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Pentecost

Let’s Give The Holy Spirit Some Credit!

Yesterday I wrapped up my series on the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  When thinking about these gifts, many of us will respond with the words:

“So what!”

We sometimes fall into a wishy-washy, fluffy interpretation of the 7 gifts and the overall role of the Holy Spirit and that’s a BIG mistake.  Instead of recognizing His gifts in our lives, we end up taking credit for them.  Before I put the topic of the Holy Spirit to rest, let’s take a look at 7 reasons why the Holy Spirit REALLY matters in our lives: 

wisdom Helps you see God working in your life.  Did you ever meet someone who has lost their job and says that they’re not worried because they know that the Lord has a better job for them?  We often look at people like that and assume that they are either crazy or “out of touch with reality”.  Quite often, what they have is the gift of wisdom.

understandingAllows you to better grasp revealed truths.  Why do some Catholics accept all the Church’s teachings and others have issues with contraception, cohabitation, Mass attendance, the Real Presence or many other things?  Don’t overlook the gift of understanding.

knowledgeThe ability to put created things in their proper perspective.  Several years ago, I felt that I was buying too many useless things.  I told a priest that I felt I was too materialistic, but I really enjoyed buying “toys”.  He reminded me that humans are materialistic by nature and said that I should ask the Lord to take away some of that desire.  Gradually, I began to care more about spiritual treasures.  The odds are good that I received an increase in the gift of knowledge.

counselGuides you to make the “right” choice in a given situation.  Sometimes we just know what to do.  While we often attribute this to our own wisdom, the ability to make the correct choice is often due to the gift of counsel.

fortitude Helps you to pursue your faith, even when you must pay a price.  For years, I was afraid to profess my faith publicly.  I rationalized by telling myself that “faith is a private matter”.  Now I’m all over the Internet and the radio telling people that I love Jesus and the Catholic Faith.  What got into me?  Probably an increase in the gift of fortitude.

piety Makes you love God and all of His creatures.  Some people make fun of those who they think are inferior.  Priests and nuns are often ridiculed and criticized.  Why do some of us love them and all of God’s children?  You guessed it…piety!

fear of the LordReminds you to do the “right” thing when your body wants to do something else.  Did you ever feel like telling someone off, looking at some indecent pictures or not going to Mass on Sunday?  However, you decide to do the right thing because you realize that you’re going to be judged for your actions after your death?  There’s a good chance that the Holy Spirit just gave you a little extra fear of the Lord!

While I’m not implying that we don’t deserve credit for trying to be good, I do think that we don’t give enough credit to the Holy Spirit and His working in our lives.  As much as I’d like to deny it, I have a tendency to be lazy, self-centered and love comfort.  In spite of this, I often manage to behave in a way that pleases God.  There’s no way that I deserve the credit for that…

Thank you, Holy Spirit!

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Fear Of The Lord

Fear of the Lord is easily the most misunderstood out of all the Holy Spirit’s gifts.  Simply put, fear of the Lord is the gift of reverence for Him as our creator.  It allows us to remember exactly who we are and who He is.  This concept is often forgotten in today’s society as many people believe that they, not God, know best.

The gift of fear is the first step toward conversion for many who are far from God.  It is also the beginning of love.  Many of us were initially called to a deeper conversion because of the fear that we would someday by judged by Almighty God for our actions.  Due to our fallen nature as human beings, we are prone to comfort-seeking, laziness and ultimately – sin.  Very few of us set out to sin because we want to be bad.  Instead, we fall into sin because it feels good at the time.  In his book My Daily Bread, Fr. Anthony Paone comments that when we bring sin into our life, we make ourselves an object of God’s justice.  In other words, someday we will be accountable to God for what we have done in this life.  Through the gift of fear, the Holy Spirit can prompt us to seek forgiveness through the sacrament of confession and to reform our lives.

The Bible states that “He who finds wisdom is great indeed, but not greater than he who fears the LORD. Fear of the LORD surpasses all else. Its possessor is beyond compare.” (Sir 25:10-11) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”(Ps 111:10). St. Teresa of Avila writes, “Love will make us quicken our steps while fear will make us look where we are setting our feet so that we shall not fall.”

In closing, let’s look at a prayer composed by Fr. Paone in his aforementioned book:

My God, I do not want to presume so much on your love or to forget your justice. You will someday deal with each man according to his works. I desire to make good use of all the gifts which your love daily sends me. May I never forget that I must one day account for my misuse of these gifts. This thought will help me to fight sin and to please you more in my daily life. Amen

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Piety

The gift of piety allows us to relate to God as our loving Father and the rest of mankind as our brothers and sisters.  It helps us to see everyone as a child of God.  Through this gift, the Holy Spirit teaches us to have a childlike relationship with God the Father.  It also helps us to understand that God always wants what is best for His children.  The manifestation of this gift allows us to lovingly petition the Father for our needs, knowing that He will provide us with what’s best for our salvation.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, piety also helps us to have a childlike love for our Blessed Mother, the angels, saints and the souls in purgatory.  In an earthly sense, it also helps us love the Pope, our parents and those who are in positions of lawful authority over us.  Overall, the gift of piety gives us a desire to please God in all things and helps our prayer to become more affectionate.  If your prayer life ever becomes dry and cold, it would be wise to pray for an increase in this gift.

Next: The Gift of Fear of the Lord

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Fortitude

Let’s continue our discussion of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit by examining the gift of fortitude.  For this post, I’d like to step aside and present the thoughts of three great Catholic theologians: Blessed Pope John Paul II, Mother Angelica, and Fr. John Hardon.  They do a much better job explaining fortitude than I ever could!

Enjoy…

Pope John Paul II (from a homily on Sunday, May 14, 1989)
The gift of fortitude is a supernatural impulse which gives strength to the soul, not only on exceptional occasions such as that of martyrdom, but also in normal difficulties: in the struggle to remain consistent with one’s principles: in putting up with insults and unjust attacks: in courageous perseverance on the path of truth and uprightness, in spite of lack of understanding and hostility.  When, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we experience “the weakness of the flesh” (cf. Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38), or rather, of human nature subject to physical and psychological infirmities, we should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of fortitude to remain firm and decisive on the path of goodness.  Then we will be able to repeat with St Paul: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor 12:10).

There are many of Christ’s followers – pastors and faithful, priests, religious, and laity, engaged in every area of apostolic and social work who in all times, including our own, have experienced and experience martyrdom of body and spirit, in intimate union with the Mother of Sorrows beside the Cross.  All have been victorious thanks to this gift of the Spirit.

Let us ask Mary, whom we now greet as Queen of Heaven, to obtain for us the gift of fortitude in all the vicissitudes of life and at the hour of death.

Mother Angelica (various reflections on fortitude)
He strengthens me with fortitude when I feel too weak to accomplish the tasks He has given me.

It is one thing to accept the cross; but when there is no end in view and the cross gets heavier, the Spirit of fortitude gives me the power to endure the things I can neither change nor eliminate.

I can accept a headache with comfortable ease knowing it will be better tomorrow, but if it were a painful cancer, I would have to ask for the Spirit of fortitude.

I can accept a difficult personality for an hour or so, but if it is for a lifetime, I need the gift of fortitude.

I can accept misunderstanding for a little while, but when it turns into hatred and I am helpless to correct it, I need the gift of fortitude.

“My Power is at its best in weakness,” said Jesus to Paul—and this is fortitude. (2 Cor. 12:9)

This brings me to another aspect of fortitude—the ability to wait.  It takes an inner power to wait and maintain any semblance of serenity. When I must wait for:

the conversion of a friend
the return of health, mine or others
the recognition of a job well done
the arrival of a loved one
the settlement of a dispute
the forgiveness of a friend
the reconciliation with an enemy
the cessation of pain
the control of my own weaknesses
the time when all men will be brothers
and the journey’s end

Then…

I need the gift of fortitude.

Fr John Hardon, S.J. (from a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity)
So the gift of fortitude, first of all, implies, that doing the will of God is not easy.  We need help from the God who tells us what His will is, to do His will.  Again, the gift of fortitude implies that there are obstacles to doing God’s will.  I’ve got six obstacles, this is my way of preparation.

First, the obstacle from the very nature of things. Any things that we have to do are simply not easy.

Secondly, the difficulties that we have in doing God’s will, secondly, arise from our fallen human nature.  We just are not inclined to do what is God’s will.  We want to do what we want.  May not be very hard to do, but you’re not telling me what to do!

Thirdly, the difficulties arise from the world in which we live.  The world makes doing God’s will difficult.  And in fact, very difficult.  It tries to make it impossible.

Number 4, what makes doing God’s will difficult?  The devil.  And he knows us.  As I’ve said over the years to so many people, the more sincerely you want to serve God, the more the devil will tempt you, especially through discouragement, worry, anxiety.

Number 5, what can make doing God’s will difficult?  It can be God’s plan for us.  God has His own plan. He may have ours.  God planned that I would become a religious, and go on for the Priesthood.  You can’t imagine the obstacles that He put in the way.

Number 6, God designs of what He wants done.  In other words, God has His own ideas.  Once our minds are clear on what is God’s will, then we need fortitude.  In other words, no matter what anybody else is doing, we know what God wants us to do, and we do it!

The gift of fortitude is a supernatural, inclination which enables the will to do great things for God with joy, without fear, and in spite of all obstacles.

Next: The Gift of Piety

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Counsel

Today we’ll look at the gift of counsel.  This gift helps us to have a good conscience and keep on the path that leads to God.  Simply put, it allows us to make the right decision in a particular situation.  More than “good judgment”, counsel is a supernatural gift sent to us from God.  In Psalm 32, God reminds us of His assistance: 

“I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you” (Ps 32:8).

While it’s comforting to know that the Lord provides this gift, we often neglect to make use of it when we need it.  As humans, it’s often difficult to break from the attachment to our own judgment and trust in the counsel provided by the Holy Spirit.  In his book The Way, St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “Never make a decision without first stopping to consider the matter in the presence of God.”   Unfortunately, we often ignore this advice and, as a result, make many “bad” decisions.

Jesus assures us of the effectiveness of this gift in the following Scriptural passages:

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:19-20) 

“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:26)

We’ll close with a prayer for an increase in the gift of counsel written by St. Alphonsus Liguori:

Holy Spirit, divine Consoler, I adore You as my true God, with God the Father and God the Son.  I adore You and unite myself to the adoration You receive from the angels and saints.  I give You my heart and I offer my ardent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me. Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiritual advancement and may discover the wiles and snares of the tempter.

Next: The Gift of Fortitude

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Knowledge

Closely related to the gifts of wisdom and understanding, the gift of knowledge enables us to view created things as signs which lead to God.  Sometimes we forget that God can be seen in all of His creation.  A beautiful sunrise, a snowy winter day, the members of our family, our co-workers are all examples of God’s creation.  Even such inventions as the Internet and television can lead us to God if we use them correctly.  While we should enjoy created things, the gift of knowledge helps us from becoming too attached to them.  

In his book My Daily Bread, Fr. Anthony Paone writes, “Your daily life is a journey toward eternity.  The knowledge which helps you to gain Heaven is the first and most important knowledge for you.”  We should never lose sight of the fact that our main goal in this life is to reach Heaven.  If any created thing is holding us back from that goal, it really has no place on our life.  Sometimes this can be difficult, especially if it involves a relationship.  However, we can utilize this gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us to the right decision.

St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, recommends asking Our Lady for help in obtaining an increase in the gift of knowledge:

“Mary is also the mother of knowledge, for it is with her that we learn the most important lesson of all, that nothing is worth while if we are not close to Our Lord.  All the wonders of this earth, the fulfilment of our every ambition, all this is worthless unless the living flame of love burns within us, unless there is the light of holy hope giving us a foretaste of never-ending love in our true homeland in Heaven.”

Next: The Gift of Counsel

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Understanding

When trying to understand God and the teaching of His Church, we are limited by the fact that we’re human.  Without Divine assistance, it’s impossible for us to grasp God’s revealed truths.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit comes to our assistance with the gift of understanding.  This gift provides us with a deeper knowledge of the mysteries of faith.  In the words of Saint Teresa of Avila, “It is like one who, without having learned anything, or having taken the slightest trouble in order to learn to read, finds himself in possession of all existing knowledge.”  In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas observes that through the gift of understanding, God is “glimpsed here below”.   

While the theological virtue of faith allows us to accept Divine revelation because we trust in God, the gift of understanding enables us to better grasp some of the concepts that we accept by faith.  For example, it gives us insight into dogmas such as Purgatory, the Trinity and Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  This gift also allows us to better understand The Bible and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  All of a sudden, “the light bulb goes on” and mysterious Church teachings start to make sense!  

If you’re having difficulty with some of the more challenging and complex teachings of the Catholic Church, I recommend that you pray for an increase of the gift of understanding.  You could even model your prayer on King David’s words in the Old Testament:

 “Give me understanding, that I may keep the law and observe it with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119:34)

Next: The Gift of Knowledge

The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Wisdom

Today we’ll begin looking at the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit by examining the gift of wisdom.  Wisdom is God-given knowledge, not learned from books, that provides us with a better insight of God and His works.  This gift enables us to better know God and Divine things.  It can be illustrated by the words of Jesus when He states, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Mt 11:25).  Wisdom is a type of revelation that no amount of studying can produce as it is directly infused into our soul by God.  It allows simple souls to “see with the eyes of God”.

The concept of a heavenly wisdom can further be seen in Scripture where St. James contrasts it with earthly wisdom:

Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. (James 3:13-17)

St. Augustine tells us, ”Wisdom is the knowledge of Divine things.”  It allows us to see things from God’s perspective.  In his book, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, R. Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “The gift of wisdom, the principle of a living contemplation that directs action, enables the soul to taste the goodness of God, to see it manifested in all events, even in the most painful, since God permits evil only for a higher good, which we shall see later and which it is sometimes given us to glimpse on earth.”  This gift will often allow us to trust God, even though all the details of His plan may not be clear.

The saints teach us that wisdom is closely related to the virtue of charity.  The more we love God, the more capable we are of receiving this gift.  Furthermore, the more that the gift of wisdom increases in the soul, the more capable of loving God one becomes.

Let’s end with a prayer composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, asking God for an increase in the gift of wisdom:

Lord, give me wisdom, the companion of Your throne, that it may ever be with me and labor with me, so that I may know what is acceptable to You, Lord God.  Who is there that can know Your meaning unless You give wisdom and send Your Holy Spirit from on high?

Next: The Gift of Understanding

A Beginner’s Guide To The 7 Gifts Of The Holy Spirit

As we approach the Solemnity of Pentecost, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Referenced in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah (Is 11:1-10), these gifts remain a mystery to many Catholics.  Those of you who remember the Baltimore Catechism will probably be able to rattle them off instinctively, but for the benefit of anyone who isn’t familiar with them, the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.

Over the course of the next several days, we’ll discuss each gift in detail.  For today, let’s just look at the gifts in general.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that we initially receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism.

The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.
(CCC 1241)

The sacrament of Confirmation then “completes” the grace received at Baptism.

1. From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace.
2. It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!
3. It unites us more firmly to Christ.
4. It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
5. It renders our bond with the Church more perfect.
6. It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.

(CCC 1303)

Those of us who have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation possess the Holy Spirit and the 7 gifts, but what does that actually mean?  Tomorrow, I’ll begin to look at the gifts in detail by focusing on the gift of wisdom.   For now, let’s close with a prayer taken from a novena to the Holy Spirit. 

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your 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 on 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.

Next: The gift of Wisdom.