This weekend we have our eighth graders in our PSR being confirmed at the Cathedral on Sunday afternoon. A major effect of Confirmation is always considered as the strengthening of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received in Baptism. Since one of the questions we always ask the confirmandi (those to be confirmed) is what are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I thought this was a good opportunity to review it myself, and maybe for some of you.
Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, those are the seven gifts. They can be found listed in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah:
“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength [fortitude], a spirit of knowledge and of fear of
the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.[piety]”. (Is 11:1-3 NAB)
There are various definitions for each of these different gifts, the following is a listing mostly from the following website: (https://www.thoughtco.com/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit-542143).
Wisdom: The highest gift of the Holy Spirit, through wisdom we come to value properly those things which we believe through faith. The truths of Christian belief are more important than the things of this world, and wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving Creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake.
Understanding: People sometimes have a hard time seeing how this differs from wisdom. While wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us to grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic faith. Through understanding, we gain a certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond faith.
Counsel: This is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence can be practiced by anyone, but counsel is supernatural. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear tostand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
Fortitude: Fortitude is ranked as the fourth gift of the Holy Spirit because it gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel. While fortitude is sometimes called courage, it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than to renounce the Christian Faith.
Knowledge: Like wisdom, knowledge is the perfection of faith, but whereas wisdom gives us the desire to judge all things according to the truths of the Catholic Faith, knowledge is the actual ability to do so. Like counsel, it is aimed at our actions in this life. In a limited way, knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life the way that God sees them. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we can determine God’s purpose for our lives and live them accordingly.
Piety: Piety is the perfection of the virtue of religion. While we tend to think of religion todayas the external elements of our faith, it really means the willingness to worship and to serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, the way that we desire to honor our parents and do what they wish.
Fear of the Lord: We think of fear and hope as opposites, but the fear of the Lord confirms the theological virtue of hope. This gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace that we need in order to keep from offending Him. Our desire not to offend God is more than simply a sense of duty; like piety, the fear of the Lord arises out of love.
These gifts belong in their fullness to Christ, and through the sacraments they help us to be open to obey divine inspirations (CCC 1831). Keep the Confirmandi in your prayers.