The Holy Spirit: “Paraclete” and “Advocate”

Today’s Catechism readings (243-248) describe the Holy Spirit as the “Paraclete” and “Advocate” sent by Jesus Christ. What do these two words mean?

“Paraclete” is the Greek word, and “advocate” is the Latin word, for this particular role of the Holy Spirit in our lives of faith. I happen to like etymologies (the study of the origin and development of words), because I find that knowing where a word comes from helps to understand the word more deeply.

“Advocate” comes from the preposition/prefix ad- (meaning “towards”) and vocate (from the verb vocare, “to call”). We get the word “vocal” from vocare.

“Paraclete” comes from the prefix para- (meaning “beside; near”) and clete (from the verb kalein, “to call”). We get the words “ecclesial” (church-related) and “epiclesis” (part of the Eucharistic Prayer) from the Greek verb kalein.

Both of these words, in Latin and Greek, mean “to call [someone] to [one’s] side.” An advocate or a paraclete is someone you call to yourself, often to speak for you. They are similar to intercessor (“one who goes” [cedere] “between” [inter-]).

This is why Jesus says He will send the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, comes to our side. The Holy Spirit is in the business of being close to us!

Catechism Community Commentary

Do you have a burning question about something in the Catechism? Or do you have some insight about a paragraph in the Catechism that you wish you could share with others? Well, now you can ask that question and share that insight in a forum dedicated to just that purpose.

The Catechism Search Engine (powered by the @CatechismAPI) is now open for user registration. You can register in just a few seconds — provide your name, email address (for confirmation purposes), a username, and a password — and then you can leave comments on individual paragraphs of the Catechism. Anyone can see and read them, but you must register to write comments.