Thursday, May 28, 2009


Growing in one’s knowledge of God (really inseparable from loving God) means knowing God as God wants to be known, and not as reduced to the standards of some minimalist, nor as embellished according to the baroque leanings of some weaver of fantasies. Knowing God as God wants to be known happens to be beyond our natural human capacity, and is made possible only by a gift from God—the supernatural Virtue of Faith infused in the soul at Baptism. This is the Faith that allows us to affirm: “We worship one God in the Trinity…we distinguish among the Persons, but we do not divide the Substance” (Athanasian Creed). So also, growth in knowing God means growth in knowing each of the Divine Persons.

Perhaps, we can say that since the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity is precisely “spirit”—which term, in itself, defies analogy with matter—and because the human person normally perceives reality through the senses of his material body, there is understandably greater difficulty in dealing with the Holy Spirit. One way of getting to know the Holy Spirit better is through considering His Gifts, Fruits and Charisms.

The Church teaches that there are Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord (CCC, No. 1831). This is the order of their enumeration in Sacred Scripture (Is 11:1-2).

“Wisdom” disposes the intellect to be easily moved to the contemplation of divine truths, to have a “supernatural outlook” that views reality as God does, and to take delight in the things of God. “Understanding” disposes the intellect to penetrate more deeply the truths of the Faith. “Counsel” disposes the intellect to make right decisions on the specific acts to be done. “Fortitude” inclines one to do, actually, God’s will inspite of difficulties. “Knowledge” disposes the intellect to see the value of created things in relation to God. “Piety” corresponds to the virtue of "religion" (giving God "due" worship, under the cardinal virtue of Justice) and inclines one’s will to revere God as Father and to love one’s fellowmen as children of God. “Fear of the Lord” inclines one’s will to show a “filial” fear—as distinguished from “servile” fear—of offending God, and therefore to abhor sin out of love for God.

The Seven Gifts serve to complete or to perfect the Virtues. While both categories of interior dispositions facilitate the same good human actions, in the exercise of the Virtues, the actor is the human person through his will (aided by grace); with the Gifts, the mover is the Holy Spirit. Spiritual writers have compared the Virtues to the oars of a boat, and the Gifts to the sail, by which the boat could move faster with lesser effort, as long as the wind is blowing.

Somewhat in consequence of the Gifts, “the fruits of the spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them” (CCC, No. 1832; cf. Gal 5:22-23 [Vulgate]). These external manifestations of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the person are “Charity” (love of God above all else for His own sake and of neighbor as oneself for the love of God), “Joy” (rooted in the sense of one’s divine filiation, compatible with suffering), “Peace” (tranquility in order), “Patience” or "Longanimity", “Kindness”, “Goodness”, “Generosity” or "Magnanimity", “Gentleness” or "Mildness" (“a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” [Is 42:3]), “Faithfulness” (Fidelity), “Modesty”, “Self-Control” (Continence), and “Chastity”.

While the Gifts are received by all at Baptism, and the Fruits are yielded by all who are in the state of grace (albeit in varying degrees of abundance, depending on one’s correspondence), Sacred Scripture also speaks of special “gifts”, perhaps better called Charisms (from the Greek, kharis, “favor” or “gift”). Thus:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all…To one through the Spirit is given the utterance of wisdom; and to another the utterance of knowledge… faith… healing…the working of miracles… prophecy… the distinguishing of spirits…various kinds of tongues… interpretation of tongues. But all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit, who allots to everyone according as he will” (1 Cor 12:4-11). Parenthetically, the quoted passage is an early form of “appropriation”: “works” are ascribed to God (the Father), i.e., of creation and providence; “ministries” (service) to the “Lord” (God the Son); and “gifts” (charismata) to the Holy Spirit. The gifts here are “special” in the sense that not everyone receives them, and these are mainly, primarily, for the good of others or the Church, rather than the individual receiving the particular charism.

St. Josemaria writes: “Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the one who has to sanctify you. Don’t forget that you are a temple of God. The Paraclete is in the center of your soul: listen to him and follow his inspirations with docility” (The Way, No. 57).