BASICS OF CATHOLICISM: 10. THE VIRTUES AND THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT PART 2 – THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Jul 8, 2019
In Part 1 of this section we focused upon the living in Christ by the life of the virtues. Virtues themselves (both the “theological virtues” or “cardinal virtues”) are the habitual or firm dispositions within us toward the good – in cooperating with God’s grace – toward living more “God-like” lives. To be virtuous, therefore, is to live in cooperation with God’s life within us (that is, His “grace”) toward greater perfection of goodness.
While some of the virtues are directly given as God’s gift to us (these being the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity), there are other gifts that God bestows upon us that are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1830, as “permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” These “dispositions” are called the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In prophesying of Christ, or the “anointed one,” Isaiah 11:1-2 refers to these gifts of the Holy Spirit residing within He that is anointed. As “permanent dispositions,” these gifts of the Holy Spirit are directly given by the Holy Spirit and reside in all who have received them – through the receiving of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.
The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism offers the following simple (elementary level) definitions for each gift:
Wisdom: a gift of the Holy Spirit which makes us able to judge rightly about the things of God and to want them rather than the things of the world. This gift enables us to endure crosses with great patience and love.
Understanding: a gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to see more clearly into the mysteries of our Faith, so that we may live according to its teachings.
Counsel: advice, especially the gift to the Holy Spirit which guides us in practical matters.
Fortitude: a gift of the Holy Spirit which makes us able to love God no matter what stands in the way.
Knowledge: a gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to see God reflected in all creatures and to praise Him in them, but yet to see the nothingness of creatures in themselves so that we will desire God alone.
Piety: a gift of the Holy Spirit which makes us love and reverence God as our Father, and helps us to love all men as children of God and brothers in Christ.
Fear of the Lord: great love and reverence for our Lord, which keeps us from offending Him by sin.
It is important that we rightly understand these dispositions as “gifts;” that is, God Himself (in the person of the Holy Spirit) is the giver of them and we receive them from Him that we can live more like God. As they are first received in the sacrament of baptism and especially in the sacrament of confirmation, be reminded that these sacraments are opportunities to become more like God – in union and communion with Him.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1830-31 define and introduce the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, with each gift individually described by name in the glossary of the Catechism.