4. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
THE Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us in Baptism, together with the three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. These Gifts are the dowry, the bridal gift with which the Heavenly Father enriches and honors His adopted children at the moment of their regeneration, when their soul is sanctified and espoused with God through Divine Love.
These Gifts are placed in the soul as a germ; they are, as it were, in their infancy, and the Christian must develop them through fervent prayer and the practice of virtue, through the worthy reception of Holy Communion and devout assistance at Holy Mass, in order that they may produce fruit.
These precious Gifts of the Holy Spirit are imparted to the soul as a protection, as a safeguard of the Theological Virtues.
They are seven in number: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
1. Wisdom is the highest and most privileged Gift of the Holy Spirit. It is like an overflowing of the Uncreated Wisdom. St. Bernard calls it the "supernatural Gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to know God and to rejoice in perfect love." Wisdom not only illumines the mind, but it inflames the heart with love for God, gives us a relish for Divine things, and an ardent desire for heavenly treasures ----------- especially a longing to possess God and to see Him face to face. It detaches our hearts from the goods of this world and removes us from everything opposed to our last end. In its light, we see more and more clearly the nothingness of things created.
2. Understanding is that Gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to comprehend the mysteries and doctrines of our holy religion. If God designs to lead a soul to holiness, He gives it an interior light and a deep insight into the Divine mysteries, whereby it is animated to serve Him more perfectly. This light is the Gift of Understanding, through which simple persons often have a deep knowledge of great mysteries ----------- for instance, of the Most Holy Trinity and the Incarnation ----------- surpassing the natural understanding of men who are learned but less devout.
3. Counsel is a Gift of the Holy Spirit which moves the soul to choose what is most conducive to the glory of God and to its own salvation. Through this Gift, we learn how we can best please God. By following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, we receive true interior peace and spiritual consolation. This Gift is especially necessary for superiors, whose duty it is to guide others, for here natural prudence does not suffice.
4. Fortitude. This Gift of the Holy Spirit banishes all timidity and human respect, strengthens souls to hate sin, to practice virtue and to prefer contempt, temporal loss, persecution and even death rather than to deny Christ by word or deed. By this Gift we are empowered to fight and overcome the enemies of our salvation and we are enabled, in the midst of temptations, difficulties and persecutions, to fulfill the will of God. It makes us ready and courageous to undertake the greatest sacrifices for our salvation.
5. Knowledge. By the Gift of Knowledge, the Holy Spirit enlightens us with an inner light, that we may know ourselves and discern the snares of self-love, of our passions, of the devil and of the world, and may choose the fittest means to overcome them. By this Gift, the Holy Spirit illuminates us more and more as He lets His Divine light stream into our hearts and enlightens us with regard to revealed truths and the duties we have to fulfill. The known truth appears to us in a clearer light than it could be perceived by our own intelligence. This is the knowledge of the Saints that surpasses all worldly knowledge, "coming down from the Father of lights." (James 1:17). Even created nature is made an open book wherein we read God and His perfections.
6. Piety. By the Gift of Piety or godliness the Holy Spirit infuses into us a reverence for God and Divine things and gives us joy in conversing with Him. Piety inclines us to love God as the best of Fathers, to love most tenderly His dearly beloved Son and the holy Mother of that Son. Piety moves us to love not only the Saints and the Angels, but also our fellow men, as the images and children [actual or potential] of God. It causes us to feel the sweetest pleasure in conversing with God, in listening to spiritual reading and in hearing the Divine word. It makes us delight to do the will of the Father and makes us have at heart all that tends to the honor and glory of God.
7. Fear of the Lord. The Gift of the Fear of the Lord is that childlike fear which causes us to dread no misfortune so much as that of displeasing God, and which, accordingly, makes us flee from sin as the greatest evil. There are two kinds of fear: the fear of a servant and the fear of a child. Childlike fear of God is the more noble and beautiful of the two, as it urges the soul to avoid the least sin in order not to displease God, the best and most amiable Father in Heaven. The Saints were animated by childlike fear and love for the Heavenly Father and were ready to die rather than break His holy law by willful sin.