The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Our Destiny
It is our destiny to rest in God for eternity. This means that we were made for God and to be in relationship with Him. The gifts of the Holy Spirit help facilitate this relationship. When we are open to these gifts, and we use them for love of God and neighbor, we will grow closer to Him and find rest in Him.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are fear, piety, fortitude, knowledge, understanding, counsel, and wisdom.
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - It is our destiny to rest in God for eternity. This means that we were made for God and to be in relationship with Him. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit facilitate this relationship by completing and perfecting the virtues (#1831), and the virtues help us live in relationship with the Trinity (#1840). So if we want a deeper relationship with God, it is important to learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
With this thought in mind, we will now look at the two main categories of gifts: the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the charismatic gifts. The first category focuses on the sanctification of the individual, and the second focuses on building up the Body of Christ.
The first category includes the seven gifts which are found in Isaiah 11:2-3. They are fear, piety, fortitude, knowledge, understanding, counsel, and wisdom. The primary function of these seven gifts is to purify us and make us docile to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. When the Catechism speaks about the gifts completing and perfecting the virtues, it is referring to these specific gifts.
Unfortunately, these seven gifts are poorly understood and utilized. Father Matthias Scheeben's book, The Glories of Divine Grace, and the "Novena to the Holy Spirit" published in The Catholic Family Book of Novenas provide some helpful information about these gifts. I have summarized this information below:
The gift of fear perfects the virtue of temperance. This gift fills us with awe and reverence for God. It makes us dread the thought of displeasing God because of our love for Him. A right-ordered and healthy fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
The gift of piety perfects the virtue of justice, and it fills us with a loving affection for God as our father. It inspires us to respect and love all persons and things for God's sake. Piety transforms religious practices and worship into joyful service to God.
The gift of fortitude perfects the natural virtue of fortitude, and it strengthens us against our natural fears. It enables us to persevere when we are confronted with difficulty or danger. Fortitude provides us with the energy and resolve to endure even lifelong tribulation.
The gift of knowledge perfects the virtue of hope, and it reveals the emptiness of created things in themselves. It enables us to see them for what they are and place them in proper relation to God. Knowing the true value or worth of created things enables us to use them for their true purpose.
The gift of understanding perfects the virtue of faith. Understanding helps us grasp the truths of our faith, especially revealed truth. It enables us to penetrate the deep layers of truth and discover rich meaning in our faith. Understanding inspires sterile, inactive faith and transforms it into a powerful testimony.
The gift of counsel perfects the virtue of prudence. Counsel is like supernatural common sense. It helps us to make proper judgments. Counsel enables us to apply the gifts of knowledge and understanding in the actual circumstances that confront us in our daily life.
The gift of wisdom perfects the virtue of love, and it embodies all the other gifts. It is the highest and most perfect of the seven gifts. It enlightens the mind and directs it to that which is eternal, transcendent, and divine--God. Wisdom strengthens faith, fortifies hope, and perfects charity.
The second category is the charismatic gifts. The charismatic gifts are subdivided into two groups--the ordinary and extraordinary. However, when we think of these gifts, we usually think of the extraordinary because they appear filled with miraculous power. So we will look at these first.
We are most familiar with the extraordinary gifts from the writings of Saint Paul, especially 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. Some of the extraordinary gifts are wisdom (not to be confused with wisdom above), faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discerning spirits, the gift of tongues, and interpretation.
The gift of wisdom enables one to teach about higher mysteries. The gifts of faith, healing and mighty deeds support the teaching gifts. The gifts of prophecy, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation are used to enlighten and exhort the faithful and confound unbelievers.
Unlike the extraordinary gifts, the ordinary gifts are a part of our everyday life. And they are more concerned with temporal affairs. Saint Paul also mentions them in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12.
Some of the ordinary gifts are the gift of knowledge, which enables one to teach about the truths of the faith, and the gifts of assistance and administration. These last two are concerned with works of charity and governance. In the most generalized sense, the ordinary gifts might include all gifts that help us fulfill our state in life: intelligence, good health, good parenting, and many others.
So how do we know which gifts we have received? The answer depends on which gifts we are talking about.
We have all been given a share in each of the seven gifts mentioned above. We received them when we were baptized, and they were strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation. But they may not be felt immediately. They may lie dormant for years.
A major factor involved in the timing has to do with how well we have prepared our soul. This is one reason why a devout prayer life is so important. The more we pray, the more we are open to God's graces. If we want these gifts to manifest themselves in our lives, then we need to pray always and remain in a state of grace.
If we are talking about the extraordinary charismatic gifts, it is a different matter. Not everyone receives these gifts. During the Apostolic Age the extraordinary gifts were quite common, and they helped the early Church persevere and grow during the persecutions. But they have not been very common since that time, although some people believe that may be changing.
The extraordinary gifts are also different in the sense that God gives them to saint and sinner alike. There is nothing we can do to acquire them. All we can do is be aware that they are real and be open to them. If we think that we may have an extraordinary gift, it is best to seek the counsel of a holy priest.
It is just the opposite for the ordinary charismatic gifts: They may not appear miraculous, but we have been given these gifts in abundance. Each of us has received different and often multiple ordinary gifts. However, for many of us, it seems like one or two are usually dominant.
Do you know your dominant ordinary gifts? One way to discern them is by looking at your passions, desires, interests, abilities, circumstances, and opportunities. One of my favorite quotes is by Saint Teresa of Avila. She says, "Do whatever most kindles love in you." The things we love can tell us much about ourselves, including which gifts God has given us.
Perhaps the most important thing that we need to know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that they are real; and the more we learn about them, and the more we are open to them, and the more we use them for love of God and neighbor, the sooner we will find rest in God and embrace our destiny.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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