The gifts of the Holy Spirit

| Father Michael Van Sloun | September 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are imparted on those who receive the sacrament of confirmation.

Six are listed in the “Immanuel Prophecy,” which describes an expected future ideal Davidic king: wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength (fortitude), knowledge and fear of the Lord (Is 11:2). The translators of the Hebrew Bible to Greek, the Septuagint, added a seventh gift, piety, to achieve the symbolic number for completeness. Jesus was blessed with these gifts by his Father, and those who are confirmed are blessed with these gifts by the Holy Spirit. They supply the spiritual power and strength a person needs to accomplish his or her vocational calling and mission in life.

The bishop asks God to bestow these gifts on the confirmation candidates in the prayer he offers with outstretched hands before the anointing: “Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought these your servants to new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, freeing them from sin: send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete; give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety; fill them with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.”

Wisdom is the ability to exercise good judgment. It distinguishes between right and wrong, seeks and upholds truth and justice, and balances personal good with the common good. It is in touch with reality, demonstrates common sense and is prudent. It often increases as a person advances in years and gains life experience. In the Old Testament, wisdom is personified by “Sophia,” the mythical mother of faith, hope and love; while in the New Testament, wisdom is personified by Jesus himself.

Understanding is the gift of intelligence and enlightenment. It is the ability to think clearly; to perceive, comprehend and interpret information; and to have insight and discern meaning.

Counsel is good advice. It is the ability to teach, inform, guide, direct, warn, admonish, recommend and encourage. It is not limited to the giving of advice but extends to the ability to graciously receive it. The gift is needed by parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors, mentors, therapists, lawyers, clergy, consultants, elders and spouses — anyone who offers advice to others.

Fortitude is an unwavering commitment to God or a proper course of action, and it shows itself as moral strength, courage, determination, patient endurance, long suffering, a resolute spirit, stamina and resiliency.

Knowledge is the ability to study and learn; to acquire, retain and master facts and information; and to put what is learned to good use for constructive purposes.

Fear of the Lord is awe, reverence and respect for God. It acknowledges that everything comes as a gift from God, downplays personal achievement and self-sufficiency, and gladly offers praise, worship and adoration to God.

Piety is personal holiness, and it includes devotion to God, prayer, virtue, goodness, decency, self-mastery, innocence, the avoidance of sin and obedience to God’s will.

A person who receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation must cooperate with these special graces and put them to good use. To fail to do so would be like purchasing a new computer and leaving it in the box or buying a new car and leaving it in the garage. For the computer to work, the owner must plug it in and turn it on. For the car to work, the motorist must put it in gear and drive it. For confirmation to work, the recipient must cultivate the divine gifts by using and applying them, not just occasionally, but consistently throughout each day.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This column is part of an ongoing series on confirmation.

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Category: Faith Fundamentals