions we attended. The great gift is to be able to accept each other more and more as we are… and to be able to ask for help from the Spirit, our faithful companion, when it is difficult!
We feel this sense of the Spirit’s companionship as a unity between three people, each commanding respect and together providing strength to move forward when there are difficulties. But it is also a sense of sharing joy in a way that goes beyond our relationship as a couple. Our difficulties and joys are not just our own business, but it is together with the Spirit that we experience the pain or joy. There is a closeness that can sometimes make us appear to be a fusion couple, but this is not the case, because we are in a triangular relationship.
Many surprises certainly still to come
Looking back at the course of our lives individually and together as a couple, we know that the Holy Spirit has always been our faithful companion, and that this relationship did not begin on the day of our baptism in the Spirit. It is simply that on that special day when we met the couple who welcomed us into the life of the Spirit, we were willing to take the risk of believing that the Spirit is alive for us, for each of us and for both of us together. It was a day when we let the eyes of our hearts open to a reality that was already embracing us, that accompanied us to that particular moment. Since then, our outlook has changed and this is what still motivates our current commitments in the Church, with many surprises certainly still to come.