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Our Catholic Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Part 1

The Season of Easter ends with the Solemnity of Pentecost, honouring the third person of the Holy Trinity. In honour of the Holy Spirit I now share a reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to people to further their sanctification and help complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.

Here are the names of the seven gifts, as given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with a description of each gift, as defined by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica:

  • Wisdom- The gift of wisdom perfects a person's speculative reason in matters of judgment about the truth.

  • Knowledge- The gift of knowledge perfects a person's practical reason in matters of judgment about the truth.

  • Counsel - The gift of counsel perfects a person's practical reason in the apprehension of truth and allows the person to respond prudently, moved through the research of reason.

  • Fortitude -The gift of Courage allows people the firmness of mind [that] is required both in doing good and in enduring evil, especially with regard to goods or evils that are difficult.

  • Understanding - Also called "Common Sense." The gift of understanding perfects a person's speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known.

  • Piety - Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit's instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father.

  • Fear of the Lord -This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Also known as knowing God is all powerful.

Aquinas says the first four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord) direct the will toward God. In some respects, the gifts are similar to the virtues but a key distinction is that the virtues operate under the impetus of human reason (prompted by grace), whereas the gifts operate under the impetus of the Holy Spirit; the former can be used when one wishes, but the latter operate only when the Holy Spirit wishes. The former are like the oars of a boat; the latter, the sails.

Fr. Wojtek Kuzma


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