Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. Counsel and Piety. Fortitude and Fear of the Lord.
The virtues of faith, hope, and charity stably equip our intellects and wills to make supernatural movements of knowing and loving. In the gifts, however, we receive stable supernatural perfections that equip us to be moved in a divine mode, in a way that human reason can neither grasp nor initiate. Our acts remain our own, but they exceed our understanding: God Himself moves us according to His wisdom (ST I-II q. 68). The gifts serve as spiritual instincts for the soul, once it is healed and elevated by grace.
To be sure, anyone who has charity (love) has all seven gifts of the Spirit (ST I-II q. 68, a. 5). And yet God, in His wisdom, activates these gifts differently in the life of each individual saint: “The wind blows where it wills . . . so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit gave to the martyrs the courage to confess Christ, to St. Dominic an outstanding sensitivity to our fallen condition, to St. Catherine a piercing insight into the truths of faith, and to St. Thomas a sweeping vision of the things of God. Only God, in his provident knowledge, could understand and foreknow the surprising ways that He drew each saint to Himself.
Only someone who grasps the apparently dry truth that the gifts “as to their essence” remain in heaven (ST I-II q. 68, a. 6) could write this book’s finale, which so forcefully conveys the splendor of heavenly glory. All of us are called to this glory.
The gifts of the Spirit, unlike the virtues, are not ours to direct as we will. We wait upon God, Who Himself is the wind who fills our spiritual sails. At the same time, however, we pray for God to activate in us His seven gifts, and the more we know about these gifts individually, the more we can ask for them specifically, according to our daily needs. Thus may the Spirit, as He does for every saint, govern us firmly and sweetly the whole of our lives.
ANGELUS, Pope St John Paul II
Sunday 28 May 1989
1. Our reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit leads us today to speak of another important gift, piety. With it, the Spirit heals our hearts of every form of hardness, and opens them to tenderness towards God and our brothers and sisters.
Tenderness, as a truly filial attitude towards God, is expressed in prayer. The experience of one’s own existential poverty, of the void which earthly things leave in the soul, gives rise to the need to have recourse to God in order to obtain grace, help and pardon. The gift of piety directs and nourishes such need, enriching it with sentiments of profound confidence in God; trusted as a good and generous Father. In this sense St Paul wrote: “God sent his Son,… that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son,…” (Gal 4: 4-7; cf. Rom 8: 15).
2. Tenderness, an authentically fraternal openness towards one’s neighbour, is manifested in meekness. With the gift of piety the Spirit infuses into the believer a new capacity for love of the brethren, making his heart participate in some manner in the very meekness of the Heart of Christ. The “pious” Christian always sees others as children of the same Father, called to be part of the family of God which is the Church. He feels urged to treat them with the kindness and friendliness which are proper to a frank and fraternal relationship.
The gift of piety further extinguishes in the heart those fires of tension and division which are bitterness, anger and impatience, and nourishes feelings of understanding, tolerance, and pardon. Such a gift is, therefore, at the root of that new human community which is based on the civilization of love.
3. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed outpouring of this gift, entrusting our prayer to the intercession of Mary, sublime model of fervent prayer and maternal tenderness. May she, whom the Church salutes in the Litany of Loreto as the “Singular vessel of devotion”, teach us to adore God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23) and to open ourselves with meek and receptive hearts to all who are her children, and therefore our brothers and sisters. Let us ask her in the words of the “Salve Regina”, “…O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”.
“O Holy Spirit, guide my soul, because all who are led by the Spirit of God, are truly the sons of God. You teach me that I have not received the spirit of bondage to live in fear, but the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby I can cry to God: ‘Abba, Father!’ You Yourself give testimony to my spirit that I am a child of God and a joint-heir with Christ: because, if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him” (cf. Romans 8:14-17).
“My God, send forth Your light and Your truth, that they may shine upon the earth: for I am like land that is dry and barren, awaiting Your light. Pour forth Your grace from above; water my heart with the dew of heaven; send down the waters of devotion to wash the face of the earth, to bring forth good and perfect fruit. Lift up my mind oppressed with the weight of my sins, and raise all my desires toward heavenly things, that having tasted the sweetness of supernal happiness, I may have no pleasure in dwelling on the things of this earth.
“Draw my heart to You, and deliver me from all vain human consolations, none of which can fully satisfy my desires or make me happy. Unite me to Yourself by the inseparable bond of Your love; for You alone are sufficient for the soul that loves You, and without You, all is vain and of no value” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 23:9, 10).
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom