A Gift for Each Day

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The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit? The Catechism names them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is customary to associate each day of the Octave of Pentecost with one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Pentecost Sunday: Wisdom
Monday: Understanding
Tuesday: Counsel
Wednesday: Fortitude
Thursday: Knowledge
Friday: Piety
Saturday: Fear of the Lord

The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are rooted in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The three theological virtues come directly from God and are ordered directly to union with God; they give us the capacity to live as children of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, that is, in a state of grace. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit allow us to express the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity in daily life; they make us docile in following divine inspirations. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit flower in the faithful soul and mature into the Holy Spirit's Twelve Fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, and purity.

Pentecost Sunday: The Gift of Wisdom

The Gift of Wisdom gives a taste for the things that will make us truly happy. The wise person is one who consistently and habitually chooses the things that will make him happy, not with a fleeting, deceptive happiness, but with the happiness that comes from being in right relationship with God. Saint Paul, graced with wisdom, says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The Gift of Wisdom is that by which one “sets nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). One graced with wisdom knows what will make him happy because he has tasted it; he sings with the psalmist, “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet; blessed is the man who hopes in him” (Ps 33:8).

The Gift of Wisdom makes one take delight in the companionship of the saints, in the example of their lives, and in their writings. The saints are wisdom’s children. A proverb says, “Tell me with whom you keep company, and I will tell you who you are.” The wise Christian never tires of reading the lives of the saints; he prays before their images, kneels humbly before their relics, and, in their company, discovers wisdom’s secrets.

One who lacks wisdom makes foolish choices. There will be disorder in his priorities: an inability to put first things first. One who lacks wisdom will have little or no taste for the things of God, for things holy, heavenly, and divine. He will forever be looking elsewhere for happiness. The unwise person lacks stability. In his search for happiness he knocks at all the wrong doors, passing by the one door open to receive him: the pierced Heart of Christ.

Pentecost Monday: The Gift of Understanding

The Gift of Understanding opens the mind and heart to the splendour of the truth. One graced with understanding is at home in an adoring silence. One graced with understanding will be open to God, receptive to the truth and, for that reason, always full of wonderment and ready to adore.

The Gift of Understanding is the undoing of pride. The prideful person clings to his own perceptions and resists growth, saying, “I know what I know, and what I know is enough for me.” One lacking the gift of understanding is literally unintelligent, that is to say, he cannot read the deeper meaning of events and circumstances. He approaches the Word of God superficially and skims on the surface of the Sacred Liturgy instead of plunging into its depths.

The Gift of Understanding pushes one to one’s knees in the presence of God. The Gift of Understanding also makes one compassionate toward others. Understanding the ways of God is the beginning of understanding the human person created in His image and likeness. Understanding produces joy, the joy of discovering the glory of God “shining in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6), and the joy of perceiving that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

Pentecost Tuesday: The Gift of Counsel

The Gift of Counsel enables one to make choices in harmony with the providence of the Father, the mind of Christ, and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. With the Gift of Counsel one walks securely and serenely, know that it is possible at every moment to consult the best of Counselors, “soul’s sweet Guest.” The Virgin Mary, associated with the Holy Spirit in all His works, is the Mother of Good Counsel. She is present to us in our perplexities, close to us when we stand at life’s crossroads. “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5) is the word of loving encouragement she addresses to the disciples of her Son.

One without the gift of counsel suffers an endless succession of false starts and goes from one spiritual calamity to another. He acts hastily, is easily manipulated, and makes decisions under the sway of emotions, especially fear. One graced with the Gift of Counsel, on the other hand, will be serene, calm, and full of trust that God’s kindly light will lead him one step at a time.

Pentecost Wednesday: The Gift of Fortitude

The Gift of Fortitude makes one distrust oneself and place all one’s trust in the strength that comes from the grace of Christ. “Separated from me, “ says Our Lord, “you have no power to do anything” (Jn 15:5). He does not say, “Separated from me you can do something,” or “you can do a little bit.” It is the grace of Christ that makes all the difference. The words of Our Lord to Saint Paul give the measure of the Gift of Fortitude: “My grace is enough for thee; my strength finds its full scope in thy weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Saint Paul, taking the word of the Lord to heart, declares: “Nothing is beyond my powers, thanks to the strength God gives me” (Ph 4:13).

It is in the martyrs that we see the most striking illustration of the Gift of Fortitude. The Preface of the Mass of Holy Martyrs sings: “You make strength perfect in weakness, and you strengthen our feeble powers, that they might bear witness to you.” Children give yet another illustration of the Gift of Fortitude, as striking as it is touching. I am thinking, in particular, of Saint Agnes, Saint Maria Goretti, the Blessed Children of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Nennolina.

One graced with the Gift of Fortitude goes along steadily; he is not intimidated by the apparent force of evil. He faces challenges, weaknesses, temptations, trials, and setbacks with equanimity and courage, knowing that no matter what befalls him the power of Christ is stronger, and the power of Christ is his, communicated to the weak by the Holy Spirit, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist: the food and drink of the strong.

To be continued.


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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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