The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit first appear in Isaiah 11:2-3. They’re the gifts God offers us that make us more like him. They perfect the virtues. So who wouldn’t want a gift flown directly by carrier pigeon (well, dove) by God himself?
Do I really want to be wiser, more understanding, open to God’s guidance, strong, knowledgeable, love God more, and enjoy hanging out with him so much that I don’t wander around looking for spiritual sustenance from anywhere else?
Yes…. I want that!
But sometimes I forget to unwrap God’s special-delivery gifts. I knew a guy who was constantly agitated with his fellow parishioners because he felt no one was as holy as he was and the rest of us drove him crazy. We’re human, and it can be easy to slip into thinking we’re achieving wisdom, knowledge, and love by our efforts alone, and that our gifts come from ourselves….
Unwrapping God’s gifts is more about opening ourselves up to his action in us (getting out of our own way) and less about collecting gold stars for exemplary service. Because if we’re holy in our own eyes, we’ve limited ourselves to our own vision. If we open ourselves to God’s holiness, stand back – heaven’s the limit!
7 gifts of the Holy Spirit
CatholicAnswers.com lists the following explanation from St. Thomas Aquinas of what the 7 gifts will do for us if we unwrap them, if we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Jesus.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are, according to Catholic Tradition, heroic character traits that Jesus Christ alone possesses in their plenitude but that he freely shares with the members of his mystical body, the Church. These traits are infused into every Christian as permanent gifts at baptism, nurtured by the practice of the seven virtues (click here if you need a refresher on what the seven virtues are), and sealed in the sacrament of confirmation. They are also known as the sanctifying gifts of the Spirit, because they make their recipients docile (which means “teachable”) to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their lives, helping us to grow in holiness and making us fit for heaven.
- Wisdom is knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth.
- Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.
- Counsel makes us open to being directed by God in matters necessary for our salvation.
- Fortitude (Courage) is a firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, especially when it’s difficult or dangerous to do so, and the confidence to overcome all obstacles, even deadly ones, by the assurance of everlasting life.
- Knowledge is the ability to judge correctly on matters of faith and right action, so we never wander from the straight path of justice.
- Piety is revering God with the affection of a daughter or son, paying worship and duty to God, paying due reverence to all on account of their relationship to God, and honoring the saints and not contradicting Scripture. The Latin word pietas denotes the reverence that we give to our father and to our country; since God is the Father of all, the worship of God is also called piety.
- Fear of God (Reverence for God) is the “filial” fear whereby we fear being separated from God who is love—as opposed to “servile” fear, which is fearing punishment.
Unwrapping the gifts
But how do we unlock the power of these gifts that make us fit for heaven? By practicing the Virtues! In his classic book, The Sanctifier, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez shows how the 7 virtues and the 7 gifts are both needed to make us holy. He says that the Virtues are practiced by us under the direction of reason and the Gifts are exercised under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit. Together, they enable us to realize our “participation in the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
This is big news.
We can choose today to be more Wise, Understanding, Docile, Brave, Intelligent, Pious, and Reverent by untying the ribbon on the big box of spiritual goodies God gave us at Baptism. It’s a life-long project that we can start anew today as we invite the fire of the Holy Spirit, God himself, to guide us in Virtue to the beatific vision of himself, face-to-face.
P.S. Give yourself a gift this Pentecost. Share Archbishop Martinez’ head-over-heels love of the Holy Spirit that he has poured into his book, The Sanctifier. You can get your copy by clicking the picture.
If you purchase, Virtue Connection may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I believe in this book and want you to know about it, too!