These seven gifts, part of sanctifying grace, complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make us docile in obeying divine inspirations without need for reflection but always with full consent. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are greater than the theological and cardinal virtues. The virtues operate to the limits of human power and volition, but the gifts bring divine assistance. We are to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for one of these gifts. If He gives us a gift, we may ask for another, and so on.
WISDOM: The gift of wisdom leads the soul of those who have it to see things from God’s perspective. Wisdom is fullness of knowledge through affinity for the divine, as when a person comes to know Christ’s Passion through suffering. It is also love, which inspires contemplative reflection on what we believe and directs the mind to judge according to its precepts. The gift of wisdom supplements the virtue of faith and shields us against folly. The virtue of charity is part of wisdom; it inspires contemplative reflection on the divine mysteries, enjoys thinking about them, and directs the mind to judge all things according to their right principles. Wisdom is distinct from faith. Faith is assent to the defined articles of Catholic belief. Wisdom goes farther to a certain divine penetration of these truths.
UNDERSTANDING: The gift of understanding gives to the mind of those who have it a charisma for apprehending Christ’s public revelation easily and profoundly. More specifically, the gift of understanding helps those who have it penetrate to the heart of revealed truth even when they do not fully understand its entire meaning. It gives great confidence in the revealed word of God and leads those who have it to reach true conclusions from revealed principles. Understanding is greater than faith. Faith is assent to the defined articles of Catholic teaching. Understanding goes farther because it gives insight into these defined articles of belief. The gift of wisdom exceeds the gift of understanding in that it shows us God’s perspective.
COUNSEL: The gift of counsel perfects in those who have it the virtue of prudence. It enables them to judge promptly and rightly, as by supernatural intuition, what should be done in difficult situations. It primarily enhances one’s own prudent conduct, and only secondarily that of others. The Holy Spirit speaks to the heart through the gift of counsel and shows those who have it what to do. Christ gave His followers a gift like counsel when He told them, Mt 10:19 “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
FORTITUDE: The gift of fortitude brings to those who have it a dauntless spirit of resolution, firmness of mind, and indomitable will to persevere with a quiet faith in God’s providence that overcomes all obstacles. It also brings courage to persist in the practice of virtue despite trials, illness, persecution or external failure. A Catholic who becomes fervent in God’s service will soon be condemned by the world, but the gift of fortitude will sustain him as he walks toward the Cross.
KNOWLEDGE: The gift of knowledge perfects the virtue of faith. It enables those who have it to judge the whole spectrum of creatures and objects from a supernatural viewpoint. Through infused knowledge, the faithful can see God’s providence in whatever enters their lives and put creatures to the right use. The gift of knowledge is often called “the science of the saints” because it enables those who have it to swiftly discern between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace.
PIETY: The gift of piety perfects the virtue of justice toward God. It infuses an instinctive love for God and devotion to those who are consecrated to God. Piety arises from the Holy Spirit’s supernatural communication, rather than from effort or acquired habit. The gift of piety enables those who have it to see God as a loving Father. St. Paul told us, Rom 8:14 “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ’Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”The gift of piety also infuses in those who have it an affectionate obedience to God because they love Him so much.
FEAR OF THE LORD: The gift of fear of the Lord confirms in those who have it the virtue of hope and infuses profound respect for God’s glory and selfless love for God. It protects from sin through dread of offending God. This gift has nothing to do with servility or fear of punishment. We express fear of the Lord in an Act of Contrition.
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, before ascending into heaven, did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finishYour work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.