The other day, my kids and I were sitting around trying to name the gifts of the Holy Spirit off the top of our heads. I can’t remember what precipitated the discussion, probably my daughter’s final exams at school.To be quite honest, I have not thought about the gifts of the Holy Spirit since my Confirmation so my memory was a bit rusty. Of all things, I forgot about the gift of piety!
What kind of gift?
Everyone likes to get a gift. Everyone likes to be called gifted. To me, a gift is particularly special if it comes from God Himself. Well, actually all good things come from God, even if we fail to acknowledge it. According to Church Tradition, a person receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit at the Sacrament of Baptism and is strengthened in them at Confirmation (CCC 1303). In addition a person must be a state of grace.This means free from mortal sins.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.” (1831). The gifts are outlined in Isaiah 11:1-3 and are actually rooted in the prophesy about Jesus the Messiah.These supernaturally bestowed virtues from God are habitual and are not just a onetime thing. These human virtues are “stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith” (CCC, 1834).
These gifts have a lot to do with everyday life.
As such the gifts of the Holy Spirit most definitely have a lot to do with how we go about our daily lives and are very relevant to any psychological perspective or issue that we might encounter. These are not something that we whip up only at the moment of a disaster but rather can be utilized at all times.These gifts are kind of difficult to define because many of them are interrelated. My attempt at brief definitions includes:
This is the first and highest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the ability to know what is important in terms of spiritual realities compared to the things of the world. It refers to being able to see God at work in our lives and in the world. A person does not need to possess a high level of education to be wise. There are abundant examples in the lives of the Saints. A humble example is St. Theresa of Lisieux, nick named the Little Flower, since she was able to see and serve God through the little things of life.
This gift is being able to grasp Truths of the faith and what that means in terms of living in the world as a follower of Christ. A person who has understanding is not tossed about or sidetracked by secular trends and ideologies that are contrary to Christianity. For example, someone with understanding might not be particularly fond of relativism, which teaches that there is no absolute Truth.
This gift is the supernatural ability to know right from wrong as well as being able to carry it out. It is also referred to as having “right judgment.” Someone who has counsel will be able to see why aborting a child from the womb is a wrong choice and would not go through with this type of procedure.
This is the virtue that allows martyrs to suffer death for the sake of the Truth. Synonyms include courage and strength. A person with fortitude is willing to take on risks for the sake of Christ. With more fortitude one can speak out against injustices and teachings that are contrary to the Church.
The definition of this gift is easily confused with wisdom and understanding. It refers to being able to see God’s purpose and will for our lives. This gift helps to take a look at our life somewhat in a way that God might look at it.
This gift refers to a willingness to worship and serve God. This is also known as reverence.One with piety acknowledges God as Father, respects the Church and observes its teachings. This is done in response to one’s love for God and not out of duty or servitude.
7. Fear of the Lord
This gift is often misunderstood because of the word fear. This gift is actually about hope and the desire not to offend God. This fear is not of the fire and brimstone type but rather arises out of love for God. This involves the fear of being separated from God rather than being punished.This is a desire to do good works because of one’s love for God. This virtue is also known as wonder and awe. It is being aware of the glory and majesty of God.
This Sunday the Catholic Church observes the Solemnity of Pentecost. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are particularly relevant because this day focuses on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At Mass a sequence is recited called the veni Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit, which contains the lines:
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light.
Come, Father of the poor, come giver of gifts, come, light of the heart.
Greatest Comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation.
In labor, rest, in heat, temperance, in tears, solace.
O most blessed light, fill the inmost heart of your faithful.
Without your grace, there is nothing in us, nothing that is not harmful.
Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.
Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled, correct what goes astray.
Give to your faithful, those who trust in you, the sevenfold gifts.
Grant the reward of virtue, grant the deliverance of salvation, grant eternal joy.